Analysis: An Ominous Week of Polling for Donald Trump

Guy Benson
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Posted: Jun 16, 2016 10:15 AM
Analysis: An Ominous Week of Polling for Donald Trump

Yesterday we told you about the Bloomberg poll showing Hillary Clinton ahead of Donald Trump by 12 points in the general election, noting that she has now led in nine straight polls dating back to mid-May. Even more worrisome for Republicans is Trump's average support languishing in the high 30's, even after his nice polling bump after locking up the GOP nomination. Let's say you're inclined to dismiss direct head-to-head polling -- we've argued that it's getting a bit late in the game for that -- and to write off the Bloomberg numbers as an outlier.  Fine.  But two subsequent national surveys offer additional cause for alarm among Trump supporters. A CBS News poll taken entirely after the Orlando terrorist attack shows heavy public opposition to Trump's response to the massacre:

President Obama gets net positive ratings for his response to the shooting in Orlando. 44 percent approve, while 34 percent disapprove. About a quarter don't have an opinion. When asked to assess the responses of the presumptive nominees for President, Americans are divided on Hillary Clinton's response to the attack, while ratings of Trump are more negative. 51 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Trump is responding to the Orlando attack, while just 25 percent approve. Most Democrats (62 percent) approve of Clinton's response, while just half of Republicans (50 percent) approve of Trump's. More independents are critical of Trump's response than Clinton's.

Obama is above water (+10), Clinton is running roughly even (+2), and Trump is deep underwater (-26). As for the presumptive GOP nominee's (quasi-resurrected?) temporary Muslim ban proposal, public opinion runs two-to-one in opposition, with independents breaking heavily against it. Writes Allahpundit: "If even a major terror attack can’t get voters to take a second look at the would-be strongman, what’ll it take? Trump’s image is so horribly poor among the general electorate that he can’t win without convincing voters to give him a second look. If a jihadi shooting up a nightclub while Trump is demanding a ban on Muslims abroad doesn’t do it, maybe nothing’s going to do it."  A reasonable concern. Is his description of Trump's standing among the overall electorate as "horribly poor" perhaps a bit unfair? Not according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll. Remember when I characterized Trump's 67 percent unfavorable mark in that series as "unelectable" territory back in March?   Well, the billionaire rebounded to a less-catastrophic (37/60) after clinching the nomination last month, edging slightly ahead of Clinton on a hypothetical ballot.  Those gains have now disappeared, and then some:

Yes, seven-in-ten American voters have a negative view of Trump, with the percentage expressing a "strongly" unfavorable opinion eclipsing Hillary's high negatives, which haven't improved at all since securing her party's crown. The preposterous notion that "nothing hurts Trump" (the judge garbage has clearly taken a toll) is being exposed in a general election setting, as many analysts anticipated. He is now 41 points underwater on favorability.  Here's how:

Pair that information with Bloomberg's finding that 55 percent of likely voters say they'd never pull the lever for him, and CBS' measurement of broad opposition to his response to Orlando, and it would appear that Donald Trump and the Republican Party have a real problem on their hands. The trend lines speak for themselves:

Counter-point: Things haven't been this bad for the GOP since the winter of 2014, several months before Republicans got creamed at the polls...oh waitCounter-counter-point:

Dan McLaughlin looked at national polling over the past three presidential cycles to see how low Bush, McCain, and Romney went in their head-to-head match-ups with the Democratic nominee. Once the primaries were over, not one of them ever dropped below 40 percent. McCain got close at 40.3 but began to climb after that and never looked back. Trump’s RCP average as I write this is 38.6 percent. Double gulp.

These waves of negative polling, alongside the would-be nominee manufacturing one headache-causing controversy after another, have spurred quite a lot of this sentiment online:

What's the downside? The downside is shunting aside the voices of millions of primary voters who elected Trump, knowing full well exactly who he is.  He wasn't subtle.  And aside from mass disenfranchisement, "blatantly stealing" the nomination away from Trump would guarantee a Republican bloodbath in November.  Many of Trump's fanatical followers wouldn't just shrug and turn out for whomever the party picks in Cleveland.  They'd angrily sit out the election, or they'd show up to actively teach the party a lesson by punishing down-ballot Republicans.  Whatever gains the party might win among independents and among the #NeverTrump margins, they'd enrage a sizable portion of their own base in a way we've never seen before.  This week's Bloomberg poll shows just 33 percent of GOP voters expressing enthusiasm about Trump; that's very low, but a party cannot win by writing off one-third of its base. Even if the polling gets much worse for Trump between now and mid-July, and even if the appetite to dump Trump increases significantly among GOP voters mortified by the prospect of a Hillary presidency, I don't see how a convention coup could possibly end well.  Parting thought: Is the polling likely to get much worse for Trump at this stage?  He's already trailing Clinton nationally and is struggling in some deep red states.  But she's quite unpopular herself, and the public has been subjected to nonstop coverage of Trump's antics and theatrics for a year now.  I guess it's just hard to imagine how Trump could do worse than a 70 percent unfavorable rating.

UPDATE: New top lines from the CBS News poll has Clinton up six on Trump, who is again mired in the 30's.  With Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson included in the survey, the spread is virtually unchanged.  That makes ten straight polls with Clinton in the lead, with the margin opening back up.