Ronald Brownstein * – The Atlantic
According to previously unpublished findings, the blue-collar whites at the core of his coalition have lost faith over his first year in office.
A massive new source of public-opinion research offers fresh insights into the fault lines emerging in Donald Trump’s foundation of support.
Previously unpublished results from the nonpartisan online-polling firm SurveyMonkey show Trump losing ground over his tumultuous first year not only with the younger voters and white-collar whites who have always been skeptical of him, but also with the blue-collar whites central to his coalition.
Trump retains important pillars of support. Given that he started in such a strong position with those blue-collar whites, even after that decline he still holds a formidable level of loyalty among them—particularly men and those over 50 years old. What’s more, he has established a modest but durable beachhead among African American and Hispanic men, even while confronting overwhelming opposition from women in those demographic groups.
Together, the results crystallize the bet Trump is making for his own reelection in 2020, and for his party’s chances in November’s election: that he can mobilize enough support among older and blue-collar (as well as rural and evangelical) whites to offset the intense resistance he’s provoked from groups that are all growing in the electorate: Millennials, minorities, and college-educated whites—particularly the women among them.
These findings emerge from a cumulative analysis of 605,172 interviews SurveyMonkey conducted with Americans in 2017 about Trump’s job performance. At my request, Mark Blumenthal, SurveyMonkey’s head of election polling, calculated Trump’s average approval rating over the last year among groups of voters segmented simultaneously by their race, gender, education level, and age. That extra level of detail, not available in conventional polls because their samples are too small, offers a more precise picture of Trump’s coalition.
The SurveyMonkey results put Trump’s total approval rating for 2017 at 42 percent, with 56 percent disapproving. That’s slightly higher than, but within range of, other major public surveys.
In the 2016 election, exit polls found that Trump’s best group was whites without a four-year college degree; he carried 66 percent of them. But his approval among them in the 2017 SurveyMonkey average slipped to 56 percent. In 2016, whites with at least a four-year college degree gave Trump 48 percent of their votes. But in the 2017 average, just 40 percent approved of Trump’s performance, while a resounding 60 percent disapproved.
Layering in gender and age underscores voters’ retreat. Trump in 2016 narrowly won younger whites. But he now faces crushing disapproval ratings ranging from 62 percent to 76 percent among three big groups of white Millennials: women with and without a college degree, and men with a degree. Even among white Millennial men without a degree, his most natural supporters, Trump only scores a 49-49 split.
Trump’s support rapidly rises among blue-collar white men older than 35 and spikes past two-thirds for those above 50. But his position has deteriorated among white women without a college degree. Last year he carried 61 percent of them. But in the new SurveyMonkey average, they split evenly, with 49 percent approval and 49 percent disapproval. His approval rating among non-college-educated white women never rises above 54 percent in any age group, even those older than 50. From February through December, Trump’s approval rating fell more with middle-aged blue-collar white women than any other group.
Trump’s position has also eroded since 2016 among college-educated white women. In 2016, those white-collar voters preferred Hillary Clinton over Trump but gave her only 51 percent of their votes. Now, in the 2017 average, 66 percent of them disapproved of Trump and 58 percent strongly disapproved. In every age cohort, at least three-fifths of them disapproved.
Trump did better among college-educated white men, usually a reliably Republican group. But after those men gave him 53 percent of their 2016 votes, an equal number said they disapproved of his performance in the yearly average. Trump’s approval rating is net negative not only among college-educated white Millennial men, but also those ages 35 to 49; he only pokes his head above water—and just slightly—with those 50 and older.
College-educated whites, especially men, are the group many Republicans are most optimistic will return to the party if the economy and stock market continue to improve. But one GOP pollster, who asked not to be identified while discussing the party’s prospects, was dubious that Republicans could reverse these declines while Trump is still in a position to define them. “It’s not like voters are saying, ‘We are willing to overlook how … out of control he is because the economy is doing well,’” the pollster said.
Among African Americans and Hispanics, reactions to Trump depend more on gender than age or education. In every age group, and at every level of education, about twice as many African American men as women gave Trump positive marks. In all, 23 percent of black men approved of Trump’s performance versus 11 percent of black women. “The outlier here isn’t [black] men … it’s [black] women, where you have near-universal disapproval of Trump,” said Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster who studies African American voters. Still, black men are one of the few groups for which Trump’s 2017 average approval rating significantly exceeds his 2016 vote share.
Among Hispanics, men were also much more likely than women to express positive views about Trump. Among Hispanic men older than 50, Trump’s approval— strikingly—exceeded 40 percent. But at least three-fifths of Hispanic women in every age group (including both those with and without a college degree) disapproved. Trump’s 2017 approval rating slightly exceeded his 2016 vote share among Hispanic men, and was slightly below it among Hispanic women.
Many things could change between now and November’s election—much less 2020. But these detailed soundings show how the gales of resistance Trump has fueled are reshaping the electoral landscape. Whether by age, gender, race, or education, Trump is deepening almost every social and political division that existed before him—with unpredictable consequences for the parties and for the country itself.
