Battleground Poll: Trump’s Suburban Problem

November 14, 2019


Election Day 2019 saw Republican defeats in suburban districts across the country, highlighting a growing problem for Republicans and one that promises to hinder Donald Trump’s re-election chances in 2020. New polling from Priorities USA in the battleground states of Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania shows that Trump has been losing ground with suburban voters as he focuses on a strategy of exclusively turning out his base. His continued emphasis on issues like immigration that are meant to fire up his base are having a backlash effect with these voters that represent a significant portion of the electorate. Every day that Trump spends focused on this strategy digs a deeper hole for him and the Republican Party with America’s suburban voters.

In two very worrisome developments for Trump and his enablers in Congress, pluralities of voters in the states most likely to decide the 2020 election support impeaching and removing Donald Trump from office, and cite Trump’s handling of the economy as a reason to vote for somebody else.

Democrats should continue to hold Trump accountable for his corrupt and illegal actions while aggressively communicating with suburban and other persuadable voters about the problems with Trump’s economic policies and how they are affecting American families.

Suburban Backlash Against Trump

“I think my base is so strong, I’m not sure that I have to do that.” – Donald Trump on reaching out to swing voters.

“People all think you have to change people’s minds. You have to get people to show up that believe in you.” – Trump Campaign Manager Brad Parscale [Time, 6/20/19]

Roughly half of respondents across Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin say they live in the suburbs. Among this group, Trump’s favorability (40% favorable/ 56% unfavorable) and job approval (43% approve/ 57% disapprove) paint a bleak picture for the president. When just looking at suburban women, the problem becomes even worse. Trump’s favorability stands at 34% favorable, 61% unfavorable and his job approval is 38% approve, 62% disapprove.

Republicans’ problems with suburban voters were on full display in the 2018 and 2019 elections, but rather than attempt to recover with these voters, Trump is dedicating himself to a strategy of appeasing his base in an effort to find new voters who look like his existing supporters. This strategy is exacerbating the problem for Trump, as the issues that motivate his base are backlashing with suburban voters.

Our survey makes it clear that while Trump’s record and rhetoric on immigration, border security, race relations and corruption are top issues for Trump’s base to support him, they are also reasons for a majority of suburban voters to vote for somebody else. The more he focuses on these issues in an effort to motivate his supporters, the more he will turn off the suburban voters who have already been moving away from Republicans in recent years and make up a significant portion of the electorate in these key battleground states.

Trump Continues to Slip on the Economy

Trump is reliant on a strong economy to balance out his horrendous favorability and approval numbers, but our survey found that there has been a continuation of the trend of voters reporting that they are less satisfied with the economic situation for themselves and their family. Since May, there has been an eight point drop in personal economic satisfaction across our battleground states. This decline has been most pronounced among voters in Pennsylvania (12 point drop), Florida (10 point drop), among white non-college women (13 point drop) and Republicans (13 point drop).

While Wisconsin may have seen gains in personal economic satisfaction, a plurality (45% to 34%) of voters say that Donald Trump’s policies have hurt more than helped their state, suggesting that Trump’s gloating on his economic record could fall flat with these voters. Michigan (43% to 33%) and Pennsylvania (40% to 38%) also have pluralities of voters saying Trump’s policies have mostly hurt while only Florida (36% to 39%) gives Trump a slightly positive response.

A majority of voters (52%) across the battleground states now say that their income is falling behind the cost of living, with another 40% saying they are just staying even. These trends resulted in a plurality of battleground voters citing Trump’s handling of the economy as a reason to vote for someone other than Trump, marking the first time this year that our polling has shown this to be a liability for Trump. Trump can no longer cite the economy as a clear political strength.


With impeachment proceedings in full swing and dominating the news, a majority of voters (55%) report that what they have seen and heard lately has made them feel less favorable toward Donald Trump. This is the highest this number has been this year.

When asked what they had seen or heard that made them feel less favorably about Trump, the top  answers volunteered by respondents were Ukraine, impeachment and investigating Biden. This survey was in the field prior to the start of any televised impeachment hearings.

Voters across the four battleground states narrowly (49%-45%) back impeaching and removing Donald Trump from office. Republican spin that impeachment is opposed by a majority of voters is simply not reflected in the data we are seeing to this point.

About This Poll

Garin-Hart-Yang and Global Strategy Group conducted this poll online October 18-28, 2019, with a total sample of 2,500 voters, with representative subsamples of 800 voters in Florida, 600 voters in Pennsylvania, 600 voters in Michigan, and 500 voters in Wisconsin. The states were weighted together based on the number of electoral votes each one represents.  The distribution of voters across demographic, geographic, and political factors reflect the expected composition of the 2020 electorate in each state.