Pro-Trump group poll: Voters prioritizing economy, have shifting views on protests

Pro-Trump group poll: Voters prioritizing economy, have shifting views on protests
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A new poll from a pro-Trump group shows the economy is the most important issue to voters who will be key to President TrumpDonald TrumpMan sentenced to nearly four years for running scam Trump, Biden PACs Meadows says Trump's blood oxygen level was dangerously low when he had COVID-19 Trump endorses David Perdue in Georgia's governor race MORE's reelection, even as the president has focused intensely on calling for law and order amid protests against racial injustice.

The poll from America First Policies, a nonprofit sister group to the America First Action PAC, and OnMessage Inc., found that Republican and independent voters put an emphasis on the economy as the most important issue, while they simultaneously view Trump as the best candidate to steer the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Law and order was the top issue for only a sliver of Republicans and independents in the poll — 7 percent and 4 percent, respectively — though the survey broadly found shifting attitudes surrounding the protests for racial equality that have persisted for months, with voters increasingly viewing the demonstrations as violent riots.

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The president is relying heavily on his GOP base for his reelection efforts, though he will need to pull in some independents as well if he hopes to defeat Democratic rival Joe BidenJoe BidenMan sentenced to nearly four years for running scam Trump, Biden PACs Dole in final column: 'Too many of us have sacrificed too much' Meadows says Trump's blood oxygen level was dangerously low when he had COVID-19 MORE in November.

"The president is very, very well positioned in terms of the things that he is supporting and places where he’s drawing contrasts with Joe Biden," said Nathan Klein, programs director at America First Policies.

While Republicans and independents in the poll said the economy was the most important issue facing the country, followed by the pandemic, Democratic respondents said the most important issue was the pandemic, followed by health care and the economy.

The makeup of the poll consisted of 38 percent Democrats, 33 percent Republicans and 27 percent independents.

Trump gets favorable marks on his economic job approval in the poll: 56 percent of respondents said they approve of his performance on the economy, while 42 percent said they oppose it. Fifty percent of respondents also said they trust the Republican Party to rebuild the economy following the coronavirus pandemic, compared to 42 percent who trust the Democratic Party.

The president's overall approval rating has remained underwater throughout his first term, though he routinely gets higher marks on his handling of the economy. Still, the economy has collapsed in recent months amid the pandemic, with millions of Americans out of work. Negotiations between the Trump administration and congressional Democrats have also produced little results, despite both sides agreeing a fifth major coronavirus relief bill should be passed.

While the survey suggests that the primary concern for GOP voters and many independents remains the economy, Trump's focus has been elsewhere in recent weeks.

The president has been fixated on protests over racial injustice that have at times devolved into violence, painting them broadly as chaotic and a threat to the nation. He traveled to Kenosha, Wis., on Tuesday, a city that has been wracked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The president largely avoided talking about Blake, instead hailing law enforcement.

Kelly Sadler, communications director for America First, argued that the conversation around the protests is shifting into more favorable territory for the president. 

"Support for the defund the police movement has drastically decreased from the days after George Floyd’s killing, into the summer when we’ve seen increased rioting and chaos," she said.

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Tuesday's poll showed that 75 percent of respondents oppose defunding the police, including 69 percent of Hispanics and 63 percent of African Americans. 

One question asked respondents whether they would characterize the protests as the “result of years of injustice and inequality” toward minorities or demonstrations that have “stopped being about racial injustice and have become violent riots by people who hate America.”

Fifty-one percent said violent riots better represented their opinion, compared to 40 percent who felt the protests were about racial injustice. Among African Americans, 58 percent said they felt the demonstrations were focused on racial injustice.

Klein argued that the policy-focused nature of the questions, which did not explicitly mention Trump, show that minority communities "actually line up with the president’s messaging and the president's policy approach, and they disagree with Democrats."

The poll was conducted from Aug. 17-20, meaning it took place during the Democratic National Convention and before the GOP's convention. The poll surveyed 800 likely voters via telephone, and it has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.