As Donald Trump entered his final week in office ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, and as several prominent members of Trump’s own party publicly turn on him, there’s one new area in which the outgoing president has found solace: polling.
In recent days, some aides and close advisers to Trump have printed out and flagged for him a new set of surveys published by news organizations, polling groups, and one of Trump’s former top pollsters that show the president continues to maintain solid popularity among Republican voters and the base, according to two people familiar with the practice.
“He’s asked for the numbers several times,” one of the people said. “They’re still good and we believe they’ll go back up.” This source said that Trump wanted the numbers promoted on Trump social media. The president himself can’t because he was banned from Twitter, his preferred Big Tech platform, late last week following wide condemnation over his role in inspiring his supporters to launch what became the bloody, anti-democratic riot on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Trump has said these demonstrate how his fans are still “with me” and that elected Republicans and former top advisers who are backing away from him are wrong and ungrateful to do so, the sources said.
In the days before the Jan. 6 riot, RealClear Politics and FiveThirtyEight averages of Trump’s approval rating showed disapproval of him hovering around a slim majority with his approval rating in the mid 40s.
Since the riot, Trump’s overall approval rating has pushed disapproval rating above 60 percent in some polls. Morning Consult noted a “significant decline” in support for Trump with a 60 percent overall disapproval rating and Marist found 51 percent of respondents now strongly disapproved of Trump’s handling of the country, the “first time a majority has held this view.”
Trump slipped somewhat in his approval ratings among Republicans in the wake of the riot—MorningConsult charted an 8 point drop in its approval tracking. But poll still show Trump with strong support among Republicans. Reuters-Ipsos, Quinnipiac, and MorningConsult found Trump enjoyed approval ratings of over 70 percent among Republicans surveyed.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, fresh from the Vatican where his wife, Callista, was the ambassador to the Holy See, claimed that it was clear the media was just out of touch with real Americans.
“I don’t know why it’s so hard for people in Washington to look at a Gallup poll number that shows Congress at 20 percent approval or less, and then somehow leap to the idea that if Congress does something the American people will be impressed by it. I think it’s just two completely different worldviews,” Gingrich, who has advised Trump for years, said in an interview on Thursday. “When we get beyond the immediate… news-media version of reality, and people get back to normal behavior and we have a chance for the Biden-Harris world to try to govern, I suspect by summer, most of the Trump people will be reminded of why they voted for Trump.”
Gingrich added, “The Washington establishment is at war with 74 million voters,” and that if “Trump does recover and if he puts together a serious campaign, I think it’s likely he becomes the nominee [in 2024].”
President Trump’s firm grip on the Republican base could play a role in the impeachment trial efforts underway. While 10 Republican House members voted in favor of impeachment, many GOP lawmakers are still fearful of a political backlash—and in some cases, violence—if they’re seen as insufficiently supportive of the president.
Impeachment may not insulate Republicans from the wrath of the MAGA faithful but it’s at least theoretically possible that Trump-skeptical GOP members could use it as a weapon to expel the soon-to-be-former president
A two-thirds majority is required to convict Trump in a Senate trial and if Trump is convicted, senators can take a second vote and decide by simple majority whether to bar him from holding federal office again.
It’s far from clear, however, that Democrats have the votes necessary to convict in a Senate trial and the move would likely invite legal challenges given the untrodden constitutional territory it represents. To emphasize the point, Trump’s campaign “war room” tweeted out polling from John McLaughlin, a former top Trump pollster, purporting to show that 76 percent of Republicans would be “less likely to vote for a member of Congress who votes for impeachment.”
While polls also show a current narrow majority in support of impeachment proceedings against Trump, large majorities of Republicans still tell pollsters that they don’t support Trump’s removal. With five days left in the Trump administration and few Republican senators openly supporting proceedings, conviction seems unlikely.
In a recent Ipsos poll conducted for Axios, 63 percent of Republicans said they approved of Trump’s recent behavior compared to 42 percent for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who is one of the powerful former allies and top enablers of President Trump who is even considering voting to convict the president in a possible impeachment trial.
On Thursday, with the staff continuing to offboard and pack their office belongings into cars and moving trucks, Trump found himself increasingly (and literally) deserted, no matter what the polls said. He was reduced to having the White House press office out brief statements attributed to him, which amounted to the West Wing firing off Trump tweets in the form of inconsequential press releases. He spent part of the day snapping farewell photos with different groups from his White House staff, as many of those staffers pondered what their future career moves would be like, having been so closely tied to an authoritarian, uniquely reviled leader.
Still, with less than a week to go in the remaining Trump era, and with his position in official Washington at lower depths than it’s ever been before, many of the president’s critics remain doubtful that his influence will soon truly plummet.
“Here’s a guy who said he could stand on Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and basically get a pass. Trumpism will not die an immediate death based on his exit from office, I think that’s a given,” said former Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), a conservative Trump critic. “I think he’ll continue to have a… negative impact. You can see that with the loss of the House, the loss of the Senate, and now the loss of the White House. But he certainly isn’t going away anytime soon, and I think it’ll be a prolonged and slow death as opposed to an immediate one that comes from his exit.”
But, Sanford maintained, “make no mistake, a death [to Trumpism] will come. There is a half-life to crazy.”