According to Rasmussen, more voters align with President Trump on the major issues facing the nation than his opponent, Joe Biden. A survey of likely voters this week showed that 40% identify with the president’s views, and 34% say Biden’s are closer to their own.
The party breakdown is also interesting and may explain the enthusiasm gap between the candidates. Seventy percent of Republicans say Trump’s views on major issues are closest to their own. Only 57% of Democrats say the same of Biden.
This result may be a reflection of the apparent fracture in the Democrat coalition between moderates and the progressive left. It would be interesting to understand where the disconnect is for the remaining 43% of Democrats. It may be that Biden has gone too far to the left for some moderates. Alternately, the Bernie Bros may think he is not progressive enough.
This outcome matched closely with voter enthusiasm for their candidate. In a recent CNN poll, 67% of Trump’s voters are voting for him, and 58% of Biden’s voters are voting against Trump, not for Joe. This imbalance is generally a troubling statistic for challengers of an incumbent. Historically, it does not turn out voters on Election Day.
The poll also shows a transition occurring in the Republican Party. The Trump agenda has challenged some typical Republican positions. The president has used tariffs as a negotiating tool frequently, reversed several foreign policy positions, and has questioned post-Cold War alliances.
These moves, along with Trump’s occasionally boorish rhetoric, have driven some establishment Republicans to leave the party or throw their support to Joe Biden. Voters seem to be adjusting to this. The number of GOP voters who think it is important for Trump to keep other elected Republicans on his side has fallen six points since July of 2018, to 50%.
Those who think the president needs to pursue his own agenda increased nine points over the same period. This shift may have to do with the increasing recognition of the threat posed by China and support for Trump’s approach. It could also have to do with increased messaging aimed at middle- and working-class voters.
The Trump coalition is not the traditional Buckley-Reagan coalition. While that bargain worked for over fifty years, the post-Cold War consensus did not work out as well for average Americans. Jobs and wealth moved overseas, and both Democrats and Republicans built a global system. Democrats also made a turn toward the very wealthy, a traditional Republican constituency, during the Clinton administration.
As these lines continue to shift, it is likely the priorities of the Republican Party will also continue to change. While it appears the GOP is now the party of founding ideals, freedom of speech, and federalism, policy prescriptions may continue to move in the America First direction to ensure the prosperity and security of the average American. This shift has already caused a sea change in foreign policy.
Despite the pandemic, the economic shutdown, and the constant negative media coverage, the number of voters who believe the Trump presidency will be seen as a success has gone up. Since 2018 it has increased from 36% to 40%. This increase is pretty stunning, given the constant turmoil of 2020.
In any case, the Trump campaign is resonating with a larger share of voters than the Biden campaign. This fact appears to be linked to the Trump agenda on significant issues. Whatever modifications this has brought to the traditional Republican views, it seems to be working. It also indicates the bubbles in D.C. and New York City may be in for another surprise.