Primary colors, not purple politics: part 1

This is a guest post by a writer who will go by Mozi. This is the first post in a series.

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Source: national survey by Pew Research Center conducted Feb. 7-12 among 1,503 adults – Summary; PDF

There’s a lot to dig into here, but the first chart (see: right) is likely the most important. Note that the partisans of the President in power tend to like that President pretty well, and pretty consistently — from Reagan to Trump, an average approval of 81.83%, with a standard deviation of just under 3. In other words, Republicans now like Trump as well as any President’s partisans would at this point in the Presidency. So there’s nothing unusual there.

What is unusual is the other party’s side of the data. Excluding Trump, adherents of the party opposite the President’s tend to approve of that President at an average of about 36.4% at this point in the Presidency, with a standard deviation of around 6.73. That’s considerable: roughly a third of Democrats supported Reagan early on, roughly a third of Republicans supported Obama early on, et cetera. This too has been fairly consistent from a historical standpoint.

Until now. Trump enjoys the support of a mere 8% of Democrats, and to get a sense of how much that datum skews the series, consider that adding it into the mix drops the average opposite-party approval by just over 13%, and increases the standard deviation by just over 194%. Moreover, the effect on general-population approval is remarkable. Excluding Trump’s number there yields an average of 58.2% approval with a standard deviation of just under 5. Trump’s general-population approval, of course, is languishing at 39%. This is almost entirely a function of the rock-bottom Democratic-approval figure, which if it were in the historical-average range for the other Presidents, would put that general-approval number in that 58.2% ballpark.

There are a few items of note here, including but not limited to:

First, the Democratic opposition to the President is unique and historically extreme.

Second, the other demographic groups with majoritarian opposition to the President — “blacks (63%), Hispanics (56%), postgraduates (61%), college graduates (54%), women (54%) and young adults ages 18-29 (55%)” — largely constitute core Democratic constituencies in any circumstance.

Third, we may reasonably assume that most core Democratic constituencies harbor similar sentiments, including professional spheres in which supermajorities are Democrats, for example media or academia.

Fourth, this suggests high midterm-election turnout for the Democrats, but with uncertain prospects for an expanded Democratic coalition. A very useful datum here would be sentiment broken out by prior voting participation, but alas it is not to be.

Fifth, note the two characteristics — and the only two characteristics — that a majority of respondents agree describes the President: “Keeps promises,” and “Able to get things done.” If the intensity of Democratic sentiment suggests a midterm wave, this general-population outcome suggests the opposite.

Sixth and perhaps most consequential, understand that partisan-based opposition of this magnitude means that a Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives will almost certainly impeach the President of the United States. (If you at this point ask what the proximate cause would be, rest assured the question is irrelevant: one will be found.) This does not mean removal: absent a genuine crime, it is impossible to imagine two-thirds of the Senate agreeing to it. But impeachment will happen if that Congressional majority happens, and it will be damaging to what remains of civic society because it will be narrowly based. America doesn’t disapprove of the President nearly as much as Democrats do.

And we aren’t even one month in.

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