Trump’s Near Unanimous Approval Among GOP Rank-And-File Leaves Little Room For Primary Challenge

Brandon Allen

Brandon Allen is an attorney in Charlotte who writes and tweets about polls and elections.

Related Post Roulette

30 Responses

  1. Doctor Jay says:

    The partisan differential in Trump’s approval rating interests me. I can’t say that I can definitively explain it, but I have a theory.

    Some conservative friends have boasted about how intellectually diverse Republican Party is. I tend to agree with him, but the question then arises, what holds them together? Why don’t they fragment. The glib answer is that they are more authoritarian, but that seems more of an insult than an answer to me.

    What I do observe is that what holds conservatives together, the thing they share in common, is animosity toward liberals. By this metric, if someone is doing something that upsets liberals/Democrats, they must be doing something right. This idea – “he pisses off the right people” – has been with Trump from the beginning. I have a friend that goes on conservative discussion boards all the time. He says, “I can say anything I want as long as I insult liberals first”.

    I think this is a terrible basis for forming a group or a political party. But it’s right in Trump’s wheelhouse. He is extraordinarily adept at mobilizing other peoples anger, hatred, and resentment in directions that benefit himself.

    For a time, my own political life was given over to “things I hate”. This was not good for me, for my health, or for the country. Fortunately, nobody came to me to make policy. The media, especially internet media, continues to merchandise hatred and outrage at a prodigious rate.

    So, no. There will be no primary challenge. Trump is the guy. The Republican Party has ceased to be about any particular ideas and is wholly given over to “whatever makes liberals mad”.Report

    • Boethiuss in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      What I do observe is that what holds conservatives together, the thing they share in common, is animosity toward liberals. By this metric, if someone is doing something that upsets liberals/Democrats, they must be doing something right. This idea – “he pisses off the right people” – has been with Trump from the beginning. I have a friend that goes on conservative discussion boards all the time. He says, “I can say anything I want as long as I insult liberals first”.

      This is part of a bigger picture, where conservatives think of libs like the Borg from the Star Trek movies, a nasty soulless creature that’s going to assimilate away everything good in the world. This is why I don’t take those approval numbers too seriously, they are statement of solidarity against the Borg and nothing else. The same with trashing libs on right-wing message boards.

      As far as a primary challenge goes, this points to the strategy that every plausible primary opponent is missing: the point isn’t to repudiate Trump, but rather transcend him. Ie, “Trump was or might have been the right answer to the choices available for us in 2016, but we’re not in 2016 any more.”

      This holds both politically and substantively. I don’t think either of the Clintons are going to be a significant factor for 2020, and whoever would replace them are going to be fresh enough in the voters’ minds so that they are not going to be associated with the Clintons or the things the voters hated about Clinton-style politics. And, there is less necessity for Trump policy-wise among Republicans. Whatever it’s worth to oppose immigration, and to stand for parochial American interests in trade policy or foreign policy, etc it’s much more plausible now that some other Republican could uphold those things than it was before the Trump era.

      The good news for the GOP, as such, is that I think the Democrats are in for a rude awakening as it pertains to stickiness of Trump, or the unpopularity through association. I think that’s a very powerful force in American politics as long as Trump is the President and de facto party leader, and will dissipate to nearly nothing just as soon as he is gone.Report

  2. My explanation for Trump’s approval rating in the GOP is twofold:

    1) The economy is doing well. Carter, Bush and Ford were all presiding over weak economies.

    2) Evaporative cooling. Those who don’t like Trump have stopped identifying themselves as Republicans, leaving the hardcore Trumpists to dominate the party.Report

    • Doctor Jay in reply to Michael Siegel says:

      These are decent reasons. I’ve noticed that Republican Party ID is trending down, but is it enough to explain this? I don’t know.Report

    • You may be on to something regarding #2. Nate Silver seems to think there has been a non-trivial amount of shrinkage in the number of Americans identifying as Republican. And if that’s true, it would make sense that the people sticking with the party are more hardcore Trump supporters. After all, they’re staying behind for a reason.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Brandon Allen says:

        Easy enough to check, how many poll respondents identified as a republican as a percentage of the whole who were asked?Report

        • The Gallup Presidential Job Approval Center, which is where all of these figures come from, does not appear to provide that level of detail regarding the poll. Trump’s 89% is his monthly figure (Oct 29-Nov 25, 2018). So we’d need to know the daily (or weekly) sample size, the party ID breakdown, and go from there.Report

          • Maribou in reply to Brandon Allen says:

            If you take the “all adults” variant from that site and look at it proportionately to the 89 percent, you should be able to algebra out the ratio of republicans:not-republicans in the poll…

            Then you could compare the ratios from now and whenever, without needing the absolute numbers.

            I’d do it but I’m at work, so I don’t trust my execution of the math, even though I can see the math that needs to be done… too much else going on.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to Brandon Allen says:

        My understanding is that really started in earnest in GWB’s second term as it became clear what a debacle the Iraq War was turning into. Now I don’t know what the Venn diagram for Republican Loyalists, GWB Loyalists, and Trump Loyalists would look like and I don’t know how many of those newly minted “Independents” drifted back into the Republican fold during Obama’s term, but yeah, it’s definitely a thing.Report

  3. Pinky says:

    I think there’s been a long-trending change in how people respond to pollsters. It probably reflects our “like/dislike” Manichaean culture. I don’t think it reflects how people think so much as how they signal. Then again, the more you signal a certain way, the more likely you are to develop thinking in that way. And if the ultimate question is how people respond in a binary vote, then it doesn’t much matter whether people’s thinking is more shaded than their poll responses. I don’t know – I don’t like that implication, but I think it’s correct.Report

  4. Kolohe says:

    The George HW Bush trend I think is instructive, in that he started with high enough favorables in-party, but the surprising semi-success of Buchanan eroded them and then it became a self-fulfilling downward spiral.

