I’ve learned my lesson (and hopefully you have, too) about putting too much stock in polls. From the 2016 presidential election to subsequent special elections to recent primary results, we’ve seen some upsets that simply were not indicated in the polling data. However, we don’t have anything better to rely on when trying to gauge how the American public is viewing the spectacle of the Trump presidency. If nothing else, the tracking polls that look at presidency approval and congressional ballot preference can help us notice trends.
A new Economist/YouGov poll finds 53% of voters disapprove of President Trump’s job performance while just 38% approve.
What is more, the share of voters who say they “strongly disapprove” of Trump has increased by five points, from 37% to 42%, over the past few weeks.
Key finding: “The decline in the president’s numbers stems largely from a change among college-educated whites. These voters will have a disproportionate weight in the upcoming midterm elections to the House of Representatives, both because they show up at polling booths and because so many of them live in marginal congressional districts. In the same poll, 49% of college-educated whites support Democratic candidates for the House (the generic ballot), while 40% support the Republicans. These are awful numbers for Republicans: the president is contagious.”
I think it’s remarkable that this Economist/YouGov poll found strong disapproval of the president from 42 percent of the people they surveyed. Personally, I think that number is absurdly low. It’s a national disgrace that it is that low, but it is still a staggeringly high number. It shows that the people who oppose or are unhappy with Trump are passionate about it. They’re not saying that the president has disappointed them or could be doing better; they’re saying that they’re worried, angry, or appalled. Relatively few people register a milder form of dissent.
The trend here is also bad. Things seem to be falling apart, and there’s evidence that it’s transferring from the president to the Republicans in Congress. According to Nate Silver, a nine-point congressional ballot deficit should net the House Democrats forty-one seats and give them a better than ninety-nine percent chance of winning back control. But this Economist/YouGov poll is showing a nine-point deficit just with college-educated whites. The Republicans need to win that group—or, at least, break even.
If Trump’s unpopularity is contagious, then it calls into question the Republicans’ strategy of supporting him in order to rally his supporters to the polls. On the other hand, if that is the only group left that still might come out to vote in any numbers for the GOP in November, alienating them could lead to a much larger collapse. This puts Republican candidates in a Catch-22 where they need to prove their independence and willingness to hold the president accountable, but that’s precisely what will prove to their base that they’re not worth supporting.
The conclusion should be obvious. If you’re going to suffer a political death, at least die with some dignity and a shred of integrity still intact. It’s time to walk away from the president.