The following article by Philip Bump was posted on the Washington Post website February 23, 2017:
Up until November, Reince Priebus was the head of the Republican Party, tasked with getting Republicans elected and representing the party’s interests publicly. He was good at that job, and with the election of a Republican president to join GOP control of Capitol Hill, he was ready for a new adventure. When President-elect Donald Trump reached out about serving as his chief of staff, Priebus agreed — and took on a new constituency, the American people at large.
He may be getting that new constituency confused with his old one, if a comment he made at the Conservative Political Action Conference is any guide.
Priebus was asked by Matt Schlapp, one of the event’s organizers, to describe some of Trump’s key successes in his first 30 days in office. Priebus identified three things:
- The nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
- An executive order aimed at deregulation.
- Trump’s actions on immigration.
“These are all things that 80 percent of Americans agree with,” Priebus said in summary, “and these are all things that President Trump is doing within 30 days.”
Uh, no. They are not.
Let’s start by looking at the president’s approval rating, the broadest indicator of the extent to which Americans agree with Trump. RealClearPolitics compiles a running average of approval ratings allowing us to track how Americans view his performance.
The upshot? About 45 percent of Americans think that Trump is doing a good job. If my math is correct — 10 minus 5 carry the 1 plus 8 — that’s about 35 percentage points lower than Priebus claimed.
A critical point in those numbers is that there is a deep partisan split on perceptions of how Trump is doing. As we’ve noted before, part of the reason his overall approval numbers are so low — much lower, according to multiple pollsters, than any other modern president — is that he is viewed very positively by Republicans but very poorly by members of the opposition party.
How positively do Republicans view him? Well, in most polls, he’s somewhere over … 80 percent.
We can look at polls on the issues Priebus raised specifically, too, as well as the subjects of other executive orders. (The graphs below use data from Gallup, CBS, Quinnipiac University, Fox News Channel and the Pew Research Center.)
Trump’s approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline is viewed positively by 76 percent of Republicans — but 42 percent overall. The numbers on the Dakota Access pipeline are basically the same. On his immigration executive order, 84 percent of Republicans approved but only 46 percent of Americans on the whole did. On Gorsuch, 82 percent of Republicans and 49 percent of Americans. Asked whether repealing Obamacare was important, 76 percent of Republicans said it was “extremely” or “very” important. Interestingly, Fox News polling (which is the source of the non-pipeline numbers here) shows that even Republicans don’t really think the U.S.-Mexico wall is that important.
The upshot is that Priebus is wrong. Perhaps he’s wrong because he was simply throwing out a number as a rhetorical point, although that’s an awfully specific way of saying “a lot.” Perhaps he was being deliberately dishonest in presenting levels of support for Trump’s initial policy proposals.
Or perhaps Priebus simply forgot that, in his new job, Republicans aren’t the only Americans whose opinions he needs to worry about.
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