In this Monday, June 1, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump returns to the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
In this Monday, June 1, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump returns to the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

In warning sign for Donald Trump, Republicans growing pessimistic about country's direction

By Joseph Ax Time of article published Jun 7, 2020

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Republicans are more pessimistic about

the country's direction than at almost any other time during

Donald Trump's presidency, as a trio of crises – the coronavirus

pandemic, an economic downturn and mass protests over police

brutality – buffets his administration.

Only 46% of Americans who identify as Republicans say the

country is on the right track, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll

conducted last week. It is the first time that number has fallen

so low since August 2017, when a rally organized by white

supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia led to violent clashes

with counter-protesters.

As recently as early March, before the novel coronavirus

forced widespread shutdowns across the country, about 70% of

Republicans said they were optimistic about the country's

direction.

Trump's approval rating remains resilient at around 40%,

with a large majority of Republicans still approving of his

overall performance.

But sustained pessimism among Trump's supporters could

portend potential weakness ahead of November's election, when he

will face Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden, experts

said.

Thirty-seven percent of Republicans said the country is on

the wrong track; 17% of those said they would vote for Biden if

the election were held now, while 63% still plan to cast ballots

for Trump.

In an election most analysts believe will come down to a

handful of closely divided states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania

and North Carolina, even minor defections or a dip in turnout

among the Republican ranks could imperil Trump's chances.

"It probably should be concerning for the president, even

though it's reasonable to say he still maintains strong support

among Republicans," said Kyle Kondik, an elections analyst at

the University of Virginia.

Republicans believe an economic rebound in the fall would

bolster his prospects. Friday's jobs report showed more than 2.5

million jobs were added last month during the thick of the

coronavirus pandemic. Trump touted the gains as the "greatest

comeback in American history."

His re-election campaign did not respond to a request for

comment on the poll findings.

'THINGS ARE DEFINITELY WRONG'

The pessimism among all Americans has grown since the end of

February, when the pandemic began accelerating. But unlike

Republicans, large majorities of Democrats and independents

already felt the country was on the wrong track; fewer than 7

percent of Democrats and 19 percent of independents feel the

country is headed in the right direction, down slightly from

March, the poll showed.

Matthew Knight, a 48-year-old resident in North Carolina who

supported Trump in 2016, said he has been disappointed with

Trump's response to the crises.

"Just think with everything going on, and Trump not helping

matters, that things are definitely wrong," Knight wrote in an

email to Reuters. "I was going to vote for Trump, but if things

don't get better, I may have to rethink that."

Reuters conducted interviews and email exchanges with more

than a dozen Republicans who said the country was headed in the

wrong direction, yielding a mix of responses.

Some, such as Bill McMichael, a 62-year-old in politically

divided Minnesota who hasn't voted for a Democratic presidential

candidate in four decades, are considering voting for Biden out

of disgust with Trump.

A few admitted some misgivings but still plan to vote for

Trump, either because they are more skeptical about Biden or

trust Trump to revive the economy. Others blamed Democrats for

the country's problems.

"The last week sure shows you the direction the liberals are

trying to drive this country," said Ken Wilamowski, 68, a

retired General Motors engineer in Clarkston, Michigan, adding

that Democratic governors have been too unwilling to confront

protesters. "Pacifism is going to lose to anarchy every time."

Trump has urged governors to "dominate" the streets and

claimed that far-left radicals are primarily responsible for the

violence. Protesters again gathered in Washington for a big

demonstration on Saturday.

"In normal political circumstances, having a 40%

favorability would be terrible, but that's just not the world we

live in right now," said Terry Sullivan, a Republican strategist

who served as Senator Marco Rubio's presidential campaign

manager in 2016. "The numbers really haven't moved in the last

3-1/2 years."

Tom Singer, a 57-year-old probation officer in Riverside,

California, said Trump's presidency has been "dysfunctional."

Nevertheless, he said he would still likely vote for him in

November because he trusts Trump will deliver where it matters

most: on the economy.

"I'm not happy with either candidate, but I have to look at

the one who's going to have the greatest impact on me," he said.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English,

throughout the United States and gathered responses from 1,113

American adults. 

It had a credibility interval of plus or minus

3 percentage points. 

REUTERS

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