Don’t look now, but Gallup has just given President Trump two major end-of-the-year gifts in two separate sets of poll results it’s just published. Gift Number One: Mr. Trump this year moved into a tie with his White House predecessor, Barack Obama, as the man most admired by Americans. Gift Number Two: The state of the U.S. Economy, widely viewed as one of the most important determinants of Americans’ votes for President, has faded notably in their minds as a top national concern.
Impeachment, and the nonstop political coverage of Mr. Trump’s alleged wrongdoing, surely have been America’s leading political stories this year. But all the same, the President and Obama jointly headed the list of the country’s most admired man. Better yet for Trump-ers: The survey was conducted in early December, so respondents had lots of time to digest the impeachment drama. And the possible icing on the cake – the tie was produced by a one percentage point reduction in the Obama score from 2018 (when he won this contest – and for the twelfth time!) and a five percentage point rise in the Trump score.
Further, although trend data isn’t available, Mr. Trump was named most admired by 10 percent of independents. That figure trailed the Obama total (12 percent), but not by much. And the former President won’t be on any ballots this year.
The results for some of the President’s other major opponents and critics are bound to cheer him, too. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who’s helped spearhead the impeachment drive, increased his score from 2018 – but only by less than one percent to one percent. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also rose in the poll – but only from one percent to two percent.
As for the group of Democratic contenders for Mr. Trump’s job, the best performers in this survey were Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Hawaii House Member Tulsi Gabbard, and California Senator Kamala Harris (who recently dropped out). Yet they all garnered only one percent of Americans’ votes. Nonetheless, all did better than former Vice President Joe Biden, whose backers for this title declined from one percent in 2018 to less than one percent this year.
As for the economy, since the global financial crisis produced the Great Recession starting at the end of 2007, it’s been rated as “the most important problem in the U.S.” in Gallup surveys seven times (the last coming in 2016). In addition, “jobs” was mentioned among the top four most important problems nine times. (I find it odd that the two are presented separately by Gallup as well.)
But since the Trump inaugural, the economy has vanished from the ranks of the top four national problems, and the only appearance made by jobs was in 2017 (when it came in fourth).
Even if polling was more of a science than an art, none of these results would guarantee President Trump’s reelection. One potential trouble spot: During each of his years in office so far, “government” has topped Americans’ lists of the country’s most important problems. The Gallup results indicate that respondents assign about equal blame for Washington dysfunction to Mr. Trump and the Republicans in Congress on the one hand, and to the Democrats in Congress on the other. But during the Trump administration, the percentages prioritizing this concern have risen overall from previous levels – and markedly.
The big takeaway for me is that if the President turns and keeps his focus to at least a reasonable extent on substantive issues like the economy, and shoots off fewer dumbbell and wholly unnecessary tweets and remarks (here’s a prime recent example), and if no new misconduct-related bombshells emerge, he’ll calm the nerves of the independents he needs to win back from their 2018 defection to the Democrats, in particular relieve their Trump Exhaustion Syndrome, and win reelection pretty handily. The big fly in this ointment, of course, is that the above prescription so far has never been followed by Mr. Trump.