Date April 19, 2017
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Poll shows support for Trump, but not his policies or Congressional Republicans

A new survey by Brown’s Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy reveals evidence of political polarization and diminishing support for some key Trump campaign promises.

James Morone
James Morone, Director of Brown's Taubman Center, said the new poll shows that despite President Trump's declining approval ratings, he is polling ahead of Congressional Republicans.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] —A new poll conducted by the Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs underscores the deep partisanship that characterizes American politics, the solidity of President Donald Trump’s base despite decreasing interest in the tenets of his campaign, and a broad backlash against Congressional Republicans.

“Republican candidates do not seem to be able to run away from the Trump agenda,” said James Morone, director of the Taubman Center. For most of 2016, GOP candidates were more popular than Trump in their districts, but now Trump is polling ahead of generic GOP candidates. “Now, with Trump as president, Congressional Republicans face considerable headwinds in very different kinds of political settings.” 

The April 5 to 10 poll was conducted by RABA Research, a bi-partisan polling firm, in collaboration with Brown. It measured attitudes among 2,812 voters in five distinct types of counties: working class suburbs in Rhode Island, wealthy suburbs in Colorado, rural areas in Iowa, diverse rural areas in North and South Carolina and upper middle class exurbs in Pennsylvania.

The poll, which can be found on the Taubman Center website, included questions on trade and China, funding for Planned Parenthood, opioid abuse, attitudes about alleged Trump ties to Russia and allegations that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the campaign. It also asked participants about repealing the Affordable Care Act, imposing a travel ban on select countries and building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

In three of the five geographical areas polled, Trump’s current approval ratings suggest that many voters who supported him in the election do not approve of his performance in office. For example, Trump won the four counties Taubman polled in Iowa with a range of 62.1 to 70 percent of the vote. Today, however, only 47 percent of voters in those counties rate his job performance “good” or “excellent.” However, in all four of those Iowa counties, Trump is more popular than generic Congressional Republicans matched against generic Democrats.

The poll also shows some voters souring on GOP plans to get rid of Obamacare. In the working class suburbs of Kent County, R.I., 49 percent of voters oppose repealing the Affordable Care Act, while only 36 percent support it. The upper middle class voters in Arapahoe County, Colo., who voted for both Obama and Clinton, also oppose scrapping the ACA, while rural voters in the Midwest and the south continue to voice support for Republicans looking to repeal the ACA.

In general, however, support for Trump outruns support for his policies. While Clinton’s America opposes efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, so does much of Trump’s — outside the South.

Support for other Trump priorities — including the building of a border wall with Mexico and a temporary travel ban placed on visitors from certain Muslim-majority countries — remains strong across four of the five areas surveyed.

“Our deep drill down into different American settings shows a fiercely divided nation,” Morone said.

Strong partisan differences appear both between districts and within them. For example, in the upper middle class exurb of Chester County, Penn., which voted for Romney in 2012 and Clinton in 2016, Trump’s approval rating exceeds his vote count. At the same time, an extraordinary 44 percent of voters in that county say they have personally backed the opposition to Trump by writing letters, going to meetings or contributing money.

“So here’s a county,” concludes Morone, “where 49 percent of the population says Trump is doing an excellent or good job while 44 percent claim to be organizing against him!”

The poll shows no systematic evidence of collapsing support for Trump despite the controversies that have surrounded his administration. Across the very different political settings, his approval rating very roughly reflects his November vote totals.