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National Politics|By Amy Walter, February 15, 2017

President Trump, as we know, is more transactional than ideological. He campaigned as the guy who could make the “best deals” – whether it’s free trade or the cost of concrete for the new border wall – without the pressure having to stay within the bounds of traditional republican orthodoxy. Forget about the “old way” of doing business, Trump was going to come to DC and rewrite the whole playbook. It was this attitude that led plenty of voters – despite their inherent wariness about Trump’s trustworthiness and his lack of experience in government – to support him. But, many of these voters are just as transactional as Trump.  In fact, polling and other economic analysis suggests that these voters could easily sour on the president if their economic livelihood doesn’t meaningfully improve or Trump’s promises to “Make America Great Again” don’t live up to their expectations.

CBS News’ Nation Tracker

An online survey conducted by YouGov between February 8-10, of 2,200 panelists found four distinct groups of Americans. About one quarter of Americans (22 percent) are firmly supportive of the president and unlikely to abandon him. Another 35 percent, writes the CBS polling unit, seem firmly opposed to Trump. That leaves almost half of Americans (43 percent) somewhere in the middle. They are also the most transactional. The “conditional supporters” (they make up 22 percent), say “I support Trump, but he has to deliver” – specifically on the economy.

The CBS pollsters write that while these conditional supporters don’t agree with everything the president’s doing they are “at least glad he’s shaking things up.” And, while they are “a little more leery about Russia and one-third admit he’s off to a ‘rough start’, they “remain optimistic.”

The “curious” (21 percent of Americans) oppose Trump today, but “would reconsider if he does a good job,” with 90 percent saying “he’d gain at least some support from them if he improves the economy.” However, unlike the “conditionals” these Americans are also looking for “respect”, with four in five saying “he doesn’t respect or understand people like them.”

Priorities USA

This online survey by two Democratic pollsters – Garin Hart Yang and Global Strategy Group – of 801 voters who supported Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016 found similar economic expectations among Trump voters.

These so-called “soft” Trump voters have “mixed feelings” about voting for Trump and just 35 percent of them “have confidence that Donald Trump will do a good job as president.” Most important, writes Priorities USA Chairman Guy Cecil, “Obama-Trump voters feel especially squeezed economically and expect an economic and tax agenda from Trump that will benefit the middle class – not the wealthy and corporate elites. More than half (58 percent) of soft Trump supporters feel their income is falling behind the cost of living.”

Survey Monkey

The online survey asks participants to choose any, all or none of the “personal characteristics and qualities” that describe President Trump. Survey Monkey’s Mark Blumenthal took a deep dive into the 17 percent of Americans who viewed Trump “somewhat favorably.” Blumenthal writes that:
Better than two thirds (68 percent) of those who only somewhat approve of the President say he stands up for his beliefs, and almost as many say he is tough enough for the job (60 percent) and can get things done (59 percent). The soft approvers are far less confident, however, about his ability to keep promises (38 percent) or perform as an effective manager (34 percent), and even fewer (near 20 percent) associate qualities like empathy, shared values or inspiration with the new president. Just 11 percent of the Trump’s soft approvers say “honest and trustworthy” applies to him.”
In other words, these marginally supportive Trump voters already have pretty low expectations for his ability to manage effectively or that that he will share their values. What they do expect is that he “can get things done.” The good news: process stories about Trump’s dysfunctional style or Russia ties may not do much to move these voters. But, as Blumenthal points out “if the initial flurry of executive action gives way to gridlock and legislative stagnation, perceptions of Trump’s ability to ‘get things done’ may atrophy, and with it, his overall approval rating.”

NACO Study:

An economic analysis by the National Association of Counties found that the counties that flipped from blue to red in 2016 were also the hardest hit economically. These counties “have weaker job recoveries than county economies overall. The majority of them (56 percent) did not reach their pre-recession job peaks by 2016, while nationally only 43 percent of county economies fit that pattern. They also lag in economic output (GDP) recovery due to deeper economic output (GDP) declines.” Will these economically stressed voters continue to give Trump – and the GOP – their votes if the promised manufacturing jobs don’t appear? 

Bottom Line: Improving the economic lives of these “soft” Trump supporters isn’t an easy thing to do – especially in time for the mid-term elections. But, the more time Trump spends on anything BUT the economy, the harder it will be for him to keep these conditional and transactional supporters engaged and on his side. They may like the way he shakes up DC, but at the end of the day, they want him to shake it up for their benefit.