October 2, 2018 | By Dina Smeltz

How Does Trump’s Base Differ from Other Republicans? Let Me Count the Ways

While many headlines have declared that Donald Trump is remaking the Republican party in his image, a new 2018 Chicago Council Survey finds that not all Republican Party supporters have adopted the president’s positions. There is more than one GOP faction alive and kicking. There are clear differences in Republican Party supporters’ views on free trade, the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal. While many Republicans follow a Trumpian line on these issues, a good portion do not.

Most Republicans have a very or somewhat favorable view of Donald Trump. We divided Republicans into “Trump Republicans” – those with a very favorable view of Donald Trump (55% of Republicans, 15% overall) – and “non-Trump Republicans” – those with only a somewhat favorable or unfavorable view (44% of Republicans, 12% overall). In doing so, there are some very clear distinctions between these two sets.

  • Ideology: Trump Republicans are much more likely to identify themselves as “conservative” or “extremely conservative” than non-Trump Republicans and they are also more likely to say they are “strong” Republicans. Non-Trump Republicans are more likely to say they are either “slightly conservative” or “moderate, middle of the road” and are more inclined to consider themselves “not strong Republicans.”
  • Age and education: There are also some basic demographic differences. Trump Republicans are nearly twice as likely to fall in the 60 plus age group as non-Trump Republicans, while non-Trump Republicans are significantly younger. Trump Republicans are more likely than non-Trump Republicans to have completed a high school education while non-Trump Republicans are more likely to have a Bachelor’s degree or more.
  • Income: Trump Republicans are more likely than non-Trump Republicans to earn less than $60k a year, while non-Trump Republicans are more likely to earn more than $125k a year.
  • NAFTA: Republicans overall are more likely to say that NAFTA is mostly bad (53%) than mostly good (43%) for the US economy. But a majority of non-Trump Republicans are positive toward NAFTA (61% good), while Trump Republicans are far more negative (68% bad, 30% good).
  • Trade wars: Nearly six in ten (56%) Republicans are concerned about a trade war with China impacting the local economy in their area, though this concern is much higher among non-Trump Republicans (76%) than Trump Republicans (43%). While only a third (31%) of Republicans are concerned the impact on their local economy due to a trade war with Mexico, once again non-Trump Republicans (43%) are much more concerned than Trump Republicans (21%).
  • Iran nuclear agreement: the new survey results show that a slight majority of Republicans now support the Iran nuclear deal (53%), with 63 percent of non-Trump Republicans favoring US participation. While only a minority, even 46 percent of Trump Republicans support the US participating in an Iran agreement – a high percentage given that Trump has already taken the US out of this deal.
  • Paris climate agreement: Overall just under half of all Republican Party supporters think the United States should participate in the Paris climate agreement (46%, 51% oppose). But a solid majority of non-Trump Republicans think the US should participate (59% vs. 34% of Trump Republicans).
  • NATO: Although Trump Republicans are more likely than other Republicans to think the United States should decrease its commitment to NATO (34% vs. 18% non-Trump Republicans), even they are more apt to think the US commitment to NATO should stay the same. A large majority of non-Trump Republicans think the US should maintain its commitment to NATO (73% non-Trump Republicans, 49% Trump Republicans).
  • Immigration: Perhaps no greater issue helps to define Trump Republicans in these data than their views on immigration (66% of Republicans overall view immigration as a threat). And on this issue, too, Trump Republicans certainly seem to embrace the President’s position. Trump Republicans (81%) are significantly more likely than non-Trump Republicans (47%) to say immigration is a critical threat to the United States.
     

In short, not all Republicans are alike, and not all of them have been convinced by America First policies. The results of the midterm elections this November should help illustrate how strong each of these factions is in terms of voting power. For more on the 2018 Chicago Council Survey, see the full report, America Engaged.

About

Dina Smeltz joined The Chicago Council on Global Affairs in February 2012 as a senior fellow in public opinion and foreign policy, and directed the Council’s 2012 survey of American public opinion (see Foreign Policy in the New Millennium).  She has nearly 20 years of experience in designing and fielding international social, political and foreign policy surveys.

As the director of research in the Middle East and South Asia division (2001-2007) and analyst/director of the European division (1992-2004) in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the US State Department’s Office of Research, Dina conducted over a hundred surveys in these regions and regularly briefed senior government officials on key research findings. Her experience includes mass public and elite surveys as well as qualitative research.  She has written numerous policy-relevant reports on Arab, Muslim and South Asian regional attitudes toward political, economic, social and foreign policy issues.  Her writing also includes policy briefs and reports on the post-1989 political transitions in Central and Eastern Europe, and European attitudes toward a wide range foreign policy issues including globalization, European integration, immigration, NATO, and European security.

With a special emphasis research in post-conflict situations (informally referred to as a “combat pollster”), Dina has worked with research teams in Bosnia, Kosovo, Cyprus, Israel-Palestinian Territories and in Iraq (2003-2005), where she was one of the few people on the ground who could accurately report average Iraqis impressions of the postwar situation.  In the past three years, Dina has consulted for several NGOs and research organizations on projects spanning women’s development in Afghanistan, civil society in Egypt and evaluating voter education efforts in Iraq.

Dina has an MA from the University of Michigan and a BS from Pennsylvania State University.

Feel free to email Dina with comments or questions at dsmeltz@thechicagocouncil.org

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