Blue America’s greatest fear about the Trump era (after nuclear annihilation, anyway) is probably that the president and his party are going to get away with all of it: trying to make health care more expensive for much of their own base; letting banks fleece their customers and coal companies contaminate their neighbors’ water; the callous, inept response to Puerto Rico; coddling white supremacists; betraying core U.S. allies; running the EPA as a fossil-fuel-industry think tank; insulting war widows; selling their legislative agenda to the highest-bidding libertarian billionaire; elevating cruelty toward the vulnerable into a patriotic duty — and at the end of the day, they won’t face consequences for any of it.
After all, the GOP has taken pains to insulate its voting base from reality. Much of this country scans the radio dial and hears five different flavors of conservative talking points; turns on the local evening news and gets a broadcast scripted by a pro-Trump media company; looks to Tucker Carlson during prime time for fair-and-balanced coverage. It doesn’t matter what Republicans actually do — real Americans don’t read the “fake news.”
This dire assessment may yet prove correct. But it’s worth noting that a growing body of polling data suggests that it won’t.
Last week a CNN poll found that Americans want Democrats to take over Congress next year by a 14-point margin. On Wednesday, a Fox News poll put the Democrats’ lead at 15.
The latter survey also found President Trump’s approval rating hitting an all-time low (in Fox’s polling), with just 38 percent of respondents viewing the president favorably. That drop was driven by declining support for Trump among his core constituencies. Last month, Fox had 68 percent of white men without college degrees approving of the president — now, it puts that figure at 56 percent. At the same time, Trump’s approval fell eight points among Evangelical Christians, from 74 percent last month to 66 percent today.
This poll could be an outlier. But poll aggregators FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics both show that Trump’s average approval rating has fallen significantly since mid-September — while the Democratic Party’s advantage in the generic congressional ballot has increased over the same period.
Meanwhile, a recent CBS News poll found that only 18 percent of Americans believe that Trump’s tax plan favors the middle class — despite the president’s incessant claims that it does. By contrast, 58 percent told the network that the president’s plan favors the wealthy. This is a problem for the GOP: A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 75 percent of Republican voters believe that deficit reduction should be prioritized over tax cuts for the rich. Unsurprisingly, that poll found that fewer than a third of Americans who had heard about the Republican tax plan supported it.
Whether public opposition will derail Trump’s proposed tax cuts remains to be seen. But during the fight over Obamacare repeal, polls also found the president losing his war against reality: No matter how many times Trump promised that his health-care plan didn’t actually cut Medicaid or erode protections for people with preexisting conditions, voters understood that their interests weren’t being served. By the time Republicans pulled the plug on Trumpcare, it was the most unpopular piece of major legislation in modern memory.
We’re a long way from the 2018 election (let alone the 2020 one). Polls are just polls. But, for the moment, there’s reason to think that facts might still matter in this beleaguered little republic.