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Republicans and Independents

Something to ponder.

The good news for President Trump in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll — half of which was conducted before and the day of the Helsinki presser with Putin, half of which was conducted afterward — is that his standing with the GOP base is stronger than ever.

Eighty-eight percent of Republican voters in the poll approve of Trump’s job — the highest of his presidency — and 29 percent of all voters strongly approve of his performance, which is another high for him. “The more Trump gets criticized by the media, the more his base seems to rally behind him,” says Democratic pollster Fred Yang, who co-conducted the NBC/WSJ poll with the Republican team from Public Opinion Strategies.

Trump’s approval rating in the poll is 45 percent among all registered voters (up 1 point from June), while 52 percent disapprove, including 44 percent who do so strongly.

The bad news for the president is that his standing — plus the GOP’s — is now worse with independents than it was a month ago. Just 36 percent of independents approve of Trump’s job (down 7 points from June). What’s more, independents prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress by more than 20 points, 48 percent to 26 percent. In June, the Dem lead among indies was just 7 points, 39 percent to 32 percent.

As you know, I’ve been looking for signs of Republican disapproval with Trump as a potential catalyst for lower turnout among GOPers this year. That does not appear to be happening, though voter enthusiasm (as noted in this poll as well) continues to tilt towards Dems. However, there is a potential alternate explanation for the durability of Trump’s support among the Rs:

Voters have to identify themselves with a political party, and that identification isn’t stable; it ebbs and flows with events and circumstances. Trump might win high marks from most Republicans, but the pool of Republican voters might be smaller than in the past. Far from standing tall over the entire GOP, Trump’s base may have eroded significantly from where it was at the beginning of his administration.

According to the Pew Research Center, Republican Party identification fell 3 points, to 26 percent, from 2016 to the end of 2017. The number of self-identified independents increased at the same time, from 34 percent to 37 percent, while the number of Democrats remained steady. Gallup shows a similar change: From November 2016 to November 2017, there was a 5-point drop in the number of people who called themselves Republicans, from 42 percent to 37 percent. Democratic self-identification remained unchanged at 44 percent.

The sheer size of the United States makes it easy to find vocal support for anyone and anything, and Donald Trump has his vocal supporters. But their staunch commitment overshadows the reality: a shrinking base for a president who won by the skin of his teeth, reliant on a small group of voters in just a handful of states. His scandals and outrages—controversies and improprieties—have had an effect. Even rank-and-file GOP reactions to Helsinki are revealing; according to CBS, 21 percent of Republican voters disapproved of the president, a striking number given typical partisan loyalty.

Charles Franklin had a Twitter thread about this, for which the short version is that this isn’t really a sign of long-term decline in the number of Republicans compared to Democrats. But the data is volatile, so when there is a dip in the cycle it could have an effect on Texas. I return now to that Gardner Selby piece about the Civiqs polling data:

O’Rourke’s camp didn’t offer a comment about the poll’s claim. But Chris Wilson, who conducts polls for Cruz’s campaign, drew on a Moulitsas-tweeted illustration breaking out the demographics of the results to suggest by phone that Republican respondents to the poll outnumbered Democrats by insufficient percentage points. [director of Civiqs Drew] Linzer separately told us the results imply that 31 percent of respondents identified as Democrats, 36 percent as Republicans and 33 percent as independents.

Wilson said that considering Republicans’ prevalence in statewide races since 1994, any poll projecting fall results should query more Republicans — perhaps making the sample 40 percent Republican, 30 percent Democratic and 20 percent independent.

Linzer said that the poll reflected the partisan mix of Texas registered voters.

I don’t know how good anyone’s state-levevl data is, but it is the case that some of the poll variance we’ve seen is rooted partially in the partisan mix the pollster used. Beyond that is another question I bring up a lot. How much do the national trends affect Texas? It sure seems like the answer is “in a proportionate fashion”, as we saw in the Dem direction in 2006 and 2008 and in a Republican direction in 2010 and 2014, but every year is its own universe. If there is a trend towards fewer self-identified Republicans, to what extent is that the case here? Or is it the case that the Texas GOP has some level of insulation from these slings and arrows? Obviously, the answers to those questions affect not only the assumptions one makes when polling, but ultimately the final result. I just want to make sure we’re thinking about that.

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12 Comments

  1. Manny Barrera says:

    Trying to figure out how many Independents may be like herding cats.

