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Monmouth University Polling Institute

Trump Voters Not Bothered by Overtures to Democrats

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

GOP dysfunction seen as potential reason for presidential bipartisanship

West Long Branch, NJ  - Despite a far-right outcry about Donald Trump's dealings with Congressional Democrats, it appears that the president's base has not deserted him as his job approval rating remains stable in the latest Monmouth University Poll . While some Trump voters would be upset if he softened his position on a core issue like immigration, most feel that the ineffectiveness of his own party's leadership in Congress is a potential reason why the president would try to work with Democrats.

Pres. Trump's current job rating stands at a net negative 40% approve and 49% disapprove. This is largely unchanged from his 41%-49% rating in August. The poll also finds that public opinion of the U.S. Congress continues to lag behind the president at 17% approve and 69% disapprove.

"Donald Trump's approval rating continues to hold steady. Rampant speculation that recent overtures to Democrats would undermine critical support in his base is not supported by these results," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The poll finds that Trump's recent discussions with Congressional Democrats have sown little doubt among his supporters. In general terms, a majority of all Americans (53%) say that Trump's actions in the past month - without any reference to meeting with Democrats or other specific behaviors - have not raised any questions about where he stands on core conservative principles, while 37% say recent actions have raised questions. But those with questions are more likely to be Democrats rather than Republicans. Specifically, among Americans who report having voted for Trump in 2016, just 15% say his recent actions have raised questions about his principles while the vast majority (77%) say he has not done anything to make them question where he stands.

Moreover, just 4% of all Americans and 8% of Trump voters feel he has been too willing to work with Democrats. Among all Americans, 46% say he has not been willing enough to work across the aisle and 42% say he has shown the right amount of willingness. Among Trump voters, just 10% say he has not been willing enough while 3-in-4 (75%) say he has shown the right among of willingness to engage Democrats.

Just 13% of Americans feel Donald Trump has a good working relationship with Democratic leaders in Congress, while 70% say he has a bad working relationship with them and 9% describe the relationship as both good and bad. However, this is not much different than how the public sees the president's relationship with legislative leaders from his own party.

Only 22% of the public say that Trump and Congressional Republicans have a good working relationship, 59% say they have a bad working relationship and 11% describe the relationship as both good and bad.  Among those who say that Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill have a bad or mixed relationship, 23% say Trump bears most of the responsibility for this, 24% say the Congressional leadership is more responsible, and 52% say both sides are equally to blame. Among Trump voters who say the relationship is negative, though, 59% blame Congressional Republicans for it, 36% say both sides are equally at fault, and just 4% place most of the blame at Trump's feet.

The poll tested three different reasons about why Trump might decide to work more closely with Democrats. The vast majority of Americans (69%) - including 72% of Trump voters - feel that the Republican leadership's inability to pass the president's agenda in Congress is a reason why Trump would reach across the aisle. A majority of the public (55%) - including an even higher percentage of Trump voters (61%) - say the same about such overtures simply being another way for Trump to shake up Washington. On the other hand, fewer than half of all Americans (47%) - and just 31% of Trump voters - feel that the president reaching out to Democrats is a sign that he isn't as conservative as he claims.

"Most of the president's supporters reject the criticism that he is caving on core principles and they accept Trump's assertion that he has to turn to Democrats if the GOP leadership keeps failing him," said Murray.

Specifically on the issue of immigration, most Americans (64%) say that recent discussions between Trump and Democratic leaders on immigration reform do not necessarily indicate he is willing to soften his position on amnesty and other immigration policies. Just 29% feel these recent meetings suggest the president is willing to soften his position. Among Trump voters, 53% are not convinced these meetings indicate a change of heart for Trump while 38% say they indicate a willingness to moderate his views on immigration.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans say that they would be satisfied - 23% very and 42% somewhat - if the president decided to soften his stance on immigration, while just 3-in-10 would be dissatisfied - 15% very and 14% somewhat. Trump voters are more divided on this, but only about 1-in-5 would be very upset if Trump became more moderate on immigration issues. Specifically, half of his supporters would actually be satisfied if Trump softened his position - 12% very and 38% somewhat - while just over 4-in-10 would be dissatisfied - 21% very and 23% somewhat. In fact, poll findings on immigration policy that Monmouth will release tomorrow suggest that only about one-fifth of Trump's supporters take a consistently hard core stand against illegal immigration.

Extended commentary from poll director Murray:

"It certainly would be a problem if Trump did indeed lose a quarter of his current support, but I'm not entirely convinced that a pivot on immigration would necessarily lead to this. Breathless commentary about how Trump's base would surely make him pay if he departs from a presumed orthodoxy on this issue demonstrates a continued misunderstanding of Trump's appeal.

"Yes, polls showed that immigration was a core policy priority for his supporters in the 2016 election. However, if you go back to his campaign kickoff two years ago, Trump tested out a number of potential messages. The one that resonated the most was illegal immigration.

"It would be an oversimplification to presume that most of his base support came to him because he articulated the 'correct' position on their pre-determined policy priority. Rather, Trump realized from the reaction to that section of his rambling announcement speech that this issue was the most effective way to capture the underlying resentment felt by a key segment of the electorate. It was the best way to give a concrete example of how he was going to take on those who had robbed 'America' from them.

