The Trump Effect: Support for Border Wall Plummets 18 Points in Six Months

Guy Benson
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Posted: Apr 01, 2016 10:25 AM
The Trump Effect: Support for Border Wall Plummets 18 Points in Six Months

No April foolin', this is a very real poll published earlier in the week by Pew Research. It comes to us via Allahpundit, who wonders how this could possibly be the case, given the public's understandably heightened anxieties about national security in the wake of three ISIS massacres in Western cities. The answer, my friends, is obvious. We'll get to it soon enough, but first, here are the raw numbers. Note the trend line:


The public was split evenly on the question of constructing a fence along the entire Southern border back in 2011. Four years later? Same deal. Then fast forward just six months, with terrorism fears on the rise, so much so that a super-majority of American voters -- including a slight majority of Democrats -- say they'd be okay with employing occasional, targeted torture (yes, the question wording uses that loaded term) against captured jihadists.  You'd think that support for the border wall, which can easily be cast as a national security precaution, would've ticked up.  You'd be wrong.  Instead, Pew has measures an 18-point net swing against the idea.  What happened?  Donald J. Trump is what happened.  After the summer of 2015 when his candidacy was still widely viewed as a dead-end joke, Americans slowly but surely began to take the possibility of a Trump presidency seriously.  As that has happened, his favorability among key groups has fallen, with his overall favorability rating remaining steadily terrible and  deteriorating badly over the last month.  What we're seeing is that not only does Trump's historic unpopularity render him personally toxic as a potential Republican nominee, it also gravely endangers the GOP's modest Senate majority, and puts more red-held House seats in play than previously imagined.  Beyond that, it also appears to 'toxify' issue stances with which voters most closely associate Trump; "build the wall" is the clearest top-of-mind example of this phenomenon.  Basically, "if Trump's for it, I'm not."  Sure, that's just as maddeningly anti-intellectual and reactionary as the mentality displayed every day by Trump's cult of personality, but it's reality.  And if you think I'm trying to shoehorn these polling results into my "Trump hatred" narrative, please feel free to present a plausible alternative theory for why public opinion has shifted so dramatically and in such short order, especially when world events would suggest political winds ought to be blowing the opposite direction.  I'll wait.

This theory underscores one of the biggest problems many anti-Trump conservatives have with the notion of him as the Republican Party's standard-bearer.  Even when he is correct on an issue, his mere connection to that position in voters' minds risks eroding support for the types of policies he ostensibly believes in.  Unlike leading Democrats, the vast majority of conservatives favor enhanced border security, even as most Republican voters continue to favor a path to legal status for non-criminal illegal immigrants already in the country.  By slapping a "Make America Great Again" bumper sticker on the concept of border security, Trump has made his signature policy objective much less popular among Americans.  (An example that cuts against this concept is increased backing for Trump's temporary 'Muslim ban' proposal, which speaks to an immediate public fear, and may be less overtly Trump-branded than The Wall).  Pro-lifers fear a similar fallout from Trump's recent abortion debacle, which handed the Left a brutal soundbyte that can't be undone by his frantic reversal statement.  Many on the Right are also worried that Trump's support for government healthcare, tax increases, and opposition to entitlement reform is actively harming years of public relations progress that conservatives have painstakingly advanced.  He's a bull in a China shop.  A wrecking ball.  And he's willing to sacrifice anything in order to pad his ego in the moment, settle petty scores, or win a fleeting news cycle. The Pew survey also finds majorities of Cruz and Kasich supporters predicting that Trump would be a "poor" or "terrible" president, with fully 56 percent of Republican voters expecting a Trump candidacy would divide the party, not unify it (much worse than McCain or Romney's standing on this question around the spring of their respective election years).  That's what Republicans are saying.  What about everyone else?  Yikes:


As a point of reference, Mitt Romney won white women outright.  Trump seems...unlikely to replicate that feat, which would be devastating given his historically heavy reliance on white voters to have any chance of winning a general.  As you can see, the same WaPo data set shows Trump's unfavorability sitting at 51 percent (!) among white men, his best demographic.  Best of all for Hillary Clinton, historical data shows that head-to-head general election starts to become predictive around April of an election year.  Welcome to April, friends.  Hillary's up by 11 points.  There's still time to avoid this catastrophe.  To that end, I'll leave you with the second poll this week showing Cruz leading Trump by ten points in Wisconsin:


A decisive loss in Wisconsin would narrow Trump's path to 1,237 delegates considerably -- particularly if he ends up losing any delegates over his pledge shenanigans.