Are Voter Opinions on Trump as Stable as They Seem?

The great irony of the Trump presidency, one that is built on chaos and drama, is how stable it is. By that, I mean the stability of opinions of this president. Despite all of the twists and turns and tweets over the last three years, very few voters have changed their mind about him. A January Democracy Fund Study Group survey found that 85 percent of Americans have "consistently held the same view about President Trump over the last two years."

Getting Perspective on the Presidency

I tried to do something last week that seems almost impossible to do in this era of constant stimulation, agitation and hot takes: I got some perspective on the president and the presidency. I spent three days last week at the "Presidential Ideas Festival" (aka Prez Fest) hosted by the University of Virginia's Miller Center. While there I asked presidential scholars and former administration officials to put this president and this current political moment into a more thorough historical context. 

Democrats and the Enthusiasm Gap

Democrats are in something of a Catch-22. There is a consensus (at least among the chattering class and highly engaged Democratic voters) that the party needs to pick a nominee who is the most electable, even if this person is not the most exciting or ground-breaking pick (i.e., a white, moderate, male). But, the "least risky" candidate risks depressing Democratic base voters (especially younger voters and voters of color), the very voters Democrats need to turn out if they are going to beat President Trump.

The Electability Trap

Every four years, the party out of the White House grapples with the question of who they want to serve as their standard bearer. And, like clockwork, the first thing they think about is what went wrong in the previous campaign. Last time, the thinking goes, we put up a candidate who was too/not enough (FILL IN THE BLANK) who didn't do enough/did too much (FILL IN THE BLANK) and ran a campaign that was too much/too little (FILL IN THE BLANK).

The Economy and the Election

For as long as I've covered politics, the conventional wisdom has been that presidents win re-election in good economic times and they lose when the economy stinks. Ronald Reagan won re-election when the economy was booming. Jimmy Carter lost when we sunk into economic "malaise." But, we also know that it's more complicated than that.

President George H.W. Bush lost in 1992, despite the fact that GDP growth that year was a healthy 3.2%. And, President Barak Obama won rather easily in 2012, despite the fact that GDP growth that year was a more anemic 2.2%.

Restoration Versus Revolution

A couple of weeks ago, I noted that one way to look at the 2020 Democratic primary contest was to think of it as a battle between those candidates who wanted a ‘revolution’ versus those who want to see more of a ‘restoration.’ The leaders of the ‘revolution’ wing, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, aren’t running to simply replace President Trump, but to bring serious, structural change to the country.

It’s Bernie’s World (And 2020 Democrats Are All Living in It)

Early polling shows Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden as the frontrunners for the 2020 Democratic nomination. But, early polling has been an unreliable predictor of future success. (If you haven’t already, you should follow the Washington Post’s polling twitter account, @wholed, where you will see that many of those in the lead at this point in previous elections didn’t end up as their party’s nominee).

Look at the Forest, Not the Trees: What We Do and Don't Know About 2020

In this age of constant stimulation and news and information overload, it is harder than ever to get perspective. I am as guilty as anyone of getting sucked into the vortex of political twitter, only to emerge hours later with little to show for it. 

So, this week, I took a break from the BREAKING NEWS alerts and focused instead on the bigger picture view of the upcoming presidential contest. Here’s what we know — and still don’t know — about what to expect for 2020.

Subscribe to