    That said, what’s also notable is that every primary challenger has been from the wings, not the center. The wings are getting what they want, so nobody’s going to primary Trump from that angle. ‘Centrist’ intraparty insurgencies are as pointless and useless as John Anderson’s 1980 run (or McMuffin’s 2016 one).Report

  5. LeeEsq says:

    Trump is popular with the rank and file because Trump gives them the Republican Party as they want to be. He is more of symptom than a problem.Report

  6. Koz says:

    Yeah, this is an odd one for me. The reason to have a new candidate is so strategically overwhelming for me that it’s odd that there hasn’t been any movement in that direction so far.

    Basically there’s two reasons for it as best as I can tell. First, we’re in a stalemate in terms of factions within the party. The Never Trump people would like to support another candidate, but they are held in very low esteem within the party and don’t necessarily want to be Republicans very bad anyway. The rest of the party think of itself in opposition to Never Trumpers and Democrats, so its first instinct is to get behind Trump. So it’s hard to find a place to come from as a candidate.

    The other one is that GOP voters are feeling very defensive and beleaguered and motivated to hold on to what they have, and a primary challenge feels like it’s giving something up.

    It’s really a shame. I won’t say that there’s no chance Trump could be reelected by I find it doubtful. As a scientific wild-ass guess, if the 2020 general election comes down to Trump vs one of the Democrats you’d guess, I’d favor the D’s somewhere between 80-20 and 90-10. If it’s any other Republican, I’d say the GOP is a 60-40 favorite.Report

    • Jesse in reply to Koz says:

      I’m usually loathe to agree with you, but yeah, if Rubio or Jeb had somehow won (my odd opinion is Trump is the only person that could’ve beat Hillary or Bernie because he activated certain voters that others candidates wouldn’t have ), and they’d done all the things Trump did that I dislike, but are normal GOP things, and didn’t do all the dumb overreaching things he’s done, they’d be hovering around 60-ish% approval.Report

      • North in reply to Jesse says:

        Yeah it’s circular. Jeb or Rubio wouldn’t have won PA, MI or WI so it’s moot; the voters Trump drew there came because of the same conservatiarian heresies that Rubio and Jes eschewed. But if they were somehow in office now they’d probably be polling better and looking much stronger for the next election.Report

      • Pinky in reply to Jesse says:

        I don’t know. I didn’t correctly guess what the voters would do in 2016 – I hardly ever do. But in retrospect, it’s hard to believe that Clinton could have beaten anyone. She ran a horrible campaign. If that campaign was a movie, her staff was a beloved cop who was retiring at the end of the week and a teenage girl who left the cabin to go find a missing axe. She was off-putting, ill, and under FBI investigation. She had one selling point, and it wasn’t nearly enough. I suspect that the only person she could have beaten was another woman, because it would have forced her off the “I’m with HER” thing and made her run an actual campaign.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Pinky says:

          But in retrospect, it’s hard to believe that Clinton could have beaten anyone.

          If the Democratic Leadership cannot reach the point where they understand why Clinton lost, I worry that they won’t be able to beat Trump in 2020.

          If they comfort themselves with thoughts of Russians and gerrymandering and the popular vote, then I’ll conclude that they care more about comfort than about winning in 2020.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

          She was off-putting, ill, and under FBI investigation.

          But…as has now been conclusively proven…

          Those were the qualities that won the hearts of Trump voters.

          Maybe she just wasn’t off-putting enough, ill enough, and under a sufficient number of FBI investigations to win over that choice demographic.Report

          • Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            I understand the joke that you were going for, but you’re wrong on all three points, so I have to assume that your thinking is being clouded by partisanship here. I’m not making any ideological observation here, and I’m no fan of Trump. But he was healthy, he wasn’t known to be under investigation, and – this is something I didn’t realize at the time – he was more likable than Clinton. People looked at Donald Trump and said, now there’s an honest, decent person who can relate to my day-to-day life. Think about that. Outside of a group of Hollywood high-donation bundlers, she was either barely tolerated or hated. And this was against Donald Trump. I have to figure that in a hypothetical race against a non-detestable person she would have gotten trounced.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

              This needs proper punctuation:

              …he was more likable than Clinton.

              *video of Trump mocking the disabled reporter*

              People looked at Donald Trump and said, now there’s an honest, decent person who can relate to my day-to-day life.

              *Photo of Trump in his gilded mansion, with audio of him bragging of grabbing women by the pussy because he’s an untouchable star*


        • North in reply to Pinky says:

          Rubio and Jeb would have tamped down HRC’s numbers in the states she lost in the south but it’s hard to believe they would have gotten Trump numbers in PA, WI or MI.Report

  7. Philip H says:

    Koz: Yeah,thisisanoddoneforme.Thereasontohaveanewcandidateissostrategicallyoverwhelmingformethatit’soddthattherehasn’tbeenanymovementinthatdirectionsofar.

    Um no its really simple – Republicans have power in the Senate and WH, and considering the losses in state houses and governorships this year they don’t want to loose more power. You hold that power by keeping the current guy in office. This si not rocket surgery.


    While I can see how Trump supporters reach this conclusion, part of the reason these folks are besieged by the left is, frankly, they are supporting politicians who are advocating for policies that are not good (at best) for most of the country. Trickle Down Economics – and its concomitant tax cuts – aren’t doing any good for “normal” people, and neither are the rollbacks of environmental regulations, or educational directives or financial regulations. The ACA canard is almost played out – House Democrats will likely introduce legislation to actually fix its issues (many of which were caused by Republican intransigence in the first place).


    Well, considering No One thought Mr. Trump would win in the first place – including a lot of Republicans – I’m not sure I’d make that betReport