TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Guy Cecil, Chairman, Priorities USA
DATE: April 28, 2017
RE: At 100-Day Mark, Chinks Seen in Trump’s So-Called Armor
Last week, Priorities USA released polling of Democratic drop-off voters that revealed these voters were already more motivated to turn out in the 2018 midterms than they were to vote in 2016. This is cause for optimism that Democrats can translate the grassroots activism sparked by the Trump presidency into electoral success.
While the energy is clearly on the Democratic side right now, a number of recent public polls have pointed to a supposed silver lining for Donald Trump: that despite his historically low approval rating, his support remains stubbornly solid among his core supporters.
But our latest research, conducted ahead of the 100-day mark of the Trump administration, reveals that while few Trump voters are expressing buyer’s remorse yet about their choice last November, there are strong signs that his voters’ expectations are not being fully met and their patience with Trump is not limitless.
Our poll shows that, for the first time since we began measuring voter sentiment towards Trump, a plurality (43%) of voters agree he has failed to keep important promises made during the campaign. While Trump voters are willing to give him more time to make good on his promises, nearly two-thirds of them say it is important for him to do so eventually. This suggests that if Trump continues to fail to make good on these core promises, a souring could follow, and his electoral coalition from last fall may not prove so impregnable after all. This is especially true with Obama-Trump voters; 54% of them already say Trump has failed to meet their hopes and expectations.
Chief among the areas of vulnerability for Trump on this front is his promise to replace the Affordable Care Act with an alternative plan that would “insure everyone” while reducing costs. As Democrats continue to press their case against Trump and Republicans, they should emphasize health care most of all. It presents a rare opportunity in that it not only galvanizes core Democratic voters, but is also one of the likeliest issues to help win back voters lost to Trump. Looking ahead to 2018, while it is clear Democrats ought to invest significantly more resources in turnout operations than they have in recent midterm elections, many of these Obama-Trump voters will represent important persuasion targets in states like Indiana, Ohio, and Missouri.
It is true Trump voters are still mostly standing by him—for now.
Recent polls released by Pew and ABC/Washington Post have shown little evidence of buyer’s remorse among Trump voters. Our findings do not contradict that conclusion: 85 percent of Trump voters told us they approve strongly or somewhat with the job he is doing as President, with only 3 percent disapproving. Eighty-three percent said they would give him a grade in the A or B range for his first 100 days.
This is an important dose of perspective: while it can feel like Trump is providing fresh outrages every day and even as scandals swirl around Trump’s Russian connections, in the minds of most voters, it is still very early in his administration. In general, Trump’s voters are signaling they will give him time to make good on his promises, and are not going to be quick to second-guess their choice last November.
But while these voters may not consider themselves disillusioned as of now, there are emerging signs of creeping doubts that ought to hearten Democrats seeking to win back some of these Trump voters.
More than half of Obama-Trump voters say Trump has not met their hopes and expectations.
Our survey measured a 10-point jump over the course of the past two weeks in the percentage of voters who believe that Trump is not keeping important campaign promises: 33% believed this was the case in early April, compared to 43% who say the same today.
While the number of Trump voters who say that is smaller, it is growing: the percentage of Trump voters who say definitively he is not keeping his promises has more than doubled since earlier this month, from 7% to 16%. And one-third of Trump voters say at this stage, he has not the met the hopes and expectations they had when they voted for him. This includes 54% of Trump voters who also voted for Barack Obama in 2012—suggesting that doubts are setting in rather quickly among the subset of Trump voters that are most open to supporting Democrats.
Trump voters still expect him to make good on his ‘100 Day’ promises.
The potential for further deterioration is real. When asked about six specific promises Trump made as part of his “100-day contract” but has yet to make good on, all six promises were rated as important by more than two-thirds of Trump voters. These included promises around infrastructure, renegotiating NAFTA, naming China a currency manipulator, and providing a new child care tax credit. While around 1 in 5 (21%) of Trump voters say they are already disappointed at Trump’s failure to achieve these goals in his first 100 days, fully 62% believe it is important that Donald Trump eventually keep all six of these promises. If Trump abandons some or all of these promises, it seems certain to cost him politically.
Health care issue appears to be biggest mover among Trump voters.
Of all the promises Trump made pertaining to his first 100 days, health care appears to be the one of greatest interest to his voters. Fully 92 percent of Trump voters say his pledge to replace the Affordable Care Act with a plan that would cover everyone and reduce costs was important to their decision to vote for him. And among the one-third of Trump voters who right now say he is not living up to their hopes and expectations, health care is the No. 1 reason they volunteered as their reason for feeling that way.
This corresponds with polling conducted for Priorities USA and Patriot Majority last month that showed voters in 20 swing House districts viewing Trump’s original health care proposal unfavorably and preferring a Democratic challenger to the Republican incumbent when told that their representative supports the proposal. These concerns can only grow following the unveiling of the Republicans’ revised health care proposal, which would go even further than the original bill by weakening protections for Americans with preexisting conditions. Even if House Speaker Paul Ryan decides to shelve this highly unpopular legislation, Trump’s failure to address this issue at all is salient enough with his voters that Democrats must continue to stay on offense on the issue over the coming months.
Democrats should not buy the hype that all Trump voters are immovable. While it’s true these voters are not yet expressing remorse about their support for him last fall, a rising number of them agree he is not keeping his promises and a clear majority of them say it is important he do so eventually. The unpopularity of Trump’s health care plan, along with other high-profile failures to make good on his agenda, could well cause further softening among these voters. But to achieve this, we must be disciplined and keep the focus on Trump’s handling of issues that most make a difference in these voters’ lives. If Democrats can continue to show persuadable voters that he is not only breaking his promises, but actually siding against them, we will be able to make meaningful inroads in 2018 and beyond.
An effective persuasion campaign combined with historic investments in Democratic turnout are both required to maximize our wins in 2017, 2018, and beyond.
About This Poll
Garin-Hart-Yang and Global Strategy Group conducted this poll by telephone April 20-24, 2017, with a representative national cross section of 1,000 presidential year voters. The margin of error is +/- 3.2 percentage points, and care has been taken to ensure that the geographic and demographic divisions of the electorate are properly represented based on past voter turnout statistics.