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New Poll Shows Republicans Losing Voter-Base

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The Morning Consult poll released on March 30th headlines “Republicans Drive Biggest Decline in Voter Optimism since Trump Took Office: Record drop isn’t matched by a similar decrease in president’s approval rating.”

The U.S. budget-bill and its soaring federal deficits and debt, are driving this, as I pointed out on March 23rd, but I was mistaken at that time to interpret the data as showing more of a Republican disenchantment with Trump than a Republican disenchantment with congressional Republicans. It now seems clear that Republican voters aren’t moving away from Trump; they’re instead moving away from the Republican Party. Basically, there are as many Republicans as before, but their intensity of support for their Party is diminishing, and this declined voter-intensity will probably show up in November’s elections by a decreased voter-turnout at the polls in the mid-term elections.

The just-released MC poll was taken during 26-27 March, which was after my analysis on March 23rd, “Trump’s Base Abandoning Him”, had pointed out (correctly) that, “Increasing the size of the U.S. Government’s debt is, to Trump’s main base of political support (as reflected by the biggest online news-site that informs his electoral following), absolutely unacceptable. … The federal-debt issue is killing Trump politically. His voters don’t much care whether he starts World War III by his respecting and appointing such people as the super-neoconservative John Bolton. Bolton’s being loathed by ‘The libbys’ (liberals) convinces Trump’s followers that Bolton is ‘the right man for the job.’ By stark contrast, they’re rabid against Trump’s signing the Government’s budget bill. And, to them, that’s a much bigger issue than whether there will soon be a WW III.”

They’re not angry against Trump on account of their opposition to the soaring federal debt, such as I had inferred; they are instead blaming their Party for it.

Is Trump, consequently, like Reagan was, “the Teflon President”? Or, perhaps, instead, a tendency might exist for any authoritarian political party (such as Trump’s Republican Party, and also Clinton’s Democratic Party) to avoid despising its leader, regardless of how bad he or she might actually be (in this case, bad enough, even in the view of increasing numbers of Republicans, so as for Trump’s followers to start acknowledging that even when their Party controls all branches of the government, such as now, things become yet more “wrong track” than they had been before). After all: in authoritarianism, all praise goes upward to the leader, and all blame goes downward to the followers, and that’s exactly what’s now happening. Trump is home-free because he’s the leader, so only congressional Republicans receive their voters’ blame. (Perhaps, if Hillary Clinton were President, congressional Democrats would be the ones feeling the heat, as much as congressional Republicans are now. American voters were given a real choice only between two unappealing options, and the outcome could just as well have been determined by a coin-toss.)

Whereas Trump infuriated his base on March 23rd by saying he’d sign the budget-bill, Republicans are overwhelmingly blaming congressional Republicans, instead of blaming the Republican President, for this outcome, which so depresses Republicans.

The MC poll shows that among Republicans (including Trump’s core base): “there was a 22 point negative swing on the right direction/wrong track question, with 64 percent of Republicans saying the country is moving in the right direction and 36 percent taking the opposing view. In the March 15-19 survey, 75 percent of GOP voters were optimistic and 25 percent were pessimistic.” That’s a sudden +11% surge in national pessimism, and a sudden -11% plunge in national optimism, among Republicans, which, together, has produced a 22% swing amongst Republicans toward the pessimism-direction. (By contrast, “Among Democrats, net approval of the nation’s direction in the latest poll slid 8 points, while independents had a 14 point decline.” Those figures are obviously much smaller than the 22% decline amongst Republicans. Right after the budget-bill which so disturbed the Republican base, their national optimism plunged from 75/25 optimism, a 3-to-1 ratio, to 64/36 optimism, a 1.78-to-1 ratio — a huge and sudden fall — and the simultaneous appointment of the hyper-neoconservative Bolton had nothing to do with any decline of support from Trump’s base. But the soaring federal debt definitely does.

The Morning Consult article also says, “This time around, though, public opinion and political experts interviewed on Thursday struggled to reach consensus on why voter optimism declined so significantly.” In my March 23rd article, I had explained it on the basis of key data: the massive swing was amongst core Trump-supporters, because they are enraged that their Party is causing the federal debt to soar, which is thus clearly the biggest issue among Trump’s base. But are they really blaming only their members of Congress for that? They’re not at all blaming their Republican President? Seems so, on the basis of the data.

