Is this the first poll since the election, or since he got the nomination, or, er, since he jumped into the race last June, to show him net positive in favorability? I can’t think of another offhand.
Bloomberg’s been tracking him off and on for five years. Not only has he never been above water in this metric before, he’s never been above 37 percent. But he’s in the honeymoon period with voters right now, he’s earned some goodwill with the Carrier deal, and he’s made some solid, reassuring cabinet picks. Just like that: 50/43 favorability, with voters splitting 55/33 when asked if Trump’s actions since the election have made them feel more or less optimistic about his presidency.
Obama reached a stratospheric 78 percent in favorability in January 2009 but Trump’s numbers aren’t far off the pace set by George W. Bush, who stood at 58 percent in a Fox News poll conducted in January 2001. That was a less polarized age than the one Trump is inheriting; then again, Bush was coming off a brutal court fight over the Florida recount with Al Gore.
Another key result: When asked if various Trump retreats on policy — no special prosecutor for Hillary, no Muslim ban, possibly keeping parts of ObamaCare intact — represent broken promises or acceptable “adjustments” to his positions, fully 73 percent(!) say the latter. That’s a big number, but it makes some sense politically. If you’re a Democrat, why would you punish the guy for breaking promises that you wanted him to break? And if you’re a Republican, why would you want to damage Trump before he’s even taken the oath of office by attacking him for broken promises? Relatedly, Bloomberg also drilled down on which other promises the public might expect Trump to break going forward. Unsurprisingly, they see him following through on ObamaCare and new trade deals. Immigration is a different story:
He’ll have to be careful, as there are doubtless a lot of true-believing Trumpers in that first column. But there’s a reason why he feels safe talking publicly about legalizing DREAMers, for instance. Expectations on immigration are low, even for his signature plan to build the wall. If he nukes O-Care and muscles some businesses into canceling their outsourcing plans, most voters will give him a wide berth on increasing border security.
Nuking ObamaCare is harder than it sounds, though. This is the real political danger for him buried in this poll, I think:
The good news is that 67 percent want ObamaCare repealed. The bad news is that the most popular option, keeping the current system in place until the GOP has something to replace it with, simply ain’t happening. Republicans are too far away from a consensus on what should come next, once the exchanges have been eliminated, which is why they’re screwing around with a “repeal and delay” plan. Senate Republicans met yesterday to try to agree on how long the delay should be and they got nowhere, an early omen that the O-Care replacement process could turn into a royal clusterfark. Trump is going to have to start explaining soon to the GOP base that, yes, he and Congress are going to repeal the law first thing next year but that ObamaCare will remain in effect until 2018. Or 2019. Or, if things go sideways in the midterms, maybe a little longer than that. Or a lot longer. But that’s the party’s only option for now: If it waited to repeal ObamaCare until a replacement bill was ready, it might take so long that the Senate would change hands in the meantime and suddenly they wouldn’t be able to repeal it at all. Either way, he needs Republican voters to be patient — for years. And he needs them to maintain that patience even if the repeal vote in January sets off a panic in the insurance industry, leading insurers to flee the exchanges and causing millions to lose their health coverage with no GOP back-up plan in sight. That’s the political peril.
One more data point from the Bloomberg poll. Although 69 percent say that asking Trump to sell all of his businesses in order to avoid conflicts of interest goes too far, 67 percent say that he does need to choose between being president and being a businessman. What does that amount to in practice? Handing over the assets to a blind trust?