Politics & Policy

How Trump Can Solidify a New Majority Coalition

Trump speaks at a rally in Raleigh, N.C., November 7, 2016. (Reuters photo: Carlo Allegri)
He won because of the electorate’s intense desire for change. If he can satisfy that desire, he’ll keep winning going forward.

As we enter the first week of 2017, it’s important to put aside some of the myths from 2016 and look at what’s really at stake in the new year for President-elect Donald Trump and the nation.

The results from our post-election survey of November 8th and our December national poll (sponsored by Secure America Now) show that public opinion is moving strongly in favor of Trump. During the 2016 campaign, polls frequently showed that well more than 50 percent of voters viewed him unfavorably. But by December, he had a net-positive job-approval rating, with 48 of Americans approving of him and only 41 percent disapproving. This suggests that Trump has maintained the momentum that allowed him to win the White House.

At year’s end, Trump voters enthusiastically approved of the job being done by the President-elect, 91 percent to 3 percent; Republicans approved 83 percent to 11 percent; conservatives approved 73 percent to 15 percent; and those who disapproved of the job President Obama has done approved of Trump 77 percent to 12 percent. But Trump’s polling surge is generating a negative reaction from Democratic elites and the liberal media, who wish to see him fail. They fear that if Donald Trump increases his job approval above 50 or even 60 percent, he’ll have the kind of political capital that Ronald Reagan had to pass his conservative, populist agenda. Here’s what really worries them: 14 percent of Clinton voters now approve of Trump, as do 21 percent of the Democrats 25 percent of voters who approve of the job Obama is doing, 24 percent of African American voters, 31 percent of liberals, 44 percent of the under-40 vote, and 44 percent of Hispanics.

In short, Trump is making significant inroads into his opposition’s base, and if he can sustain them he could create a new majority governing coalition. That’s what’s at stake at this very early date.

The partisan efforts by Washington Democrats, liberal media elites, and even President Obama to delegitimize President-elect Trump before he’s sworn in are transparent. They are also so far failing, because the powerful trends that helped elect Trump remain in his favor.

Back on Election Day, we pegged Trump’s favorable rating at 43 percent and his unfavorable rating at 55 percent. Hillary Clinton had a slightly worse 42 percent favorable rating and 56 percent unfavorable rating. What ultimately put Trump over the top was the electorate’s intense desire for change. On Election Day, 63 percent of voters said the country was on the wrong track. There was no mandate to keep the country headed in the direction that President Obama had led us. The national media’s Election Day exit polling showed that only 36 percent of all voters said the economy was good; 62 percent said that it was unhealthy, and they voted for Trump 63 percent to 31 percent. The country wanted something new, and Trump provided it.

From our first involvement in the Trump campaign during the primaries, we advised Mr. Trump to make change the foundation of his message on every issue, and to target those uncommitted battleground-state voters whom our polling identified as wanting change. He did so enthusiastically, and it won him one of the great upsets in American political history. The strategy of the Trump campaign united the Sun Belt with the Rust Belt into a new heartland coalition that isolated and beat the ruling elites of Washington, D.C.

Now it’s critical that he personify the change he was elected to provide from Day One of his presidency. In our December poll, all voters said that they want change, 52 percent to 39 percent; Trump voters want change 90 percent to 8 percent; Republicans want change 84 percent to 12 percent; and conservatives want change 82 percent to 12 percent. The opposition’s base feels the same: 16 percent of Clinton voters want change; 17 percent of Democrats want change; 18 percent of African Americans want change; 33 percent of Hispanics want change; and 40 percent of voters under 40 want change. By satisfying the country’s broad desire for a course correction, Trump can raise his popularity and create a durable majority coalition.

What ultimately put Trump over the top was the electorate’s intense desire for change.

There’s more bad news for liberals: The evidence suggests that the kind of change most Americans want is the kind of change Trump, with a united Republican government behind him, is uniquely positioned to provide. Just as two in three Americans have thought that the country is on the wrong track for the past few years, a five-to-three majority — 55 percent to 31 percent on Election Day, and 53 percent to 31 percent in December — preferred a smaller government with fewer services to a larger government with many services. Sixty percent approved of repealing and replacing Obamacare, versus only 33 percent who disapproved. Fifty-one percent of voters wanted President Trump to tear up the Iran nuclear deal due to the lack of US inspections, versus only 22 percent who wanted him to keep it in place. A 62 percent to 27 percent majority would cut off federal funds to cities that refuse to turn in criminal illegal aliens. And 66 percent support a moratorium on accepting Middle Eastern refugees until we can be sure that they are not a threat to community safety, national security, or the health of our economy.

In other words, the list of majority-supported positions in Trump’s platform is long. But given the enormity of the swamp he’s promised to drain in D.C., he will need to proceed with caution in crafting his list of priorities. After Senate Democrats lost their majority in 2014, the man who would become their leader, Charles Schumer, “slammed his party . . . for pursuing health-care reform in 2009 and 2010, arguing that Democrats hurt themselves politically by not focusing instead on policies aimed at helping a ‘broader swath’ of middle-class Americans.” Simply put, Schumer believed that the Democrats should have focused on economic growth and jobs before health care when Obama first took office.

Ironically, President Trump and the Republicans may be in the same situation now.

When we asked voters what should be the top priority for President Trump and the new Congress, almost half of them, 47 percent, cited creating jobs and reducing taxes. The next largest voter segment, 34 percent, cited security issues. Although there is broad support among the electorate for repealing and replacing Obamacare, it’s a secondary priority to economic growth and security issues; only 13 percent said it should be first on Trump’s to-do list.

Keeping America secure and safe from terror is clearly important to Trump’s base; 49 percent of Republicans and 48 percent of Trump voters cited security issues as their top priority. But 65 percent of Clinton voters, 61 percent of Democrats, and 54 percent of Independents named creating jobs and reducing taxes as the most important thing. So obstructing economic growth and job creation will be the top goal for Democrats in Congress, lest they lose their base.

#related#The reality is that creating economic growth, strengthening security, and repealing and replacing Obamacare are all positions that should be put in motion in the very first year. These issues are not mutually exclusive; they represent much of Trump’s platform. But as the most immediate priority for most voters, economic growth and job creation need to be addressed first, before the 2018 midterm election and the 2020 presidential campaign.

Those of us who remember that the Reagan economic plan didn’t go into effect until 1983 know that, as the recession continued in 1982, Republicans lost 27 House seats and seven governors to Democrats. A similar outcome in 2018 would cost the GOP its House majority and its majority of governors just as it comes time for another round of redistricting. Trump and the Republican party he leads should do everything in their power to avoid such a loss over the next two years. And that means focusing on prosperity and peace — familiar goals that after the previous administration will be a challenge to achieve. It won’t be easy, but it can be done, and it is what Americans wanted when they elected Trump president. 

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