The Morning Consult article then provided analysis from some of those “political experts”: for example, “Henry Olsen, senior fellow at the conservative Ethics & Public Policy Center, said the drop could be attributed to volatility in the stock market or recent developments regarding a potential conflict with North Korea.” However, according to my methodology — and no methodology was provided for Olsen’s analysis — neither of those factors shows in any data as being even relevant. However, I was wrong to have assumed that Republicans would blame the President instead of their Party. Here is how this absolution of Trump for the Republican core’s rage shows in these latest two MC polls:

Looking more deeply into the latest Morning Consult poll: Amongst Republicans, job-approval for Trump is 45% “Strongly Approve” (and this 45% of Republicans would constitute yet another measure of his voter-base, as consisting now of 45% of Republicans) and 36% “Somewhat Approve”; while 10% “Somewhat Disapprove” and 7% “Strongly Disapprove.” The total Republican electorate is the group which includes his voting-base, and his voting-base is measured either by that currently 45%, or else by the readers at Breitbart News — which latter group can reasonably be assumed to be even higher “Strongly Approve” than is the 45% of Republican voters who show up in MC’s “Strongly Approve” column for Trump. By comparison against that 45%: The second-highest-approving group for Trump that was tabulated by Morning Consult was “Conservative” at 38%; the third-highest was tied between “Evangelical” and “Retired,” both at 31% “Strongly Approve”; and the fourth-highest was “Rural” at 27%. So, clearly, Trump’s voter-base is mainly Republicans — even more than it’s conservatives, or evangelicals, or retireds, or rural voters. (Democrats, therefore, would be, at the very opposite extreme: progressives, seculars, young, and urban. Those are the weakest groups for Trump.)

In the immediately-prior MC poll, on 15-19 March, Republicans’ job-approval for Trump was 48% “Strongly Approve” and 33% “Somewhat Approve”; while 7% were “Somewhat Disapprove” and 9% were “Strongly Disapprove.” So: in the interim between these two pollings, the “Strongly Approve” went down, -3% from 48%, and the “Strongly Disapprove” also went down, -2% from 9%; and this simultaneous decline at both ends of intensity, means that amongst Republicans, sentiments regarding Trump’s Presidency are moving toward lowered intensity. Though overall there was 81% approval of Trump by Republicans in both of the pollings, Republicans are now less intense than they previously had been regarding Trump.

Inasmuch as the main impact is therefore against congressional Republicans, and those are the very people who are running in the mid-term elections, this is yet another indication that the Democratic Party stands a chance of retaking either or both the House and the Senate. (Unless, of course, the anti-Bernie-Sanders — pro-Hillary-Clinton — Democratic Party faction continues its control of that Party so much so that voter-turnout on the Democratic side becomes likewise depressed in November — which could happen; it might even be likely to happen, because the Clintonites won the battle for the DNC’s leadership after Hillary’s defeat; they’re even especially seeking out candidates from the military.)

The Breitbart homepage on March 30th was dominated not by stories about the soaring federal debt (which the readers there are more concerned about than they are about any other issue), but by stories about gun-control

, though with sprinklings of other targets of hostility from conservatives, such as against prominent Democrats, and such as against perceived threats or dangers to Christianity in America. Whereas Democratic Party propaganda focuses on minorities and women as being victims, Republican Party propaganda focuses on the majority and men as being victims. The two Parties label opposite ends of the political power-structure as ‘victims’, which are being characterized, as such, depending not on economic class, but instead upon such factors as gender and ethnicity.

Both Parties focus away from economic class as being an issue, and make their voter-appeals on the basis of other factors, such as race, religion, gender, etc., in order to keep the focus away from the money-power matter — the aristocracy’s control over the country.

