Something funny happened in the midst of all those recent national polls showing Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden extending his lead over President Donald Trump. It turns out Americans are really happy with the job Trump is doing.
At least that’s what a new Gallup poll sure seems to be telling us. The survey shows that 56% of registered voters say they’re better off than they were four years ago. That’s better than the 45% in 2012 who said they were better off than they were in 2008 and the 47% who said the same in 2004 compared to where they were in 2000. It’s even well ahead of the 44% who felt better off in 1984 compared to 1980.
That’s significant since the incumbent presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush won re-election in 2012 and 2004 respectively, and Reagan won a second massive landslide in 1984.
By contrast, President George H.W. Bush lost his re-election bid in 1992 when Gallup’s survey showed just 38% of voters felt better off than they were in 1988. Not coincidentally, Bush Sr. also had an approval rating of an almost identical 37% going in Election Day in ’92. So where’s the disconnect coming from between the Trump the candidate and what’s happened in America since 2016?
The answer is all in the wording of the Gallup Poll; specifically the word Gallup left out in the survey.
That word is “Trump.”
You’d have to be politically blind not to see that millions of Americans respond differently to the same data and outcomes depending on whether President Trump and his name are connected to them.
This first became evident in 2015 when then-candidate Trump made a major issue out of illegal immigration. The major news media outlets immediately publicized a number of polls showing that most Americans opposed “Trump’s wall” along the southern border. That left many of us scratching our heads because for years, the polls had told us just the opposite and indicated strong support for better border barriers.
Then the mystery was solved. While the old polls had asked a “clean” question about whether voters supported stronger protections against illegal immigration, the new polls inserted term’s like “Trump’s wall” and “spending $200 billion for a wall” in the questions to guarantee to trigger every voter who disliked or was uneasy personally about Trump.
Fast forward five years, and this trend has expanded across all political policies and issues. Thanks to the news media’s single-minded obsession with trashing Trump, a huge disconnect has been created between the way Americans feel about the policies the president has enacted and how they feel about him personally.
Media spin is as important as the skewed poll questions, which is why that straight “Are you better off…” Gallup Poll question produced such a positive result despite the nation still suffering the ill economic and mental effects of COVID-19.
So to really understand this Gallup Poll result, let’s take six key Trump policies and actions as president and look how they are portrayed by most of the media and the pollsters compared to simply framing them without making them all about Trump. This little exercise will likely explain why 56% of Americans are still feeling good right now:
MEDIA/POLLSTER SPIN: Do you support a president who turns his back on millions of suffering migrants and refugees, locks America’s doors, and betrays the spirit of the Statue of Liberty by spending billions of dollars on an ineffective border wall?
CLEAN QUESTION: Do you support the policies over the last four years that have reduced illegal immigration, better protected American tech workers from lower-cost foreign visitor workers, and the construction of new barriers to discourage dangerous and illegal border crossings?
A majority of Americans have always supported some form of restricted immigration rules and they certainly oppose illegal immigration. They also don’t consider themselves nativists, xenophobes, or hardhearted just for doing so.
Yet many of those same Americans suddenly change their minds, (at least in public), about these issues if it means also looking like they support Trump personally.
Either way, the U.S. badly needs immigration policy reform to change a status quo that still tips the scales against would-be legal immigrants in favor of illegal ones and the corporatist powers bent on using immigration numbers to lower their labor costs.
Since 2016, most Americans have seen improvement on that score and they’re happy about it.
MEDIA/POLLSTER SPIN: Do you support President Trump’s tax reform plan that drastically eliminated deductions for many Americans while the rich got more tax breaks?
CLEAN QUESTION: Do you support the 2017 tax law that eliminated tax deductions used primarily by richer American homeowners in coastal areas in order to pay for larger standard deductions for poorer and middle class workers mostly living in the Midwest, South, and rural areas?
