Trump Voters and the General Public Have Very Different Priorities

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This man and the general public see things differently. Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

On November 8, roughly 60 percent of Americans held an unfavorable view of Donald Trump. But the GOP nominee won the presidency, anyway, because the nonvoting population is large and left-leaning, and because our founding fathers decided that picking presidents by national popular vote would unfairly deny Southern states the right to leverage their slaves into disproportionate political power.

And so Trump is headed to the White House, having secured the support of roughly 25 percent of all registered voters, many of whom claimed to dislike him even as they marked his name on their ballots.

This, combined with the Republican Party’s success at party-building (and gerrymandering) at the state level, leaves us in an odd circumstance: The American electorate has just given the president-elect and his party full control of government, even as a majority of voters disdains them both.

A new poll from Politico and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health illustrates one of the many implications of this strange state of affairs: Trump voters and the general public would like to see the president-elect prioritize very different parts of his platform.

Among the president-elect’s backers, 85 percent say repealing and replacing Obamacare should be a top priority; among the general public, that figure is 44 percent. (A separate Quinnipiac poll, released Friday, finds a mere 18 percent of the public wants to see the Affordable Care Act repealed in its entirety, with a plurality favoring the repeal of just some parts of the law).

Similarly, while 78 percent of Trump voters told Politico that they want him to prioritize preventing illegal immigration, just 38 percent of all voters said the same. And while 67 percent of Trumpists want to see major increases in defense spending, only 43 percent of the broader public agrees.

The most popular Trump proposal among all voters — new infrastructure spending — is also the least popular among his own backers, although the idea garners roughly 50 percent support from both groups.

This divergence in opinion would seem to put Trump in a bind: Delivering for his base and growing its ranks appear to be mutually exclusive goals.

However, there is one major policy item on which Trump’s supporters and the general public are in overwhelming agreement: More than 80 percent of both groups don’t think he should cut taxes on rich people.

So, if there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that Trump and his party will not prioritize reducing the tax burdens of the wealthy. After all, it’s not like we’re living in a failed republic where the preferences of the economic elite carry more weight than those of 80 percent of voters. Right?

Trump Voters and General Public Have Different Priorities