This is the standard way for political parties to operate. For thousands of years, partisan (cultural and gender) differences have been the way the aristocracy — the 0.01% who own more than the bottom 50% and who always fund politics — get each “I” among the public (the bottom 99.9%) to self-identify, so as to blame some “non-I” category (men, women, Whites, Blacks, etc.), instead of to blame the aristocracy, for any problems the particular “I” might have. The rulers’ purpose is to prevent their accountability — for each citizen, all blame will go either sideways, or else downward to that individual’s ‘inferiors’; and all credit will go only upward, to the person’s ‘superiors’. For examples of this: both Bush and Obama are viewed merely as former Presidents, instead of as also having been traitors; and both Charles Koch and George Soros are seen merely as successful businessmen and “philanthropists,” instead of as top gangsters, who shape and bend the laws, instead of merely break the laws. That’s normal.

Especially worthy of note is that the Breitbart site — where, on March 23rd, it was clear that the overwhelming concern of Republican voters is the federal debt — the response from Republican propagandists has been to turn away from the Government-debt issue, into strictly partisan issues, instead: that is, into, basically, distractions. Democratic Party propagandists, likewise, use this tactic, on their side (its Hillary faction especially does; its Bernie faction, which doesn’t control the Party, does not, but instead focuses on class-issues — and it loses because the aristocracy don’t want that type of political focus).

By thus confusing and distracting the voters, the same Establishment continues to rule, regardless of which of the two Parties is in control. Thus, for example, Americans went from invading and occupying Iraq for the U.S. aristocracy in 2003, to invading Libya for the U.S. aristocracy in 2011, and to invading and occupying Syria for the U.S. aristocracy since 2012, and increasingly to surrounding Russia by our weapons and troops (in Ukraine and in NATO) for the U.S. aristocracy, thus constantly all the while militarizing the U.S. economy. So long as the voters remain distracted and split by nationalistic or other partisan concerns, the Government remains the same, and it effectively controls the public (and public policy), in the ways (such as militarizing the economy) that the people who are in actual control require the public to be controlled, in America’s ‘democracy’. It’s like a guided economy, but the real “guides” are billionaires, instead of Government officials (who actually are indirectly being paid by, and serving, those “guides”).

For at least thousands of years, the aristocracy have commonly controlled the public by spreading dissension amongst the public, and especially by demonizing the residents (and especially the leadership) in a foreign territory that the given aristocracy wants to grab: ‘the nation’s enemies’. (For example, the Sauds and Israel’s aristocracy are America’s ‘allies’, while Iran’s and Russia’s are America’s ‘enemies’.) It’s the same now, as ever. In such a country, there’s no change, but there instead is ‘change’. So: usually, the ‘change’-candidate wins. And the more that things ‘change’, the more they just stay the same. And voters consequently become increasingly alienated from ‘their’ government, because it’s not really theirs. That’s what’s actually happening, to America, as shown by the relevant data.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Wendy Sherman’s China visit takes a terrible for the US turn

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Photo: Miller Center/ flickr

US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, had high hopes for the meeting in China. At first, the Chinese side did not agree to hold the meeting at all. The reaction had obvious reasons: Antony Blinken’s fiasco in Alaska left the Chinese disrespected and visibly irritated. This is not why they travelled all the way.

So then the State Department had the idea of sending Wendy Sherman instead. The US government actually needs China more than China needs the US. Sherman was in China to actually prepare the ground for Biden and a meeting between the two presidents, expecting a red carpet roll for Biden as if it’s still the 2000s — the time when it didn’t matter how the US behaved. Things did not go as expected.

Instead of red carpet talk, Sherman heard Dua Lipa’s “I got new rules”. 

That’s right — the Chinese side outlined three bottom lines warning the US to respect its system, development and sovereignty and territorial integrity. In other words, China wants to be left alone.

The bottom lines were not phrased as red lines. This was not a military conflict warning. This was China’s message that if any future dialogue was to take place, China needs to be left alone. China accused the US of creating an “imaginary enemy”. I have written about it before — the US is looking for a new Cold War but it doesn’t know how to start and the problem is that the other side actually holds all the cards

That’s why the US relies on good old militarism with an expansion into the Indo-Pacific, while aligning everyone against China but expecting the red carpet and wanting all else in the financial and economic domains to stay the same. The problem is that the US can no longer sell this because there are no buyers. Europeans also don’t want to play along.

The headlines on the meeting in the US press are less flattering than usual. If the US is serious about China policy it has to be prepared to listen to much more of that in the future. And perhaps to, yes, sit down and be humble.

