TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Priorities USA
Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group
Global Strategy Group
DATE: May 29, 2018
RE: New Poll & Messaging Guidance: Voters’ Personal Finances Trump National Economy
“Your paychecks are going way up.” – President Donald Trump, 2/5/18
A new poll commissioned by Priorities USA shows that Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress are failing to convince voters that their economic policies are helping middle-class Americans. Relatively few voters say they are able to get ahead of the cost of living, and voters’ experiences of increasing costs for health care and gasoline are washing out any benefit voters may have experienced from the new tax law. Indeed, just one third of voters say the economic policies of Trump and the GOP are helping their personal financial situation, and by wide margins voters continue to say that Trump mainly looks out for the economic interests of the wealthy and big corporations rather than the interests of average people.
The tax bill was touted by Republicans as the centerpiece of their election plans, but the Priorities USA poll shows that the new tax law instead presents potent new lines of attack for Democratic candidates and their allies. Voters are especially moved by contrasts between the large tax cuts received by drug companies and oil companies and the higher costs these companies continue to pass on to consumers:
• In the tax law passed last year, Trump and the Republicans in Congress gave billions in tax cuts to drug companies, saving the country’s top ten drug companies $76 billion in taxes on their offshore profits alone in 2018. Now, those drug companies are earning record profits by jacking up drug prices on middle-class people.
• In the tax law passed last year, Trump and the Republicans in Congress gave $25 billion in tax breaks to oil companies. Now, those oil companies are boosting their own profits further by raising gas prices on middle-class people.
Democrats and their allies should lean into this line of messaging, which go to the heart of voters’ real experience and their perception of Trump and congressional Republicans standing on the side of wealthy special interests.
While elections will be decided state-by-state and seat-by-seat, the Priorities USA poll shows the backdrop to the election remains favorable to Democrats. By a double-digit margin, voters prefer electing more Democrats to Congress to be a check and balance on Donald Trump over electing more Republicans to Congress to help Trump pass his policies and programs.
Voters’ Personal Financial Well-Being
Despite Donald Trump and his allies regularly touting the strength of the economy, voters do not share that level of exuberance when examining their own personal finances. Only 15 percent of voters say their own income is going up faster than the cost of living, while 77 percent say health care costs are increasing and 87 percent say gas prices are going up. These numbers dwarf the 17 percent of Americans who are employed and have seen their take-home pay increase due to the new tax cuts. While many voters do not directly blame either party for the rising costs of gas and health care, the impact on their own bottom lines is undeniable—and of the voters who do cast blame, a majority blame Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress.
This has a very real political impact. Only 25% of voters believe Trump mainly looks out for the interest of working people while 55% think he mainly looks out for the wealthy and big corporations. This is very similar to the numbers for Republicans in general, only 20% of voters believe they mainly look out for middle-class people while 53% believe Republicans mainly look out for the wealthy and big corporations. Democrats, in contrast are viewed as mainly looking out for middle-class people over the wealthy and big corporations by 6 points.
Democrats Should Focus on Tax Law’s Benefits to Rich and Corporations over Middle-Class Americans
The tax law passed by Republicans remains relatively undefined among voters with only 47 percent of voters having strong views including slightly more very unfavorable (25%) than very favorable (22%) in their views of the law. Democrats have a big opportunity to win the battle to define the largest legislative action taken during Trump’s time in office by communicating about what the bill does. By focusing on the law’s benefits for the rich and special interests at the expense of working people, Democrats can paint a vivid picture of Republicans’ misguided priorities and show voters which party is actually fighting for them.
- In the tax law passed last year, Trump and the Republicans in Congress gave billions in tax cuts to drug companies, saving the country’s top ten drug companies $76 billion in taxes on their offshore profits alone in 2018. Now, those drug companies are earning record profits by jacking up drug prices on middle-class people.
- 70 percent of voters have major concerns
- In the tax law passed last year, Trump and the Republicans in Congress gave the biggest Wall Street banks a massive tax cut, allowing them to save $3.6 billion in just the first three months of this year. Now, the banks are pocketing this money instead of working to improve the economy.
- 61 percent of voters have major concerns
- In the tax law passed last year, Trump and the Republicans in Congress gave $25 billion in tax breaks to oil companies. Now, those oil companies are boosting their own profits further by raising gas prices on middle-class people.
- 59 percent of voters have major concerns
These effective lines of attack on the tax law can help win both the debate over taxes and the campaigns for control of congress. After hearing these messages, voters’ preference on control of Congress moves from a +5 Democratic advantage to a +10 Democratic advantage.
The Campaign for Congress
Republicans running for House and Senate should be very concerned about the midterm elections. Democrats currently lead the generic congressional ballot 43-38 among all voters. The upside for Democrats is immediately visible when looking at the 52 percent of voters most likely to vote – these most enthusiastic voters prefer a Democratic congress by 10 points.
But this election will not just be about Congress, it is also about Donald Trump. Fifty percent of voters say that they want more Democrats elected to Congress to be a check on Trump, while only 38 percent want more Republicans elected to help Trump pass his policies and programs. This finding mirrors that found by America First Policies, a group supporting Trump, which found that 58 percent of voters want their member of Congress to be a check on the president.
The framing of the election as a check on Trump is most helpful among Independent voters – a critical constituency for November. Independent voters are initially split on who they want to control Congress with 19% favoring Democrats and 21% favoring Republicans. But when framed as a check on the President, 41% of Independents want more Democrats elected to be a check on Trump, while just 25% want more Republicans to pass the Trump agenda.
About This Poll
Garin-Hart-Yang and Global Strategy Group conducted this poll by telephone May 18 – May 24, with a representative national cross section of 1,003 presidential year voters. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 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.