I’m surprised to find a Trump-friendly paper like the New York Post trumpeting a different bit of data from this new Monmouth poll, namely, the share of Americans who say there’s nothing Trump could do to get them to disapprove of him. Those are the hardcore Trumpers, the people who really would have his back if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue. Sixty-two percent of those who approve of the president’s performance say they’re with him all the way, impervious to changing. That’s a number you’d expect to see highlighted in anti-Trump media, to emphasize the cultish devotion of his most loyal fans, not in the Murdoch-owned Post.
Especially since, as it turns out, anti-Trumpers are even more resolute in their antipathy to him than fans are in their support. Not only that, they’re getting more resolute over time. Among those who approve of his performance, the share that says nothing could change their minds has fluctuated, shrinking from 61 percent in 2017 to 50 percent in early 2018 before rising again to 62 percent now. Among those who disapprove, though, it’s a straight line towards more intense disapproval:
Maybe the two groups of hardcore fans and hardcore opponents aren’t perfectly comparable, though. It’s easier for a politician to lose a fan’s support, after all, than it is for him to gain a skeptic’s. He or she might do a hundred minor things right to please a supporter and then do one very big thing very wrong and blow all the goodwill he earned with that person. Imagine if Trump suddenly embraced abortion on demand, for instance — or, somewhat more realistically, finally took a serious interest in gun control. It’s at least conceivable that a pol will fail some major litmus test with his base that shakes their confidence because he’s calculated that he can overcome the resulting political damage. How about Bush 41 raising taxes after promising that he wouldn’t, or Marco Rubio joining the Gang of Eight in 2013?
Whereas, if you start off hostile to a pol, chances are he’s going to do a hundred minor things to make you more hostile with no similar risk of getting one very big thing very right in a way that suddenly erases that hostility. Imagine Trump turning around and calling for Medicare for All. The idea is farcical, particularly in our hyperpolarized age. He’d enrage the right and, in all probability, get only grudging credit from the left; they’d pronounce themselves pleasantly surprised by his interest in the subject and then proceed to tear his plan to shreds as some sort of giveaway to the rich somehow. Short of betraying his base completely, such as by adopting the Bernie Sanders progressive-endorsed version of M4A wholesale, Trump couldn’t win with the opposition. He’d be alienating his fans completely, for nothing. In which case the poll is accurate — realistically, there’s nothing he or most other pols can do to win the support of those who disapprove of them.
But admittedly, he’s a special case even within that dynamic. This is a president facing impeachment, after all, who’s been accused by his enemies of crimes, whose personality is so insanely polarizing that it’s functionally impossible to separate one’s reaction to Trump the man to Trump the politician. Even if he went all-in on Medicare for All, the daily tweets would still be there. The sexual misconduct allegations would still be there. Ukraine would still be there. To move the needle among the crowd that says there’s nothing he could do to make them approve of him, he’d need a total personality transplant. Veering towards the center on policy would help, but only marginally.
Needless to say, the recent business in the House hovers over all of this. Monmouth finds 51 percent in favor of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry but, notably, a 44/51 split against removing Trump from office, a good number for him compared to some other polls lately. To get a sense of how bonkers partisan polarization is around impeachment, though, we need to look at a different poll out today. Galiup compared the divide between Democrats and Republicans right now to the divide during the week before Nixon was impeached. Result:
The spread among Dems and GOPers on removing Nixon was 40 points. The spread on removing Trump is 80 points.
You get similarly polarized results when you ask whether the impeachment proceedings against the two presidents were fair or not, as YouGov discovered. At least a plurality of every partisan group thought the Nixon proceedings were fair. When asked whether the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton were fair, Republicans overwhelmingly said yes and Democrats were almost evenly split. Asked whether the proceedings against Trump are fair, though, the parties are about as far apart as they could be — Democrats split 80/7 while Republicans are almost the exact polar opposite at 8/79. Blame that on whatever you like: Polarization on the issues over time, the influence of left-wing and right-wing media in consolidating partisan opinion, Trump’s own knack for rallying supporters to believe he’s been treated unfairly when he doesn’t get his way, or what have you. Polarization is a stark fact of life in impeachment and insurance for Trump that he won’t be removed by the Senate.
In honor of that 62 percent of Trump-approvers who say there’s nothing he could do to lose their vote, a tribute from his favorite pastor.
‘To say no to President Trump would be saying no to God.’ — Trump’s faith adviser and ‘Righteous Gemstones’ character come to life Paula White is now an official White House employee pic.twitter.com/hjCOfnpjHD
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) November 4, 2019