Here’s the funny thing about President Trump’s 2017 tax reform plan: By capping those state and local deductions, the new tax law effectively was the first real tax on the rich in almost a generation. Meanwhile the major boost in the standard deduction used primarily by less rich non-homeowners or people living in lower tax rural states, was the truest example of the so-called “trickle up” economic polices people like President Obama promised but never delivered.
Perhaps more than any other policy, that boosted tax deduction and filing simplicity for this country’s blue collar workers is the biggest reason for the 56% result in the Gallup Poll.
MEDIA/POLLSTER SPIN: Do you support President Trump’s reckless troop withdrawals from the Middle East that may favor Russia, endangering our relationships with Europe by demanding NATO members pay more for their defense, and his decision to ignore years of American policy to avoid angering Palestinians by moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem?
CLEAN QUESTION: Do you support bringing U.S. troops home from almost two decades of war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and also from Syria, getting our NATO allies to pay what they promised for their own defense, and do you think the U.S. should honor its 25-year commitment to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem?
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq became unpopular with most of the American people in 2005, and Obama’s promise to draw down troop levels was a major winner for him as an issue in 2008.
But thanks to the Democrats’ and the news media’s false narrative of Russian collusion and influence, this wildly popular move to get our troops out of harm’s way and endless wars gets clouded by wild conspiracy theories when Trump’s name is connected to them.
U.S. funding to other nations, including for NATO’s military budget, has also been a touchy subject for most Americans. This issue has been harder to spin for the president’s opponents, who have simply resorted to pretending that Trump’s success in getting key European nations in NATO to pay what they had always promised for defense never happened.
As far as Israel goes, American voters have always supported Israel at higher rates than voters in any other country. Support for the Palestinian cause in the U.S. has always been weak, but there will always be an element of the public that believes angering them is unwise no matter how just the policy.
But after 25 years and three previous presidents all promising to move the U.S. embassy to Israel’s actual capital city, even risk-averse Americans were more likely to support the plan. The fact is, no major explosion or escalation of any kind in anti-Israel or anti-American terrorism occurred as a result. To the contrary, this unprecedented show of support for Israel by the U.S. has led to more peace agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors in recent months as I predicted it would three years ago.
More troops back home, more peace in the Middle East, and a U.S. government that keeps its promises are all reasons to feel better off than we did in 2016. But if you’re blinded by a personal aversion to Trump, you may not see it.
MEDIA/POLLSTER SPIN: Do you support President Trump’s risky and racist trade war with China, which could jack up prices for almost everything we buy, destroy U.S. businesses operations in China, and leave Americans struggling for vital supplies?
CLEAN QUESTION: Do you support demanding that China remove massive barriers against U.S. products and scaling back currency manipulation to keep its goods unusually cheap in the U.S.? Have you noticed prices rising for goods you buy since the U.S. slapped tariffs on Chinese goods?
This is an easy one as the two biggest scare mongering predictions connected to the trade war with China never materialized. First. Americans didn’t see any real price hikes for the products they buy from China, and no supply shortages ever occurred either. In addition to that, the stock market and jobs numbers surged just as before and several U.S. companies easily shifted production away from China to countries like Vietnam, India, and back to the U.S. itself.
Unless you’re in the boardroom of one of the major multi-national corporations betting on more uninterrupted partnerships with the Chinese government, you’ll have a hard time finding Americans who are truly unhappy with how the trade war has gone… unless you play it up as some kind of insane and racist Trump vendetta.
MEDIA/POLLSTER SPIN: Do you support President Trump’s highly conservative and religious Supreme Court choices that have titled the court far to the right and endanger abortion rights?
CLEAN QUESTION: Do you believe Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanagh, and now Amy Coney Barrett are qualified and distinguished choices to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court?
Again, take Trump’s name out of the equation and his supposedly highly controversial choices for the highest court in the land aren’t so controversial. This is even true with Judge Barrett, despite the fact that her nomination and confirmation battle is coming so close to the election.