*Ronald Brownstein, a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of presidential campaigns, is Atlantic Media’s editorial director for strategic partnerships, in charge of long-term editorial strategy. He also writes a weekly column and regularly contributes other pieces for the National Journal, contributes to Quartz, and The Atlantic, and coordinates political coverage and activities across publications produced by Atlantic Media.
The Decline of Anti-Trumpism
David Brooks* – The New York Times
Let me start with three inconvenient observations, based on dozens of conversations around Washington over the past year:
First, people who go into the White House to have a meeting with President Trump usually leave pleasantly surprised. They find that Trump is not the raving madman they expected from his tweetstorms or the media coverage. They generally say that he is affable, if repetitive. He runs a normal, good meeting and seems well-informed enough to get by.
Second, people who work in the Trump administration have wildly divergent views about their boss. Some think he is a deranged child, as Michael Wolff reported. But some think he is merely a distraction they can work around. Some think he is strange, but not impossible. Some genuinely admire Trump. Many filter out his crazy stuff and pretend it doesn’t exist.
My impression is that the Trump administration is an unhappy place to work, because there is a lot of infighting and often no direction from the top. But this is not an administration full of people itching to invoke the 25th Amendment.
Third, the White House is getting more professional. Imagine if Trump didn’t tweet. The craziness of the past weeks would be out of the way, and we’d see a White House that is briskly pursuing its goals: the shift in our Pakistan policy, the shift in our offshore drilling policy, the fruition of our ISIS policy, the nomination for judgeships and the formation of policies on infrastructure, DACA, North Korea and trade.
It’s almost as if there are two White Houses. There’s the Potemkin White House, which we tend to focus on: Trump berserk in front of the TV, the lawyers working the Russian investigation and the press operation. Then there is the Invisible White House that you never hear about, which is getting more effective at managing around the distracted boss.
I sometimes wonder if the Invisible White House has learned to use the Potemkin White House to deke us while it changes the country.
I mention these inconvenient observations because the anti-Trump movement, of which I’m a proud member, seems to be getting dumber. It seems to be settling into a smug, fairy tale version of reality that filters out discordant information. More anti-Trumpers seem to be telling themselves a “Madness of King George” narrative: Trump is a semiliterate madman surrounded by sycophants who are morally, intellectually and psychologically inferior to people like us.
I’d like to think it’s possible to be fervently anti-Trump while also not reducing everything to a fairy tale.
The anti-Trump movement suffers from insularity. Most of the people who detest Trump don’t know anybody who works with him or supports him. And if they do have friends and family members who admire Trump, they’ve learned not to talk about this subject. So they get most of their information about Trumpism from others who also detest Trumpism, which is always a recipe for epistemic closure.
The movement also suffers from lowbrowism. Fox News pioneered modern lowbrowism. The modern lowbrow (think Sean Hannity or Dinesh D’Souza) ignores normal journalistic or intellectual standards. He creates a style of communication that doesn’t make you think more; it makes you think and notice less. He offers a steady diet of affirmation, focuses on simple topics that require little background information, and gets viewers addicted to daily doses of righteous contempt and delicious vindication.
We anti-Trumpers have our lowbrowism, too, mostly on late-night TV. But anti-Trump lowbrowism burst into full bloom with the Wolff book.
Wolff doesn’t pretend to adhere to normal journalistic standards. He happily admits that he’s just tossing out rumors that are too good to check. As Charlie Warzel wrote on BuzzFeed, “For Wolff’s book, the truth seems almost a secondary concern to what really matters: engagement.”
The ultimate test of the lowbrow is not whether it challenges you, teaches you or captures the contours of reality; it’s whether you feel an urge to share it on social media.
In every war, nations come to resemble their enemies, so I suppose it’s normal that the anti-Trump movement would come to resemble the pro-Trump movement. But it’s not good. I’ve noticed a lot of young people look at the monotonous daily hysteria of we anti-Trumpers and they find it silly.
This isn’t just a struggle over a president. It’s a struggle over what rules we’re going to play by after Trump. Are we all going to descend permanently into the Trump standard of acceptable behavior?
Or, are we going to restore the distinction between excellence and mediocrity, truth and a lie? Are we going to insist on the difference between a genuine expert and an ill-informed blow hard? Are we going to restore the distinction between those institutions like the Congressional Budget Office that operate by professional standards and speak with legitimate authority, and the propaganda mills that don’t?
There’s a hierarchy of excellence in every sphere. There’s a huge difference between William F. Buckley and Sean Hannity, between the reporters at this newspaper and a rumor-spreader. Part of this struggle is to maintain those distinctions, not to contribute to their evisceration.
*Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times. He is the author of “Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There” and “On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense.” In March 2011 he came out with his third book, “The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement,” which was a No. 1 New York Times best seller. Mr. Brooks also teaches at Yale University, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.