Trump’s Rural Base is Drifting Away

There is evidence in the Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll that the bloom is off Trump’s rose with a lot of rural voters. On a host of issues, folks are expressing much less confidence in the president. In some areas, like his handling of health care, the environment, and corruption, he’s actually in negative territory now among voters in small towns and rural communities. On some subjects where he is still getting modestly positive numbers, the fall from the winter and spring has nonetheless been precipitous.

For example, his net approval is down seventeen points on immigration, sixteen points on his dealings with Congress, thirteen points on uniting the country, and twelve points on employment and jobs. He’s seen a ten percent drop on his handling of the economy and foreign policy. He’s seen the least slippage on international trade, but he’s still lost a net of eight points on that issue.

It can be tricky to interpret these numbers. In some cases, people are unhappy that he hasn’t delivered on his promises, but in others they seem dismayed by what they perceive as broken promises or reversals of policy. Health care is a good example. Some are dismayed that he hasn’t repealed the Affordable Care Act while others are upset about the proposals Congress put forth that the president supported. On immigration, some feel like he hasn’t gone far enough or are angry that he hasn’t produced, while others think he sold out to the Democrats to get a deal on hurricane relief and the debt ceiling.

With so much push and pull, it’s even hard to understand his hemorrhaging on the environment. Is he upsetting rural voters with his extremism or is he annoying them with his inability to recreate lost energy jobs? As with most of the other issues on the list, the truth is probably that Trump is losing support in both directions.

Another way to interpret the numbers is that people just feel worse about the president in general, and this is leading them to give him poorer marks across the board. In other words, it would be a mistake to put to much emphasis on any single issue and it’s probably better to just take away a more general sense of unhappiness.

The president and his team are most likely struggling to interpret these numbers, too. You can use them to argue in a variety of directions. You can say that failure to deliver on health care, immigration and taxes is killing him, or you can say that he’s losing support because he’s broken promises on protecting entitlements and people’s access to health care. You can say that people are angry that he hasn’t built his wall on the Mexican border or you can argue that his inability to work with Congress or unite the country is turning people off.

The only thing that’s really clear is that all his numbers are down substantially in his areas of electoral strength. The four areas where he still has fairly strong net approval are on the economy and job and trade, and on his dealing with ISIS. This suggests that the biggest risk to the president is a downturn in the economy. And that’s why the September jobs report has to be a concern for the White House. It was the first monthly job decline in seven years, and if it is more than a blip caused by the hurricanes, the president could see a lot more slippage in support among his base.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.