Man alive. How often do you see poll results like this anymore?
Republicans are now more gung ho to spend on infrastructure than Democrats are, huh? Gotta be “the Trump effect” at work, with the right rushing to embrace Trump’s priorities as the left inches away from them. Here’s a famous bit from an interview Steve Bannon gave last November, 10 days after Trump’s victory:
“The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia. The issue now is about Americans looking to not get f—ed over. If we deliver” — by “we” he means the Trump White House — “we’ll get 60 percent of the white vote, and 40 percent of the black and Hispanic vote and we’ll govern for 50 years. That’s what the Democrats missed. They were talking to these people with companies with a $9 billion market cap employing nine people. It’s not reality. They lost sight of what the world is about.”…
“Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement,” he says. “It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Shipyards, ironworks, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”
Judging from today’s numbers, that was a rare case of Bannon underestimating how loyal right-wing America would be to Trump. Which conservatives are “going crazy”? The GOP is practically unanimous in both polls in supporting increased spending.
My guess when I saw that was that it was a direct result of Trump’s speech to Congress last week, in which he called for a cool trillion dollars in new infrastructure spending. GOPers heard that and adjusted their priorities accordingly, right? Well … not really, as it turns out. When Quinnipiac asked people last month, weeks before Trump’s speech, if they supported more spending for roads, bridges, mass transit and other infrastructure, the split was 89/9 among the overall population and 87/9 among Republicans specifically. Trump surely did move the needle on the right on this subject at some point, but it happened long before his speech.
In fact, go back in time further and you’ll find robust support for increased infrastructure spending pre-dates him becoming GOP nominee. In March of last year, during the GOP primaries, Gallup found the public split 75/11 in favor of spending more on roads and bridges. And waaaaay back in 2009, just three days after Obama took office, Frank Luntz reported the results of a survey of 800 people he’d conducted on infrastructure:
Fully 84% of the public wants more money spent by the federal government — and 83% wants more spent by state governments — to improve America’s infrastructure. And here’s the kicker: 81% of Americans are personally prepared to pay 1% more in taxes for the cause. It’s not uncommon for people to say they’d pay more to get more, but when you ask them to respond to a specific amount, support evaporates. (That 74% of normally stingy Republicans are on board for the tax increase is, to me, the most significant finding in the survey.)
This isn’t “soft” support for infrastructure either. It stretches from Maine to Montana, from California to Connecticut. Democrats (87%) and Republicans (74%) are prepared to, in Barack Obama’s words, put skin in the game, which tells you just how wide and deep the support is.
No way to tell how much of the ~15 percent increase on infrastructure spending among Republicans since then is due to Trump’s influence and how much is organic, but the point should be clear: As in so many other things, the GOP base is more tolerant of boosting federal spending on domestic priorities than the most outspoken conservatives in Congress are.
One more poll result for you. CNN asked today which is more important, reducing the federal budget deficit even at the risk of limiting economic growth or boosting growth even if it means growing the deficit. That’s the crux of the argument for infrastructure spending, after all. Would there be any meaningful partisan split on this subject given Republicans’ supposed insistence on smaller government? Nah, not really:
Here’s Trump talking infrastructure during last week’s speech.