    In 2016 1,435,895 people that voted in the Democratic Primary – 16% of total General

    in 2016 2,836,488 voted in the Republican Primary – 31 % of total General

    8,969,226 voted in the General Election-43% Democrat — 52% Republican

    Since we don’t register as Democrats or Republicans the only way we can identify if which primary they vote. Based on that over 50% of voters are Independent. That year the Independents trended Democrat and voted for Clinton. 44% to 53%

    2014

    Dem Primary 510,009 – 11%

    Rep Primary 1,314,556 28%

    Rep Primary 1,314,556

    General 4,4648,358 with 39% Democrat and 59% Republican

    In 2018

    Dem Primary1,042,914

    Rep Primary – 1,549,573

    One can choose to make of those numbers what they wish, but those Suburban women and maybe Latino voting can make a difference. Republican because of people like the Koch brothers have people that are paid to go knock at doors. Democrats can win if people will take at least one none voter to go vote straight Democrat.

    One can find who is registered to vote in your precinct by going here,

    https://www.hctax.net/Voter/PrecinctData

    All registered voters are listed

  2. Manny Barrera says:

    One can also purchase voter data, for any election one wishes, but it can get expensive, about $20 per election

    To purchase data have to make open records request to Harris County Clerk. The Parties have better data with phone numbers and other data. But conditions will apply.

  3. Manny Barrera says:

    Then there are individual districts that will help state wide, for instance

    https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/27/pete-sessions-texas-house-trump-democrats-wave-743756

  4. Christopher Busby says:

    There is a diaspora of former Republicans without a political home. Most will vote Democrat or skip the election and the Republican base will be smaller than seen in decades.

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    Christopher:

    The only Pubs I can think of that won’t vote Trump are the Bushes, the McCains, and the Romney’s.

    Rank and file people, including the RINO Chamber of Commerce types will find enough to like about Trump’s economy to vote him back in in 2020.

  6. Ross says:

    I’ve voted Republican most of my life, but won’t be voting for Trump. That doesn’t mean I’ll be voting for a Democrat, though.

  7. Manny Barrera says:

    Republicans are the party of the Russians, they are racist, they are corrupt and no one can sugar coat them to make them look American. There may be a few good Republicans but they won’t be voting for anyone that supports Trump.

  8. Manny Barrera says:

    Ross Trump is not on the ballot in 2018, so your statement does not mean much other than you are a Republican. But I think I remember you stating you did vote for Trump, but I may be mistaken.

  9. Ross says:

    I voted for Trump in the primary, because he wasn’t Ted Cruz. I did not vote for Trump in November. I also did not vote for Clinton, who would have been as bad as Trump in her own way.

  10. Manny Barrera says:

    Ross, I know that you normally are for things that seem to go against what the Republicans stand for, although I don’t recall reading regarding abortion. In fact I may be more socially conservative than you are.

    But one thing I am not is a Republican or a Democrat, I am an American and that always come first, well almost always have voted for the persons that put America first.

    Won’t discuss if Hillary would have been worse, that is water under the bridge.

    I used to be a Republican pct. judge a few years back, but that was during Reagan and Bush first. But today’s Republican Party is not what it used to be.

    In fact I voted for Jeb Bush in the primary, because he and Kasich were the only two decent persons in the Republican ballot, in fact Bush had already dropped out when the primary here was held. I don’t recall that it was either Cruz or Trump.

    But based on your statement you will always voted for a Republican but never for a Democrat, that does not make sense. The two things that help most most old people like me, almost 70 are programs that were created by Democrats, Social Security and Medicare. Just as important to me was Civil Rights, that was Johnson on Medicare and Civil Rights. Johnson was not the most honest politician and there are many stories that are told about him.

    But if the only two choice that I had for president was Cruz and Trump, I would have gone with Trump.

    Isn’t it time you think of our country first.

  11. Ross says:

    I’ve voted for Democrats. John Whitmire is one. Mark White was another. I voted for the Democrats that ran against Dan Patrick, Sid Miller, Ken Paxton, and a few other others.

  12. Manny Barrera says:

    Ross you are not a Republican, some people I know would never vote for anyone that had a D in front.

    Things have changed in this country, we have a person that represents the Republicans that is dividing this country. If the elected Republicans don’t speak up then they are part of the problem.

    The Republicans are not the same party they were 10 years ago, they changed for the worse. It was Rick Perry that signed into law that paperless students could attend college at resident tuition. W. Bush tried to get comprehensive immigration passed. Many Republicans support same sex marriage but are afraid to speak out, same as abortions during early term.