Saturday, December 30, 2017

BTRTN SaturData Review: A Deeper Dive into the Approval Rating -- Who Holds Trump’s Fate?

Tom with the “SaturData Review” which updates key political indicators and highlights other pertinent info from the week.

We are foregoing the full “SaturData Review” update this week for several reasons:  some pollsters closed up shop between the holidays, Trump was reasonably quiet down at Mar-A-Lago (until the New York Times interview) and we are doing our full “Month in Review” in two days and will update everything then.

But there is one aspect of the Trump approval rating that bears closer examination.  We usually focus on the “approval rating,” but actually there are four categories that respondents are presented with as choices:  “strongly approve,” “somewhat approve,” “somewhat disapprove” and “strongly approve.”   Here is the breakdown in a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll from mid-December, which I picked because it is close to the mid-point of the average of all polls now, at 41% overall approval.  We’ve also added our “labels” for each group, which we will explain below.

Strongly Approve
"True Believers"
Somewhat Approve
"The Deciders"
Somewhat Disapprove
"The Flippers"
Strongly Disapprove
"The Despisers"

The “strongly approve” are the portion of the country – about one-quarter -- that is likely to stick with Trump no matter what – the “True Believers” (or, some would say, the “Crazies”).  They will never abandon Trump.   Their perspective was perhaps best – or at least most memorably – articulated by the Trump supporter in a recent CNN “focus group,” as follows:  "If Jesus Christ gets down off the cross and told me Trump is with Russia, I would tell him, hold on a second, I need to check with the president if it is true. That is how confident I feel in the president."  They will stick with Trump no matter what Mueller comes up with, collusion, obstruction, first-degree murder, you name it.

The “strongly disapprove” group is nearly half the country, at 48%, what we call the “Despisers.”  They are quite likely the same people that voted for Hillary Clinton (right down to the percentage), and they wake up each morning bemoaning the mere existence of Trump, both on policy (they are predominantly Democrats) and on style; they believe Trump is beneath the dignity of the office, not up to the job and morally reprehensible (that is, “they believe the women”), a true trifecta of contempt.

The smallest is the “somewhat disapprove” group, at only 8%, the “Flippers.”  They are largely independents, and they are likely the ones who have abandoned Trump in the past year (Trump’s approval rating has declined by roughly 8-10% since his Inaugural.)  Independents tend to pay less attention to politics and are, of course, less ideological to start.  They were probably enough attracted by Trump’s outsider status, his celebrity, his break-the-china style and his “drain the swamp” message to vote for him (and they certainly did not like Hillary Clinton at all).  But they likely have been repulsed by his lies, his ego and his tweets, and unmoved by his policies, and therefore have flipped from approval to disapproval.  This group is crucial to Trump’s reelection:  he must somehow flip the Flippers back to have a hope for a second term.

And the group to watch in the short term are the 1 out of 6 who are in the “somewhat approve” camp, the “Deciders.”  We call them this because they might hold Trump’s fate in the short-term.  They are the ones who probably approve of Trump’s policies – they tend to be Republicans (surely more moderate ones) or Independents – but are turned off by his style.  They are still with him, but that is conditional.  If Mueller comes up with something big, or if Trump makes some colossal error that has real consequences – something he does, not just something he says – they could jump ship.  And if they do, and Trump’s approval rate drops to 25% (leaving just the True Believers), the Deciders might very well take the GOP Establishment with them.  If, say, the Mueller issues his report, Trump’s approval rating goes to 25% because he has lost this group, and the Dems decide to impeach, it might attract enough GOP support in both the House (to make it a bipartisan effort) and the Senate (to convict).

We are not there yet, but we will watch The Deciders closely over the next year.


This week we will also introduce a new feature that we will call “Political Stat of the Week.”  These are little factoids that will be presented without explanation, to be interpreted by readers as you wish.


In President Obama's last 6 years in office
In President Trump's first year in office

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