Voters don’t give Trump a pass on gun control, healthcare, or Dreamers

March 21, 2018

Americans are paying close attention to several policy areas—among them, immigration, healthcare, gun violence and North Korea—in which they think President Donald Trump has taken the wrong approach, based on findings of a George Washington University Battleground Poll released on March 12.

Specifically, the poll of 1,000 registered U.S. voters nationwide found that a majority are worried about the POTUS’s handling of immigration (42% approve, 56% disapprove), healthcare (38%/56%), gun violence (39%/55%) and North Korea (41%/53%). 

Chief among the areas of concern is gun control. When asked how closely they’ve been following a given topic, almost all respondents said they were “closely” (72%) or “somewhat closely” (22%) following the aftermath of the premeditated mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a month ago.

On the Russia investigation, a slightly large number of respondents now believe that “members of the Trump campaign committed crimes and actively assisted Russia’s efforts”—up  to 39% from 31% in the previous edition of the GW Battleground Poll in August 2017. However, voters were split over how much the issue will matter to them when they enter their polling places next November: 41% said it was” not at all important” in the context of their 2018 voting decisions. About the same amount said it was “extremely important” (27%) or “very important” (13%) important to them. More Independents said it was “extremely important” (28%) or “very important” (12%) than “not important at all” (36%).

“The composition of the poll’s respondent universe reminds us that, even as issues rise and fall swiftly in the news these days, the electorate remains heavily skewed toward middle-aged and older voters,” said Michael Cornfield, associate professor of Political Management and research director of the GW Center for Political Management. “Candidate positions on issues that matter greatly to young people, starting with the heavily followed Parkland shooting story that stars high school activists, could be significant in enlarging the traditionally small voter pool for the midterm elections.”

Moving to the economy—a marginally brighter spot in the public’s perception—opinions still were split. The poll found that about half (52%) of likely voters approved of the approach that the president has taken with respect to jobs, with 41% disapproving. The split was similar for his handling of the overall economy (51% approve, 45% disapprove).

Voters are conflicted about the state of the American dream. Almost three-quarters (72%) think that they will be financially better off in five years, but only one-third (37%) believe that the next generation will be better off economically.

Looking ahead to this year’s congressional elections, the GW Battleground Poll found a slight shift in voters’ attitudes toward the candidates. Presented with a generic ballot, 49% of voters chose a Democrat and 40% chose a Republican. In the previous edition of the GW Battleground Poll, those figures were 44% and 38%, respectively. Undecided voters decreased to 12% from 1%.

Democrats also appeared more enthusiastic than did Republicans ahead of the midterm elections. Among voters who say they are “extremely likely” to vote in the upcoming midterms, 51% prefer Democrats, while 39% prefer Republicans. Among voters who say they are “very likely” to vote, Democrats enjoy a 10-point advantage (48% to 38%).

The George Washington University Battleground Poll is a series of surveys conducted by Republican pollster Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners. GW’s Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) and the School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA) serve as the university’s home for the partnership.

Research contact: jshevrin@gwu.edu

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