Is Trump’s popularity among Republicans because there are fewer Republicans?

It’s obviously a very reasonable argument and one I’ve seen made a number of times.  Friend/reader, TB, sent me a link to this Politifact piece that largely makes this case:

On July 10, he said in a tweet, “New Poll says Trump, at over 90%, is the most popular Republican in history of the Party.”

And three days later, in an interview with the British newspaper The Sun, Trump said, “You know, a poll just came out that I am the most popular person in the history of the Republican Party. Beating Lincoln. I beat our Honest Abe.”

Trump has reason to crow about his popularity among Republicans: His approval rating within his own party has ranged from 84 percent to 90 percent since mid April 2018…

In the meantime, a smaller proportion of Americans are identifying themselves as Republicans, said Steven Smith, a political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis.

According to Gallup, the share of Americans who call themselves Republicans was 31 percent from Feb. 1-5, 2017, the first measure after Trump was inaugurated. But between March and July 2018, that number has ranged between 23 percent and 27 percent.

While the shift is small, Smith said, it may be a sign that some critics of Trump within the Republican Party are simply leaving the party for now, rather than registering a negative assessment to pollsters as a Republican.

This argument caught my eye, as professor and polling guru, Charles Franklin, made a very different argument on twitter last week, also using Gallup data.  If you are into polling data, definitely read the whole thread, but here’s the summary tweet:

It makes sense that decent people who value small government, but not xenophobia and child torture and bigoted presidents should be fleeing the Republican Party, but the actual evidence on that is “maybe, but a very modest amount” at best.  Yes, the Republican base consists of lots of people with some pretty odious views on minorities, immigrants, women, etc., but there’s clearly also a lot of people who are willing to put up with that to get their tax cuts or pro-life judges and they are not leaving in any significant numbers.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Is Trump’s popularity among Republicans because there are fewer Republicans?

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    The anti-Trump still registered Republicans are probably relying on the old saying “This too shall pass”. After all, in 2020 or 2024, Trump will retire. And is there another billionaire with his appeal to certain groups who can say “I alone can fix it” and be believed?
    He is unique in many ways. I can’t see a dynasty here.
    But the far right is and will be greatly empowered by his Presidency. The after Trump battle will carry on the chaos for a long time with help from his courts.

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