Trump faces severe suburban slump

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE is facing a suburban slump among voters who sent him to the White House.

Recent polls show Trump’s numbers have slipped substantially among suburban voters, who Trump carried in 2016 by a 49 percent to 45 percent margin over Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy 'Too Far Left' hashtag trends on Twitter Resistance or unhinged behavior? Partisan hatred reaches Trump's family MORE, according to exit polls conducted across the country.

Just 32 percent of all suburban voters now say they would definitely vote to reelect the president, according to a new Grinnell College poll conducted by the Iowa-based pollster Ann Selzer. Another 14 percent said they would consider someone else, and 51 percent said they would definitely vote for a candidate other than Trump.

Trump’s poll numbers have never been stellar. He is the only president in modern history not to have a net-positive approval rating in any Gallup survey during his first term in office. 

ADVERTISEMENT

But the top line numbers — just 40 percent approve of Trump’s job performance, according to the Grinnell survey — hint at deeper problems for the president among key demographic groups. Among women who did not attend college, Trump’s favorable rating stands at just 46 percent; he won that group with 61 percent of the vote in 2016. Among suburban women, only a quarter, 26 percent, approve of Trump.

Suburban women especially appear motivated to make their disapproval felt: Eighty-eight percent of suburban women said they would definitely vote in the 2020 presidential election, 10 points higher than voters overall. 

“This to me is striking not so much in that they are aligning against President Trump, but the degree to which they are aligning against President Trump,” Selzer told The Hill. “That is sort of the pin in the hand grenade. They have the opinion and they’re more likely to vote.”

Other pollsters point to the 2018 midterm elections, when Democrats — and especially Democratic women — picked up seats in suburban House districts across the country. An August survey conducted by Cygnal, a Republican polling firm, found 56 percent of suburban women favored a generic Democratic candidate, while just 32 percent backed an unnamed Republican. Sixty-five percent said they thought it was time to elect someone other than President Trump.

Fifty-six percent of suburban women in that poll said they viewed Trump very unfavorably. More than six in 10 said they viewed the Republican Party unfavorably, while 56 percent saw the Democratic Party in a favorable light.

“Our research strongly suggests women in suburban communities are finding more appeal in Democratic policies, whether they were driven there by their dislike of the president or not,” said Brent Buchanan, the chief executive at Cygnal. “Republicans head into 2020 with a disadvantage among suburban female voters, and we must adjust course on how we communicate with this key group.”

“Regardless of who the president faces in 2020, it will be a stark contrast between a proven record of success from President Trump and a big government socialist agenda pushed by the Democrats,” said Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s chief spokesman. “The roaring economy, child tax credits, support for paid family leave, and focus on national security are all things suburban voters, including women, care about, and the president brings all of that to the table. Democrats support open borders, eliminating private health insurance, and funding free health care for illegal immigrants.”

Some Republicans are more sanguine about poll results a year before Election Day — especially when Trump does not yet face a named Democratic opponent against whom he can mount a sustained advertising campaign.

“The problem with doing these kinds of polls now is that they offer voters a choice between Trump, who is incredibly well defined, and some imaginary Democratic nominee who they can imbue with whatever characteristics and proposals they would like best. That’s just not reality,” said Chris Wilson, a Republican pollster.

“One part of the winning Trump coalition is giving these voters the clear choice between a president whose rhetorical style may turn them off but who has a solid record on taxes and the economy and the kind of far-left policy ideas that an Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenNew poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa Bloomberg, Patrick take different approaches after late entries into primary race Deval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne MORE or other Democratic nominee is likely to have endorsed,” Wilson said. “The other element of the winning Trump coalition is further cementing both margins and turnout in rural and exurban areas.”

In the Grinnell survey, just 38 percent of likely voters said they would definitely vote to reelect President Trump. Forty-seven percent said they would definitely vote for someone else, including 51 percent of independent voters.

Since Trump took office in 2017, 56 percent of likely voters said their opinions of the president had become more unfavorable, and just 39 percent said they had become more favorable. Among independents, twice as many voters said their opinions had grown more unfavorable (61 percent) as favorable (32 percent). A majority of white women without a college degree, 56 percent, said their opinion of Trump had soured.

ADVERTISEMENT

Most voters have a negative opinion of Trump’s job performance on several key issues. Only a quarter of voters said they approved of his ability to stand as a role model to be admired, and two-thirds disapproved. A majority, 53 percent, disapprove of the job he is doing on immigration, Trump’s favorite appeal to his base.

Trump’s one bright spot continues to be the economy, which is still growing a decade after the recovery began. Fifty percent of voters said they approve of Trump’s job performance on economic issues, and 39 percent disapprove.

But he will face a steep challenge in converting the 15 percent of voters who like his economic performance but who disapprove of his overall job performance. Just 8 percent of those voters cast their ballots for Trump in 2016, suggesting they are unlikely to migrate en masse to his camp in 2020.

The suburban women who see Trump in such a negative light are far more likely to see the leading Democratic presidential contenders in a positive way. Almost seven in 10 suburban women have a favorable opinion of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBudget official says he didn't know why military aid was delayed: report Growing 2020 field underscores Democratic divide READ: Foreign service officer Jennifer Williams' closed-door testimony from the House impeachment inquiry MORE, the poll found, and nearly six in 10 said the same of Warren.

The Grinnell College National Poll was conducted by Selzer & Co. between October 17-23 among 1,003 adults over the age of 18, for a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The subsample of 806 likely voters carried a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

—Updated at 4:43 p.m.