Public Opinion on Donald Trump.

It has been a good six months for President Donald Trump.  He has transitioned from an insurgent Republican to the un-contested face of the party.  Public opinion polls suggests that his base represents about a third of the electorate.  Thus, a little over a quarter (27 percent) of Americans are proud to have Trump as president and think (29 percent) that Trump is “a good role model for children.”[1]  Just under a third (31 percent) approve his handling of the Russia investigation.[2]  Almost a third (32 percent) found Trump more credible than James Comey on Comey’s allegations.[3]  More than a third (36 percent) of all voters would vote for Trump over a Democrat.[4]  More than a third (37 percent) of Americans think that Trump is a better president than was Barack Obama.[5]  More than a third (37 percent) believe that Trump is competent to deal with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in a summit meeting.[6]  Half of Republicans don’t want another Republican candidate to stage a primary challenge to President Donald Trump in 2020.[7]  Two thirds (67 percent) of Republicans approve his handling of the Russia investigation.  Almost all (86 percent) Republicans approve his performance as president.[8]  It looks like Trump has a lock on re-nomination.

But could he be re-elected?  At least for the moment, Trump’s potential for re-election extends well beyond his narrow base.  Americans are pretty evenly divided—and on partisan lines–on some of Trump’s policies.  On policy toward Israel: 41 percent approve and 43 percent disapprove.  Some 80 percent of Republicans approve, while 72 percent of Democrats disapprove.[9]  On his suggestion to arm teachers: 44 percent approve and 50 percent disapprove.  Some 68 percent of Republicans approve and 74 percent of Democrats disapprove.[10]

Two thirds of Americans approved his decision to meet Kim Jong Un, despite misgivings about his abilities as a diplomat.[11]  Over half (52 percent) approve his management of the economy.[12]  Well over half (57 percent) of Americans believe that the country is on the right track.[13]  That is the highest figure since 2007.  In all these cases, his appeal extends beyond his core base and wins over some Democrats.  Whether that is true in a general election might well depend upon which Democrat gets the nomination.  No Hillary or Obama look-alike?

[1] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 9 February 2018, p. 17.  Almost three-quarters (72 percent) of Republicans think him a good role model.

[2] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 23 March 2018, p. 17.

[3] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 27 April 2018, p. 17.

[4] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 8 June 2018, p. 17.

[5] In a different poll, 21 percent ranked Obama as the worst president to serve since 1945.  “Poll Watch,” The Week, 23 March 2018, p. 17.

[6] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 11 May 2018, p. 17.

[7] On the other hand, 38 percent of Republicans do want someone to challenge Trump, which means that 12 percent aren’t sure.  There remains a hard core of “Never Trump” Republicans who remain unpersuaded as well as a good number of doubters.  John McCain will not run against Trump in a primary, but Jeff Flake might well run.

[8] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 6 April 2018, p. 17.

[9] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 25 May 2018, p. 17.  So 28 percent of Democrats either approve or aren’t sure.

[10] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 9 March 2018, p. 17.  So, 26 percent of Democrats either approve or aren’t sure.

[11] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 11 May 2018, p. 17.

[12] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 18 May 2018, p. 17.  A halt to new regulations and a big tax cut for those who shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden, especially business.

[13] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 18 May 2018, p. 17.

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Public Opinion in the Addams Administration 1.

It has become an age of bitter political polarization.  Everyone says so.  To take one small example, in January 2017, 16 percent of Democrats believed that Donald Trump was following ethics laws; 79 percent of Republican believed that Trump was complying with the laws.[1]  A month later, almost half (46 percent) of Americans wanted Donald Trump impeached.[2]

If the conventional wisdom is true, what is to be made of the areas of broad consensus in the American public?  Take four examples: allegations about the election of November 2016; climate change; health care, and abortion.

Almost three-quarters (70 percent) believe that President Barack Obama did not have Donald Trump’s communications tapped.  Fewer than one in five (19 percent) of Americans believe that President Obama had intelligence agencies wire-tap Trump.[3]  That leaves 11 percent “not sure.”  Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of Americans saw Russia’s intervention in the presidential election as a “serious” issue.  Well over half (58 percent) of Americans believed that the allegations should be investigated by an independent prosecutor, while more than a third (35 percent) opposed an independent investigation.[4]

In 2015, only 27 percent of Americans described themselves as “believers” in climate change.  By early 2017, 50 percent described themselves as “believers.”  Another 31 percent believe in climate change, but think that it has been exaggerated by environmentalists and the media.[5]  Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans support the development of alternative energy sources, while just over a quarter (27 percent) support the development of fossil fuels.[6]

