In warning sign for Donald Trump, Republicans growing pessimistic about country's direction
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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
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
Trump's approval rating remains resilient at around 40%,
with a large majority of Republicans still approving of his
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
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
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
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
It had a credibility interval of plus or minus
3 percentage points.