Thursday, December 21, 2017

Will the Dow Save Donald Trump?

President Trump is stumbling into the new year with a 37 percent approval rating. It was little understood that the 46 percent start-up approval rating was going to be a high point in a year-long steady decline. He will, of course, take justifiable credit for the tax cut legislation, but like many of his policy successes over the last 11 months, he nearly always devalues them by behavior widely judged as inappropriate for an adult, much less a president.

Why is Trump not receiving credit for the economy in his overall approval rating? At 46 percent, Trump does have a job approval for the economy better than his overall rating. But, it hardly reflects the investor and business classes’ confidence in the market. Nor do the numbers appear as positive as they should given the President’s frequent mention of the market, the record-low unemployment and uptick in the gross domestic product, which is now at 3 percent after lingering at 2 percent since the great recession. There are several factors that are affecting Trump’s ability to get credit for the good economy.

Partisan polarization, which is at record levels, affects nearly every political attitude, including people’s views about the economy and Trump’s effect on it. For example, 91 percent of Republicans approve his handling of the economy, but only 11 percent of Democrats. Of course, Trump enthusiastically participates in using partisanship, especially negative, in his politics, such as attacks on “Chuck and Nancy” in the Alabama Senate race.

Unpopular Legislation
Although congressional Republicans were no doubt right to pass the tax cut legislation simply because they were being judged politically incompetent after the loss of health care repeal and replace, pieces of the legislation are highly unpopular with the public in general. Support for the tax cuts has never exceeded a third of the public and opposition often more than 50 percent. The latest Gallup and Quinnipiac polls both report only 29 percent approve the “Republican tax plan” and only 67 percent of Republicans in Quinnipiac (70% in Gallup). Most people (64% in Quinnipiac) believe “wealthy Americans” will benefit the most from the plan.

Fitness for Office
Probably the President’s biggest approval rating problem relates to his tone and behavior that offends even those who like his policies or his anti-establishment attitude. For example, 66 percent of the public believes he should stop tweeting from his personal Twitter account, including 47 percent of Republicans (Quinnipiac).
  • 57% don’t believe the president respects people of color “as much as white people”
  • 57% not “fit to serve as president,” including 59% of independents
  • 52% “embarrassed to have Donald Trump as president”
Although the President is seen as a strong person (58%) and intelligent (55%), his behavior over the last 11 months has convinced majorities he’s not “level headed” (65%) and doesn’t have “good leadership” (59%) skills.

The President’s approach to relentlessly reinforce his base has alienated support among independents and even Republicans that would otherwise support him. Until he changes that strategy, the benefits of the economy are unlikely to lift his personal job approval.

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