In 2016, 51 percent of Americans believed that the government should ensure that all Americans have health-care.  By early 2017, 60 percent believed this, while 38 percent believed that it is not the government’s job.[7]  As the Republican “repeal and replace” of Obamacare got moving, virtually all (96 percent) of Americans believed that it was either “somewhat” or “very” important that all Americans have access to affordable health insurance.  This included virtually all (91 percent) Republicans.  Almost as large numbers (84 percent) believed that the Affordable Care Act should not be repealed until a suitable replacement was ready.[8]

Finally, over half (54 percent) of Americans want the Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade, while less than a third (30 percent) want it overturned.[9]

So, if you leave it to ordinary Americans, women would retain their right to choose whether to bring a child into the world.  If you leave it to the Supreme Court, that may not be the case.  Of course, the Court might take the position that it does respect for the law in general no good if the courts drive huge numbers of people into disobeying a particular law.

The ground has shifted under the feet of the Trump administration (and the Republican Party) on climate change and health-care.  Their best course may be to pursue market-based policies to address both issues.  That is, declare “victory” and get out.

Democrats and Independents, if not every Republican, can smell a rat.

[1] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 27 January 2017, p. 17.

[2] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 24 February 2017, p. 17.  They probably expected him to be replaced by Hillary Clinton.

[3] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 7 April 2017, p. 17.

[4] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 17 March 2017, p. 17.

[5] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 7 April 2017, p. 17.

[6] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 24 February 2017, p. 17.

[7] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 27 January 2017, p. 17.

[8] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 10 February 2017, p. 17.

[9] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 17 February 2017, p. 17.

Memoirs of the Addams Administration 3.

Last week, a team of people from the Trump administration told a number of senior professionals at the State Department that their resignations had been accepted and that there would be no need for them to remain in their positions until the administration’s nominees for replacements had gotten up to speed.  (Is this the case in other Departments[1] or is it unique to the State Department?  If it is unique to the State Department, then was it the decision of President Trump or of his Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson or of someone else who shall remain nameless, but whose initials are Steven Bannon?  If the decision originated with Tillerson, did it reflect previous contact with the State Department while negotiating oil deals with foreign countries?)

Over the week-end, President Trump reconfigured the “principals committee” of the National Security Council.  While this has been characterized as, among other things, a diminution of the role of the professional military, both the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security are retired Marine Corps generals.  Thus, it could be construed—OK, misconstrued—as a shift from the Bureaucratasaurus to the Parrisasaurus Rex.

Currently, an estimated 90,000 people from radical-Islamist-ridden “countries” have received visas to enter the United States.[2]  On Friday, 27 January 2017 (one week after taking office) elected-President Donald Trump issued an executive order imposing a 90-day “pause” on immigrants from the seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.[3]  This disrupted the late-stage travel plans of about 700 people, who were prevented from boarding U.S.-bound planes.  An additional 300 were halted upon arrival in the United States.[4]

Critics quickly pointed out that no one from these countries had ever committed an act of terror in the United States.  Implicitly, this left liberals in the awkward position of defending Sudan, which has waged a war of aggression—that the left has been quick to denounce as “genocide–in western Sudan, and that Sudan provided a safe haven to Osama bin Laden until President Bill Clinton launched cruise missile attacks against suspected al-Qaeda terrorist sites inside Sudan.  In contrast, countries whose citizens have engaged in terrorism against the United States—Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia—escaped the ban.

Massive protests followed at airports, in the streets, in Congress, and on editorial pages.  Not to mention that Iran launched a ballistic missile in a “test” shot: Syria, Iraq, and Yemen are Iranian-dominated countries, in the Iranian view.[5]  None the less, a snap poll revealed that almost half (49 percent) of Americans approved President Trump’s order, while 41 percent disapproved the order.  Various courts were quick to block the order.  All the same, neither refugees nor those foreigners seeking visas are protected by the Bill of Rights.  Indeed, that’s why so many people want to come to the United States.

The deep polarization of American politics continues into the post-election period.  However, neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton appeared to be much of a healer.  So,,,

[1] This leaves the estimable-I’m-instructed Sally Yates out of the discussion.

[2] The seven countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen.  To be picky, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian-born “underwear bomber” who tried to bring down an airliner headed to Detroit (why?) had been recruited, trained, and armed in Yemen; al-Shabab in Somalia has recruited a number of Somali-Americans from the upper Midwest.