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Why Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer

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When Sarah Huckabee Sanders showed up on the scene as White House Press Secretary, the reaction was that of relief. Finally — someone civil, normal, friendly. Jen Psaki’s entry this year was something similar. People were ready for someone well-spoken, well-mannered, even friendly as a much welcome change from the string of liars, brutes or simply disoriented people that the Trump Administration seemed to be lining up the press and communications team with on a rolling basis. After all, if the face of the White House couldn’t keep it together for at least five minutes in public, what did that say about the overall state of the White House behind the scenes?

But Psaki’s style is not what the American media and public perceive it to be. Her style is almost undetectable to the general American public to the point that it could look friendly and honest to the untrained eye or ear. Diplomatic or international organization circles are perhaps better suited to catch what’s behind the general mannerism. Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer, but a Sean Spicer nevertheless. I actually think she will do much better than him in Dancing With The Stars. No, in fact, she will be fabulous at Dancing With The Stars once she gets replaced as White House Press Secretary.

So let’s take a closer look. I think what remains undetected by the general American media is veiled aggression and can easily pass as friendliness. Psaki recently asked a reporter who was inquiring about the Covid statistics at the White House why the reporter needed that information because Psaki simply didn’t have that. Behind the brisk tone was another undertone: the White House can’t be questioned, we are off limits. But it is not and that’s the point. 

Earlier, right at the beginning in January, Psaki initially gave a pass to a member of her team when the Politico stunner reporter story broke out. The reporter was questioning conflict of interest matters, while the White House “stud” was convinced it was because he just didn’t chose her, cursing her and threatening her. Psaki sent him on holidays. Nothing to see here folks, move along.

Psaki has a level of aggression that’s above average, yet she comes across as one of the most measured and reasonable White House Press Secretaries of the decade. And that’s under pressure. But being able to mask that level of deflection is actually not good for the media because the media wants answers. Style shouldn’t (excuse the pun) trump answers. And being able to get away smoothly with it doesn’t actually serve the public well. Like that time she just walked away like it’s not a big deal. It’s the style of “as long as I say thank you or excuse me politely anything goes”. But it doesn’t. And the American public will need answers to some questions very soon. Psaki won’t be able to deliver that and it would be a shame to give her a pass just because of style.

I think it’s time that we start seeing Psaki as a veiled Sean Spicer. And that Dancing with the Stars show — I hope that will still run despite Covid.

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As Refugees Flee Central America, the Mexican Public Sours On Accepting Them

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Authors: Isabel Eliassen, Alianna Casas, Timothy S. Rich*

In recent years, individuals from Central America’s Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) have been forced out of their home countries by extreme poverty and gang violence. While initial expectations were that the Lopez Obrador administration would be more welcoming to migrants, policies have slowly mirrored those of his predecessor, and do not seem to have deterred refugees. COVID-19 led to a decrease in refugees arriving in Mexico, and many shelters in Mexico closed or have limited capacity due to social distancing restrictions. Now that the COVID-19 situation has changed, arrivals could increase again to the levels seen in late 2018 or 2019, with overcrowded refugee centers lacking in medical care as potential grounds for serious COVID-19 outbreaks.

Mexico increasingly shares a similar view as the US on this migration issue, seeking ways to detain or deport migrants rather than supporting or protecting them. For instance, Mexico’s National Immigration Institute has been conducting raids on freight trains to find and detain migrants. Public opinion likely shapes these policies. In the US, support for allowing migrants into the country appeared to increase slightly from 2018 to 2019, but no significant majority emerges. Meanwhile, Mexican public opinion increasingly exhibits anti-immigrant sentiments, declining considerably since 2018, with a 2019 Washington Post poll showing that 55% supported deporting Central Americans rather than providing temporary residence and a 2019 El Financiero poll finding 63% supportive of closing to border to curb migration.

New Data Shows the Mexican Public Unwelcoming

To gauge Mexican public opinion on refugees, we conducted an original web survey June 24-26 via Qualtrics, using quota sampling. We asked 625 respondents to evaluate the statement “Mexico should accept refugees fleeing from Central America” on a five-point Likert scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. For visual clarity, we combined disagree and agree categories in the figure below.

