No crumble in Trump’s base


Donald Trump famously said that he could shoot someone in the middle of New York’s 5th Avenue and not lose his supporters.

Well, the president hasn’t gunned down anybody in Manhattan. But his critics say he has done so much really bad for the country that his support just has to be crumbling.

They cite in particular his “racist” rhetoric and refusal to push to get military-style weapons off the streets as contributing to mass shootings, the most recent in El Paso and Dayton

His supporters, however, don’t interpret what he says and does in the same way that the critics do.

The sharp contrast is shown in a national poll conducted after El Paso and Dayton by Morning Consult/Politico. I cite it not as necessarily better than other professional polls, although it is widely recognized, but because it is current and reflects views also found in most of the other major polls.

The president’s approval rating among Republicans stood at 84 percent.

Of the registered voters who said they voted for Trump in 2016, 88 percent expressed approval — 54 percent saying it was strong approval.

Doesn’t sound much like a crumbling base.

The president’s approval rating with Democrats was 9 percent.

Among all registered voters, it was 41 percent.

Solid base or not, 41 percent approval among all voters isn’t an indication that the president is in a strong position for re-election.

But the continued strength of his base is an indication that he isn’t in a terribly weak position either.

If he keeps that base in enough states, as he did last time, he will win in the Electoral College, even if he loses again in the popular vote.

He won with 46 percent of the vote nationally in 2016.

If he keeps a base of 41 percent, he doesn’t need to pry away too many additional voters who won’t like the Democratic nominee in order to win again in key states.

While national polls are pretty darn accurate in reflecting opinion at the time conducted, there is a problem with how they are interpreted. They showed Hillary Clinton with a narrow lead as the election approached in 2016. And, indeed, she did have a narrow lead when the popular vote was tabulated nationally. But it’s where the lead is that counts.

The president won with leads, though razor thin, in key states, particularly in the Midwest, for substantial victory in the Electoral College.

It’s interesting that the Politico poll, while showing Republicans stickling with Trump, also found that most Republicans support banning assault-style weapons.

In fact, the poll found overwhelming support among all registered voters for a ban and 91 percent approval for universal background checks for gun purchasers.

That strong support for action to do something about mass shootings didn’t dent Trump’s base support, even though he has declined to push for the changes the public seems to want.

Part of this is the sharp split, an almost tribal split, Red vs. Blue, Republicans vs. Democrats, where one tribe excuses anything President Trump does and the other disagrees with almost everything he does.

The poll also found quite a split in age groups. The president’s highest approval rating, 48 percent, was with voters 65 and older. With voters ages 18-29, it was only 29 percent.

It also was found that the president’s approval rating is terrible in the Northeast, only 29 percent. He doesn’t care about that. It still was 44 percent in the Midwest, higher than the national average. He really cares about keeping up that percentage.

If he loses 2 to 1 in New York, it won’t matter if he wins by a slim margin again in Michigan, Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin or with some other combination for victory in the Electoral College.

Jack Colwell is a columnist for the South Bend Tribune.

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