As it is, Trump might end up benefiting from the good economy to a lesser degree than he expects, even though the rule is supposed to be that good economies help incumbents. As CNN’s Harry Enten recently explained
, at nopoint during his presidency has Trump clearly benefited from the economy: Though we’ve had low unemployment and solid economic growth throughout, his approval rating has generally hovered around 42 percent
But in addition to this, it’s also worth asking whether public assessments of Trump’s economic policies may have come decoupled from public assessments of the economy’s overall health and voters’ sense of their own economic prospects.
After all, Trump’s economic agenda involves a fusion of conventional Republican policies with his “America First” trade agenda, which is supposed to represent a species of economic populism that broke with GOP orthodoxy. Under Trump, neither of these has been popular. Many recent polls have found
that Trump’s tax cut, which overwhelmingly benefited corporations and the wealthy, is underwater.
But, in a bit of a surprise, the Trump economic policies that most prominently broke with GOP orthodoxy — that is, on trade — have alsoproven unpopular, as the new Quinnipiac poll demonstrates. We’ve seen Trump’s trade wars have all kinds of negative effects, hitting parts of his own base particularly hard
, even as a deal with China has proven more elusive than he expected.
It also seems plausible that public impressions of Trump’s trade and China policies have become entangled with impressions of his “America First” nationalism. Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement and his disastrous immigration policies have also proved deeply unpopular
Now, it is true that Trump mainly needs these policies to deliver him back the non-college-educated whites that powered his victory in 2016. The Quinnipiac poll does find that majorities of those voters do approve of Trump on trade and China, though they are surprisingly bare majorities, of 54 percent and 55 percent, respectively.
But it turns out these policies are unpopular among the broader electorates in the industrial Midwest. Quinnipiac sent me the numbers on these policies in just that region — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa — and the results are:
In these five states, only 41 percent of voters approve of Trump’s handling of trade, versus 56 percent who disapprove.
In these five states, only 39 percent approve of the way Trump is handling the nation’s policies towards China, versus 53 percent who disapprove.
In these five states, only 39 percent say Trump’s trade policies are good for the U.S. economy, versus 47 percent who say they’re bad.
This mirrors a Post poll from July 2018, which found
that only 39 percent of voters in that same region thought the tariff wars with China would be good for U.S. jobs, versus 59 percent who did not.