Among the many questionable claims that have come from the White House over the past month and a half, one of the most questionable came from an unexpected source: Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month, Priebus asserted that the policies President Trump had outlined to that point met with the approval of 80 percent of the American public. We considered that claim and determined it to be true — if you considered only Republicans to be Americans.
An expansive new poll from Quinnipiac University allows us to look at the question more closely. The pollsters gauged public opinion on a broad range of issues that have already emerged from the Trump White House — policy on Russia, transgender school bathroom use, deportations. On only one did more people agree with Trump’s position than oppose it.
Here is the data, broken out by party. In those situations where support or opposition tops 50 percent, the bars are slightly darker in color. (In most cases, the question posed by the pollster was whether Trump should or should not take an action. The question on policy toward Russia was approve/disapprove. “Support” for Trump’s position on transgender students is to oppose bathroom choice. On deportation, the question was whether Trump was being too aggressive; “support” for Trump in this case was a combination of “acting appropriately” and “not aggressive enough.” Gaps in the bars indicate those responding who weren’t sure of their opinion.)
On nearly every issue, Trump gets majority support only from Republicans. In the case of lowering taxes on the wealthy, he doesn’t even get that. In every case where the results are about split, both overall and within party responses, more people oppose Trump’s view than support it.
But notice infrastructure, if you haven’t already. Spending more money to improve roads and airports (among other things) meets with overwhelming approval. More than 90 percent of the members of each party agree that such spending would be warranted. This highlights the partisanship that locked Washington over the past eight years. Infrastructure spending is popular, and President Barack Obama consistently called for new spending, but no major infrastructure spending bill passed the Republican-controlled Congress.
That same partisanship is clear in the various policy measures displayed above. Republicans generally strongly approve of Trump’s positions, and Democrats generally oppose them. This is why opinions are split on so many issues and why the opinions of independents usually align so closely with the overall value. And this isn’t new to Trump, either. Obama’s approval ratings were often mired in the mid-to-upper-40s because of the same split of support, just in the opposite direction.
The Quinnipiac data does make very clear, though, that any claim to a mandate for his policies by Trump is simply incorrect. The only group that consistently agrees with what Trump is doing is his base of Republican voters. So far, that’s been more than enough for him to be successful.