"Of course, this rhetoric brought him the support of the Breitbart crowd and other pundits for whom illegal immigration is in fact a litmus test. For most of Trump's supporters, though, the issue is more of a vessel for articulating their belief that Trump will stick up for them against forces undermining their way of life.

"This means that Trump has the ability to shift his supporters' expectations on the appropriate course of action to tackle this issue. And he is being given an inadvertent assist by his own party's leadership in Congress. Their ineffectiveness enables him to deflect voter anger to the Washington swamp while he pivots on key elements of immigration policy. DC dysfunction provides him the cover he needs to maintain his base supporters' belief that he is taking on the 'enemy' on their behalf.

"This is not to say that Breitbart and other leading anti-immigrant voices are without influence. However, the poll results suggest that if the so-called alt-right decided to wage a protracted war with the president on immigration policy, they could potentially find their rank and file abandoning them rather than Trump."

In other findings from the latest Monmouth University Poll , most Americans (53%) continue to say they want Trump to give more attention to issues that are important to their families while 37% say he is giving these issues enough attention now. Those who say the president has been giving America's "bread and butter" concerns enough attention has hovered between 34% and 40% since he took office.  Among those who voted for Trump in 2016, though, fully 72% feel he has in fact been paying enough attention to their family's top issues.

Just over one-third of the public say the president has been successful - 4% very and 32% somewhat - at getting Congress to pass his agenda, while 6-in-10 say he has not been successful - 26% not too and 33% not at all. Trump voters are more likely to paint a rosy view of Trump's legislative accomplishments, though, with 51% saying he has been at least somewhat successful compared to 46% who say he has not.

"Again, the underlying message of this poll suggests that the president's legislative record may wind up being more of a problem for Congressional Republicans facing a primary challenge than it will be for Trump," said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from September 15 to 19, 2017 with 1,009 adults in the United States.  The results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS                                                                          

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

1.     Do you approve or disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as president?

40%     Approve

49%     Disapprove

11%     (VOL) No opinion

2.     Do you approve or disapprove of the job the U.S. Congress is doing?

17%      Approve

69%      Disapprove

15%      (VOL) No opinion

3.   Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with President Trump, has he been giving enough attention to the issues that are most important to your family, or do you wish he would give more attention to issues that are important to your family?

37%     Giving enough attention

53%     Wish he'd give more attention

10%     (VOL) Don't know

4.   Have Donald Trump's actions in the past month or so raised any questions about where he stands on core conservative principles, or have they not raised any questions about this?

37%     Has raised questions

53%     Not raised questions

11%     (VOL) Don't know

5.   In your view, how successful has President Trump been at getting Congress to pass his legislative agenda - very successful, somewhat successful, not too successful, or not at all successful?

  4%     Very successful

32%     Somewhat successful

26%     Not too successful

33%     Not at all successful

  4%     (VOL) Don't know

6.   Would you say President Trump and the Republican leaders in Congress tend to have a good or bad working relationship?

22%     Good

59%     Bad,

11%     (VOL) Both good and bad

  8%     (VOL) Don't know


[ The following question was asked of those who said "BAD" or "BOTH" in Q6;n=750; moe = +/- 3.6% ]

6A . Who is more responsible for the bad relationship - the president or the Republican leaders in Congress, or both sides equally?

23%     The president more

24%     Republican leaders in Congress

52%     Both sides equally

  2%     (VOL) Don't know

7.   Would you say President Trump and the Democratic leaders in Congress tend to have a good or bad working relationship?

13%     Good

70%     Bad

  9%     (VOL) Both

  8%     (VOL) Don't know

8.   Has President Trump been too willing to work with Democrats, has he not been willing enough, or has he shown the right amount of willingness to work with Democrats?

  4%     Too willing

46%     Not been willing enough 

42%     Shown the right amount of willingness

  8%     (VOL) Don't know

9.   I'm going to read you a list of possible reasons why the president might decide to work more closely with Democrats. For each please tell me whether you think this is or is not a possible reason why the president might work with the Democrats. [ ITEMS WERE ROTATED ]

Because Republican leaders have not been able to pass his agenda in Congress

69%     Is a possible reason

23%     Not a possible reason

  7%     (VOL) Don't know

Because the president really isn't as conservative as he claims

47%     Is a possible reason

44%     Not a possible reason

  8%     (VOL) Don't know

As a way to shake up Washington

55%     Is a possible reason

37%     Not a possible reason

  8%     (VOL) Don't know

10.   President Trump recently met with Democratic leaders in Congress to discuss immigration reform. Do you think these discussions indicate he is willing to soften his position on amnesty and other immigration policies, or do they not necessarily indicate he is willing to soften his position?

29%     Indicates he is willing to soften his position

64%     Not necessarily indicate he is willing to soften his position

  7%     (VOL) Don't know

11.   If President Trump does soften his position on immigration - would you be very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, or very dissatisfied with him?

23%     Very satisfied

42%     Somewhat satisfied

14%     Somewhat dissatisfied

15%     Very dissatisfied

  6%     (VOL) Don't know

[ Q12-20 held for future release. ]



The Monmouth University Poll  was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from September 15 to 19, 2017 with a national random sample of 1,009 adults age 18 and older, in English. This includes 505 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 504 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone. Telephone numbers were selected through random digit dialing and landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. Final sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information. Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and SSI (RDD sample). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design).  Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.  

Download this Poll Report with all tables

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