Overall, a plurality (43.84%) opposed accepting refugees, with less than a third (30.08%) supportive. Broken down by party affiliation, we see similar results, with the largest opposition from the main conservative party PAN (52.90%) and lowest in the ruling party MORENA (41.58%). Broken down by gender, we find women slightly more supportive compared to men (32.60% vs. 27.04%), consistent with findings elsewhere and perhaps acknowledgment that women and children historically comprise a disproportionate amount of refugees. Regression analysis again finds PAN supporters to be less supportive than other respondents, although this distinction declines once controlling for gender, age, education and income, of which only age corresponded with a statistically significant decline in support. It is common for older individuals to oppose immigration due to generational changes in attitude, so this finding is not unexpected.

We also asked the question “On a 1-10 scale, with 1 being very negative and 10 very positive, how do you feel about the following countries?” Among countries listed were the sources of the Central American refugees, the three Northern Triangle countries. All three received similar average scores (Guatemala: 4.33, Honduras: 4.05, El Salvador: 4.01), higher than Venezuela (3.25), but lower than the two other countries rated (US: 7.71, China: 7.26) Yet, even after controlling for general views of the Central American countries, we find the public generally unsupportive of accepting refugees.

How Should Mexico Address the Refugee Crisis?

Towards the end of the Obama administration, aid and other efforts directed at resolving the push factors for migration in Central America, including decreasing violence and limiting corruption, appeared to have some success at reducing migration north. President Trump’s policies largely did not improve the situation, and President Biden has begun to reverse those policies and re-implement measures successful under Obama.

As discussed in a meeting between the Lopez Obrador administration and US Vice President Kamala Harris, Mexico could adopt similar aid policies, and decreasing the flow of migrants may make the Mexican public respond more positively to accepting migrants. Lopez Obrador committed to increased economic cooperation with Central America days into his term, with pledges of aid as well, but these efforts remain underdeveloped. Threats to cut aid expedite deportations only risks worsening the refugee crisis, while doing little to improve public opinion.

Increasingly, the number of family units from Guatemala and Honduras seeking asylum in Mexico, or the United States, represents a mass exodus from Central America’s Northern Triangle to flee insecurity. Combating issues such as extreme poverty and violence in Central American countries producing the mass exodus of refugees could alleviate the impact of the refugee crisis on Mexico. By alleviating the impact of the refugee crisis, refugees seeking asylum will be able to navigate immigration processes easier thus decreasing tension surrounding the influx of refugees.

Likewise, identifying the public’s security and economic concerns surrounding refugees and crafting a response should reduce opposition. A spokesperson for Vice President Harris stated that border enforcement was on the agenda during meetings with the Lopez Obrador administration, but the Mexican foreign minister reportedly stated that border security was not to be addressed at the meeting. Other than deporting migrants at a higher rate than the US, Mexico also signed an agreement with the US in June pledging money to improve opportunities for work in the Northern Triangle. Nonetheless, questions about whether this agreement will bring meaningful change remain pertinent in the light of a worsening crisis.

Our survey research shows little public interest in accepting refugees. Public sentiment is unlikely to change unless the Lopez Obrador administration finds ways to both build sympathy for the plights of refugees and address public concerns about a refugee crisis with no perceived end in sight. For example, research in the US finds public support for refugees is often higher when the emphasis is on women and children, and the Lopez Obrador administration could attempt to frame the crisis as helping specifically these groups who historically comprise most refugees. Likewise, coordinating efforts with the US and other countries may help portray to the public that the burden of refugee resettlement is being equitably shared rather than disproportionately placed on Mexico.

Facing a complex situation affecting multiple governments requires coordinated efforts and considerable resources to reach a long-term solution. Until then, the Central American refugee crisis will continue and public backlash in Mexico likely increase.

Isabel Eliassen is a 2021 Honors graduate of Western Kentucky University. She triple majored in International Affairs, Chinese, and Linguistics.

Alianna Casas is an Honors Undergraduate Researcher at Western Kentucky University, majoring in Business Economics, Political Science, and a participant in the Joint Undergraduate/Master’s Program in Applied Economics.

Timothy S. Rich is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Western Kentucky University and Director of the International Public Opinion Lab (IPOL). His research focuses on public opinion and electoral politics.

Funding for this survey was provided by the Mahurin Honors College at Western Kentucky University.

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