One week after inciting a terrorist attack against Congress, while attempting to end constitutional government in the United States, Donald Trump’s approval rating is approaching an all-time low.
Put differently: Even after the president’s attempt to nullify a democratic election got five people killed, including a police officer, about 40 percent of Americans believe he is doing a good job, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average.
This is bad news for American democracy. But it’s also an inauspicious number for the leading threat to that democracy — the modern Republican Party.
In the wake of last week’s insurrection, the GOP old guard floated some trial balloons for de-Trumpification. The bulk of Mitch McConnell’s Senate caucus voted to certify the Electoral College results, and criticized the president for his role in putting their lives at risk. The Senate Majority Leader has subsequently let it be known that he is open to the idea of voting to convict Trump in an impeachment trial, even if the president is no longer in office. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, ten House Republicans voted to impeach their party’s standard-bearer, with the No. 3–ranking House Republican, Liz Cheney, leading the charge.
This decline in Trump’s support among the Republican elite has been accompanied by some erosion in his backing among GOP voters. In a Politico–Morning Consult poll taken after the Capitol Hill riot, 75 percent of Republican voters said they approved of the job Trump is doing, down from 83 percent in December. A Reuters–Ipsos survey taken during the same period put Trump’s GOP support at 70 percent, an all-time low, and 18 points beneath the peak he’d reached in August.
Nevertheless, as any minimally numerate reader has already gleaned, these surveys both demonstrate that even after Donald Trump lost his party the White House and Senate, inspired an insurrectionary mob to storm the Capitol and kill a cop, and earned the open enmity of Republican leaders, he still boasts the support of a supermajority of his party’s base.
This is no small problem for the GOP. Its association with Trump was already doing grievous damage to the party’s brand, especially with college-educated voters, a demographic that is disproportionately likely to turn out for midterms and donate to campaigns. Now, to be associated with Trump is to be associated with lawless disorder. And that is not likely to change as further details about the Capitol Hill riot are aired. Before last week, Trump boasted near-unanimous approval among the GOP faithful. Now he’s a divisive figure even within his own party.
And yet, so is virtually every other major Republican politician. In fact, his recent loss of support notwithstanding, Trump remains one of — if not the — most broadly appealing national politician in red America.
This is reflected in Morning Consult’s poll, which shows that the percentage of Republicans who want Trump to be their 2024 nominee has fallen 12 points since November, yet it remains more than twice as large as his closest hypothetical competitor.
But the clearest picture of the GOP’s problem may come courtesy of a new survey from Axios–Ipsos. The pollster identifies a cleavage in the GOP coalition: When asked whether they identify as a “traditional Republican” or a “Trump Republican,” 56 percent opt for the former label, while 36 pick the latter.
On first glance, this might lead one to think that the anti-Trump faction has the upper hand. But one would be wrong. Traditional Republicans may prize their party over their president, but that doesn’t mean they don’t support him. By contrast, GOP voters who choose to emphasize their allegiance to Trump over the party have little affection for Establishment Republicans who evince disloyalty to their hero. Thus, while 41 percent of “traditional Republicans” want Trump to be their 2024 nominee, only 8 percent of “Trump Republicans” favor someone who isn’t Donald Trump for that role.
Meanwhile, when all GOP voters are asked who has comported themselves well over the past week, 63 percent agree that the guy who fomented a terrorist attack did so, while just 42 percent say the same about the Republican leader who called on his party to uphold democracy by certifying election results.
Unless Trump is disqualified from the 2024 GOP primary through conviction in the Senate, imprisonment, or death, the available evidence suggests he will make a formidable “unity candidate” for red America, even as he — and his brand of crack-brained right-wing authoritarianism more broadly — would unite a supermajority of voters against the Republican Party.