[3] The temporary and limited ban easily could be extended and broadened.  But why would it have to be?  President Trump has already succeeded in scaring the be-Muhammad out of Muslims and potential immigrants.

[4] “Travel ban prompts chaos, protests,” The Week, 10 February 2017, p. 4.

[5] “How they see us: Trapped by Trump’s travel ban,” The Week, 10 February 2017, p. 15.

Trump l’oeil 1.

Just over a third (38 percent) of Republicans are satisfied with Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee.[1]  How will they respond in November?  Will they turn out in full force to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House?  Will some sit out the election?  The Republican Party needs a big turn-out.  Even if they don’t want Trump as president, they do want lots of Republicans to vote for all the other candidates down ballot.  The Republicans seem likely to retain control of the House, but control of the Senate doesn’t seem to be a lock.  Then there are all the state and local races.  How to get Republicans to turn out in large numbers?

There are two answers.  First, Clinton is deeply unpopular with all Republicans (and many Independents).  Keeping Clinton out of the White House probably will overshadow putting Trump into the White House as a Republican campaign theme.[2]  This is going to get very ugly, even by current standards.  The foolish Benghazi investigation has been done to death.  However, F.B.I. Director James Comey’s brutally honest assessment of her e-mail issue hurt her on the competence argument that she wants to make against Trump.  Polls run after Comey’s press conference reported a 5 point fall in her favorability rating and a 7 point fall in her honesty and trustworthiness ratings.[3]  This is worth pondering.  The honesty and trustworthy score fell more than the favorability score.  Some 2 percent of the respondents think worse of her as a person, but still prefer her as the candidate.  That’s because Trump is the rival candidate.  However, it also shows that personal attacks can drive down her favorability rate.

Clinton has provided a lot to work with here.  Both the Clinton Foundation and her post-Secretary of State speeches are still ripe for the plucking.  It should come as no surprise if the Republican rage-generators use these topics as a device to portray Clinton as an influence-peddler, or bribe-taker, or even extortionist.  This could end in a scorched-earth campaign founded on fanning the flames of personal animus.[4]  The day after the election, Americans are going to wake up to a legacy of ill-feeling and failure to address real issues.

Second, Republicans have already begun to sell themselves on the idea that a President Trump could be “managed” by Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.  Solid Republican majorities in the House and Senate would give them control over the Trump administration’s legislative agenda.  In this view, Trump really is just an empty suit who wants to fly around on Air Force One and tell the U.N. to its face where it can get off.  There is a large measure of self-delusion in this view.  Trump is a guy from New York City.  Regardless of anything he has said so far, he probably doesn’t believe in a “right to life”; probably isn’t any more homophobic than most Americans (Republican or Democrat); and isn’t a racist just because he takes a really hard line on both illegal immigration and immigration from Muslim countries “compromised” by Islamist terrorism.  “Because the New York Times says so” isn’t much of an argument.[5]  A guy who has used corporate bankruptcy to force his creditors to write down a lot of debt isn’t going to feel that McConnell and Ryan have got him over a barrel once he becomes President.  What is a Republican Senate going to do if Trump nominates Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court?

[1] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 29 July 2016, p. 17.

[2] Probably there will be a lot of work for Trump-wranglers to keep him from saying or doing something that makes her seem the less-repellant candidate.

[3] “Clinton: a wounded candidate,” The Week, 29 July 2016.

[4] There is a certain passing similarity to Democrats’ personality-based attacks on Richard Nixon throughout his career.  None of that did America any good.

[5] See the column by NYT Public Editor Liz Spayd, “Why Readers See The Times as Liberal,” NYT, 24 July 2016.

Campaign Issues 2016 3.

Hind-sight is 20/20; foresight is not.  The basis of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) lay in a plan to require many younger, healthier, and lower income people to pay premiums that would subsidize the health-care costs of older, sicker, and wealthier people.[1]  Even so, support for the ACA has grown with the passage of time.  In 2013, less than a third (32 percent) approved of the ACA, while 61 percent disapproved.    By July 2015, 47 percent approved, 44 percent disapproved, and only 9 percent “didn’t know.”  Opponents of the ACA have been the big losers here, bleeding away almost a third of their numbers to either supporters or to “don’t know.”[2]

Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect, 17.1 percent of Americans had no health insurance.  By 2013, the share without health insurance had fallen to 13.3 percent; in 2014, 10.4 percent of Americans had no health insurance.[3]  By Spring 2015, that number had fallen to 11.9 percent, a reduction of 5.2 percent.[4]  (This seems like a lot of hassle just to reduce the number of uninsured by one-third. )  In March 2015, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted that 21 million people would have signed up for coverage by state exchanges under the ACA by late 2015. This would be a pretty extraordinary jump: only 9 million people were registered in late 2014.  By late October 2015, only an additional million people had enrolled.