The other reason why many Americans likely feel good about the president’s choices so far is the simple fact that the knee-jerk liberal scare tactics about both Gorsuch and Kavanagh have hardly come to fruition.
Both have been far from rubber stamps for conservative causes at the court, and they have even broke court records for disagreeing with each other in their short shared tenure on the Supreme Court bench.
Meanwhile, Americans who are paying attention know that abortion rights have not been infringed since Trump took office and that supposedly conservative justices, especially Chief Justice John Roberts, continue to be likely to break from conservative orthodoxy as opposed to liberal justices who never seem to abandon their ideological lines. To top it all off, this supposedly tilted court even recently ruled against an anti-abortion law in Louisiana.
When simply asked if they prefer a justice who is highly educated and will make his or her decisions based on what they believe is right, as opposed to adhering to a specific agenda, more Americans will choose a more independent justice every time.
The fact that we have two more justices like that on the court now as opposed to 2016, with a possible third on the way, is likely making some of that 56% happier today than they were four years ago.
But when you make the justices chosen all about Trump, people are likely to be more skittish about voicing their support or saying they feel good about them.
MEDIA/POLLSTER SPIN: Do you blame President Trump for the 210,000 U.S. deaths from COVID-19 which he could have easily avoided had he taken the warnings about the virus seriously, ordered all Americans to wear masks right away, helped the health care industry, and shut down non-essential businesses and travel immediately? Do you also mistrust possible COVID-19 vaccines that may be rushed to the public to help Trump politically?
CLEAN QUESTION: Do you support President Trump’s early decision on shutting down of travel from China, massive efforts to send aid to hospitals, “Operation Warp Speed” to fast track development and approvals for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, and the fact that the president considers the advice of medical experts on medicine but reserves final decisions on economic shutdowns and other policies based on the entire picture?
I left this one for last because COVID-19 must be playing a major role in why those 32% of respondents to the Gallup poll said they’re worse off than 2016. But it’s also true that you get a different response when you strip Trump’s name away from his actions to quickly shut down travel from China, send ventilators, hospital ships, and billions of dollars to health care facilities across the country, and the decision not to panic the entire country at once.
It would be foolish to say Trump has handled COVID-19 perfectly, but what about acknowledging the fact the the millions of deaths so many had predicted by now haven’t come close to occurring? Also, the fact that no other country has really done much of a better job is another factor likely leading lots of Americans to be grateful instead of spiteful. The U.S. death rate per 1,000 people from the coronavirus is still behind several other nations, which is why the news media plays up the total number of deaths instead.
On the other hand, a good number of Americans may believe they’ve seen an improvement in their lives thanks to a government that’s proven to be more nimble than they could have hoped for in the face of a brand new virus. Perhaps it feels nice to believe there was some kind of very clear path to block COVID-19 entirely and that Trump simply didn’t choose to take. But there’s simply no evidence of that.
There are several other policy examples where support varies depending on how they are portrayed in relation to the president. But you get the picture: despite massive attacks against him, the popularity of so many of his key policy achievements transcends Trump personally.
Of course the danger in all of this is that no matter how popular his policies are, human nature could still doom Trump on Election Day because so many of us really do make our decisions based on personality traits and not actual records. There have been several presidential elections where the public has shown more support for the policies of the losers than the documented records of the winners.
But the good news for Trump is this poll is really eye-opening in it positive results. Plus, Trump has a strong grass roots movement that remains loyal to him and active in ways that incumbent losers like Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush never had.
What every real and wannabe political pundit these days needs to admit is that Trump’s policies are much more popular than he is personally, even if his opponents keep telling us the personal dislike for Trump is also a repudiation of his agenda.
This election will hinge on whether enough voters in swing counties either warm up to Trump the man or Trump’s accomplishments enough to give him another four years in the White House.
This recent Gallup poll makes it look like Trump will be re-elected as long as those voters think more about what’s good for themselves and less about him.