Yesterday we launched Civiqs, our dramatic new polling firm that tracks more than 150 questions every single day. It’s a real-time look into what makes numbers move and, just as importantly, what doesn’t. We’ve made a great deal of data available to everyone here. Over the next several weeks I’ll be doing deep dives into interesting nuggets from that data. Today, we’ll look at what makes a Republican like or approve of his or her party.
We’ve been tracking this question for three years, so here is the favorability for the Republican Party, among Republicans:
One of Civiqs’ cool features is our ability to drop in current event “flags,” allowing us to tag significant events and gauge what kind of impact they have. In the chart above, we pick up in the summer of 2016.
It was clear to us, looking at these numbers back then, that the GOP loved Trump. That drop of support in early 2016 coincided with the efforts of the Republican establishment to kneecap Trump. By April 2016, Trump was well on his way to winning the nomination, and the party’s numbers inched up.
And now we get to the first flag: Trump’s clinching of the nomination.
The news caused a small drop in his numbers as the party establishment recoiled, but numbers quickly recovered, and the widely panned doom-gloom-and-hate convention, nearly universally panned by the media, was a hit among the GOP faithful. Mainlining racism and xenophobia into the Republican id was clearly the right call for Trump. Independents didn’t much care for that convention, but rallying the base paid bigger dividends in the end.
Trump’s disastrous first presidential debate took a bite out of both him and his party, now inextricably linked. But he rebounded quickly. “Drain the swamp” proved to be a winning metaphor. And of course, winning the election provided a big boost. Winning always makes anything look better.
Then came a slow, steady decline in support for his party. The GOP’s numbers took a big hit in the wake of the Flynn resignation and continued to erode as the Republican-controlled Congress and the Republican White House feuded over legislation and priorities. The healthcare defeats were devastating for the party, bleeding a net 18 points of support. And then something funny happened …
Trump met with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer over dinner September 12 to discuss DACA and the border wall. And for whatever reason, that spurred a rebound in the party’s favorability ratings. That rebound is particularly perplexing since the messaging out of that meeting was about how much Trump was betraying congressional Republicans:
But Republicans have beenmostly enragedwith Mr. Trump since the Oval Office meeting last week, where he sided with the Democratic leadership over his own party and his own Treasury secretary in favor of a December debt-ceiling vote. Mr. Ryan, who preferred a longer-term deal, had called such a three-month plan ridiculous.
Still, the numbers suggest that Republicans weirdly viewed that meeting as some sort of victory over the Democratic leadership, because that moment sharply reversed the party’s eroding numbers.
That upward trend in party favorability received an additional boost when Republicans passed their tax scam, and yet again after Democrats caved on DACA in the budget shutdown battle. Conservatives love winning, and even more than that, they love beating liberals. Therefore, any perceived benefits the rank and file would receive from the tax bill (“crumbs”) was irrelevant. Liberals had been bested by the GOP, and thus they’ve reaped the benefits accordingly.
These numbers show why Republicans rammed through their ill-considered tax bill. Without it, they would’ve finished the year without a single legislative accomplishment, depressing a base that was clearly restless and angry. With that victory, they partly reactivated a base they desperately need to head off massive losses this November.
To compare, Democrats (77-10) are more united around their party than Republicans (65-16). And despite our own internal troubles, we’ve never had the sort of ups and downs that Republicans have experienced. (I’ll be talking more about the Democratic Party soon.)
That suggests that the GOP’s numbers among party members are tenuous at best. And what happens when WINNING is the only thing that maintains your numbers? Republicans sure aren’t doing much of that at the ballot box this year, and there’s nothing legislatively that will pass this year. The GOP base is still agitating for Obamacare repeal, but that won’t happen. Infrastructure won’t happen. Bank deregulation is more directed toward GOP donors than its base.
So if Republicans can’t keep the base engaged with legislative victories, what’s left to prop up their numbers?
Thanks to Civiqs, we don’t have to guess. We’ll know in short order.
Now note, I just looked at the GOP toplines among Republicans. There are stories to tell by filtering by sex, age, race, and education. The wealth and depth of data here is almost overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to dive in!