The great thing about a market economy is that it forces sellers of any good to find a price that is high enough for them to make a profit and low enough to attract customers.  The first years of the ACA have seen insurers searching for that sweet spot.[5]  One big problem is that many people remain outside the insurance market, regardless of the individual mandate.  The newly-insured have turned out to be sick people, rather than a broad range of the population.  Costs for insurance companies have gone up more than have income from premiums.  As a result, health insurance premiums rose by 5 percent for 2016.  Now, major insurance companies are seeking an average 10 percent increase in premiums for 2017.[6]  (The desired rates for Washington, DC and New York City are 16 percent.)  At some point, the insurance companies will find the right price.  Where is that price?  Will premiums continue to rise after 2017?  It’s difficult to say.  Why do uninsured people not enroll?  Young, healthy, and less-well-off people seem to be staging a libertarian revolt against the mandate that everyone have health insurance.

The ACA is a substantial extension of the entitlements safety-net for the benefit of poor people at the expense of not-so-poor people.  The federal government subsidizes to varying degrees many of the insurance premiums.  This means that higher premiums will increase federal spending on health care.  At some point, even in America, taxes are going to have to go up to pay for spending or spending is going to have to come down to what the country is willing to pay.[7]  However, people with higher incomes who buy insurance on the market-place lose the subsidies, so they are going to feel the sticker shock.  If it comes to higher taxes, Democrats are going to favor preserving the entitlement by taxing the one-percent, while Republicans are going to favor sending the ACA in front of a “death-panel.”

[1] This sounds like a Republican plot, but Republicans had no voice in the ACA.  This is all Democrats.

[2] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 10 July 2015, p. 17.

[3] “Noted,” The Week, misplaced the exact reference.  Sorry.

[4] “Noted,” The Week, 24 April, 2015, p. 16.

[5] Reed Abelson and Margot Sanger-Katz, “Obamacare Premiums Are Rising, Not a Little,” NYT, 16 June 2016.

[6] These sorts of developments have been predicted by Republican critics from the beginning.  Some of them have predicted that it will end in a “death spiral” as rising premiums force people out of the market.   Democrats derided this as partisan fear-mongering.

[7] I realize that this is a disturbing new way of looking at things.

Annals of the Great Recession XIII.

A couple of polls from back in late 2015 may give some indication of fundamental beliefs that will play out in the general election in November 2016.

Back in September 2015, almost half (49 percent) of Americans saw the free-market as the best escalator out of poverty, while a mere 18 percent disagreed.[1]  That still leaves a disturbing 33 percent “not sure.”  Similarly, when asked if the American economic system gave everyone an equal chance to succeed, 52 percent said that it did, while 45 percent said that it did not.[2]  This second report is bizarre.  Do most Americans really believe that the children of upper middle class suburban whites have an equal chance to succeed as a fifteen year-old black girl living with her mother or grandmother in North Philadelphia?  Perhaps it depends on the meaning of “success.”  No two people have an equal chance to end up in the same place, but perhaps they have an equal chance to improve on their starting position.  Perhaps it reflects a belief that people don’t have an equal chance, but that if you admit that there is a problem, then the Democrats or Republicans will come up with some new scheme that doesn’t work any better than the previous ones.  In any event, faith in capitalism has been undermined—by capitalists.

Just under half saw the economy as good, but a plurality saw it as stagnating.  That is, the country had recovered from the “Great Recession,” but it wasn’t moving forward to new heights.  Why was it stagnating?  Not for the reasons that Bernie Sanders might think.  On the issue of government regulation’s impact on the economy, 54 percent said that it posed a more urgent danger than did economic inequality, while 38 percent said that too little regulation posed a more urgent problem.  Republicans and a majority of Independents believed that the Republicans would do a better job managing the economy and creating jobs.[3]  This in the wake of the financial crisis, the “Great Recession,” and Republican opposition to a big stimulus bill!  How is this possible?  Well, perhaps things like the roll-out of Healthcare,gov have made lots of people go “even those idiot Republicans would be better than these clowns.”  Democrats and a minority of Independents beg to differ.  On the question of priorities, the vast majority (61 percent) saw unemployment as a greater problem than inequality (12 percent).[4]  Since the “Great Recession,” Democratic politicians and their favorite economists have been talking about the injustices and economic problems created by income inequality.  Broadly, Americans weren’t buying it.  Get the economy growing again and the inequality stuff will go away.

Wall Street’s reputation hadn’t recovered from the financial crisis.  A large majority (61 percent) expressed Not Much (29 percent) or No (32 percent) confidence in Wall Street bankers and brokers.  Almost a third (31 percent) expressed only Some confidence.  Related to this lack of confidence in Wall Street itself, a majority (58 percent) expressed Not Much (34 percent) or No (24 percent) confidence in the ability of the federal government to regulate financial institutions.  Again, almost a third (31 percent) expressed only Some confidence.  Perhaps this is one source of the distrust and unpopularity of Hillary Clinton?  We know that the Republicans are sold to the big money, but it’s disconcerting to see the guardian of Main Street “walking hand in hand with the one I love.”[5]

[1] Tim Montgomerie, “A Fading Faith in Capitalism,” WSJ, 7-8 November 2015.

[2] Andrew Ross Sorkin and Megan Thee-Brenan, “Many Feel American Dream Is Out of Reach, Poll Shows,” NYT, 11 December 2015.

[3] Then how come Romney didn’t win?  Because, although a very nice and accomplished man, he was an incredible bust as a national level politician?

[4] Montgomerie, “A Fading Faith.”

[5] See—if you can bear it– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVpqtsy1o_4

An ugly election is shaping up.

First, Wall Street is all that stands between America and a Trump presidency!  As Donald Trump slew a succession of mainstream or even not-so-mainstream Republican dragons, the financial industry turned with a will to supporting Hillary Clinton.  Wall Street’s role rose from 32 percent of her campaign contributions in 2015 to 53 percent in March 2016.[1]  Clinton has shrugged off the criticism in this regard directed at her by Democratic rival Bernie Sanders.[2]

At the same time, just over half (51 percent) of 18-29 year-olds do not support capitalism.  A third (33 percent) do support socialism.[3]  That said, it isn’t clear what those polled mean by “capitalism” or “socialism.”  Still, Bernie Sanders is running at a time when many young people are more estranged from the accepted economic system than are their elders.  In the nature of things, the elders are going to die before the younger.  Sanders and his message may help shape the long-term attitudes of an entire generation.  Clinton’s support from Wall Street might confirm their beliefs.  Moreover, that support might make it difficult for Clinton to rally the support of many Sandersites, regardless of what course he follows.

Second, almost two-thirds of Americans in general (62 percent) think that their “beliefs and values are under attack.”[4]  Virtually all (85 percent) Republicans believe that their “beliefs and values are under attack.”  This includes 91 percent of the supporters of Donald Trump.  Thus, Trump isn’t far off what a lot of Republicans say, even if they don’t like the way Trump says it.  So, are Trump’s voters really angry over economic issues or are cultural issues at the heart of this movement?  Poll trolls report that 80 percent of Trumpsters believe that “the government has gone too far in assisting minority groups,” and that 85 percent believe that the US has “lost its identity.”  In the wake of Ferguson and BLM, and President Obama’s executive orders on illegal immigrants, this election could be about race.

Third, it’s going to be a case of voters holding their noses and picking the least bad option.  As of mid-May 2016, only 33 percent of people had a favorable view of the Republican Party, while 62 percent had an unfavorable view.  That’s a minus 29.  That hasn’t sent people streaming to the Democrats.  Only 45 percent had a favorable view of the Democratic Party and 50 percent had an unfavorable view.  That’s a minus 5.  However, 25 percent take an unfavorable view of both parties.[5]

The unfavorable gap is wide for both likely presidential nominees.  Hilary Clinton is at minus 24 (56 percent unfavorable versus 32 percent favorable); Donald Trump is at minus 41 (65 percent unfavorable versus 24 percent favorable).[6]  The majority of people polled have an unfavorable view of both candidates.  Almost half (46 percent) of Clinton’s supporters attribute their main motive to voting for her to the need to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.  Slightly more (47 percent) of Trump voters say that their main motive is to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House.[7]

Regardless of who wins, this election is liable to leave a bad taste in the mouths of most Americans.  Worse, neither candidate looks like a healer.

[1] “Noted,” The Week, 20 May 2016, p. 18.

[2] Given Wall Street’s history, the question is whether a Clinton “bubble” is growing.  If such a “bubble” bursts, will it happen before the election or afterward?

[3] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 6 May 2016, p. 17.

[4] Lost the reference to this article.

[5] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 13 May 2016, p. 17.

[6] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 29 April 2016, p. 17.

[7] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 20 May 2016, p. 19.