The 2018 midterm election confirmed America’s urban-rural divide; Democrats excelled in cities, Republicans dominated in the country and the suburbs were the tiebreaker that handed Democrats the House. Will the 2020 election play out the same way? This week, we got two polls of Trump’s approval rating that suggest it might.
First, a Selzer & Co. (one of our favorite pollsters) national poll conducted Nov. 24-27 for Grinnell College found that Trump had a 43 percent approval rating and a 45 percent disapproval rating among all adults. However, his support isn’t distributed equally across different types of communities. He’s enormously popular among residents of rural areas, with a 61 percent approval rating and a 26 percent disapproval rating. In small towns, that breakdown is 44 percent approve vs. 42 percent disapprove. But in suburban areas, only 41 percent of residents approve of the job that Trump is doing as president, while 50 percent disapprove. Trump’s approval rating is lowest among urbanites — 31 percent approve of him while 59 percent disapprove.
We saw similar geographic trends in an Investor’s Business Daily/TIPP poll that was conducted from Nov. 26 to Dec. 2. Trump again got the highest marks from residents of rural areas — a 62 percent approval rating and a 35 percent disapproval rating. And yet again, his standing took a nosedive among suburbanites and urbanites. In suburban areas, Trump’s approval rating was 32 percent, and his disapproval rating was 60 percent. In urban areas, his approval rating was 27 percent, and his disapproval rating was 67 percent. (The IBD/TIPP poll didn’t include “small town” as an option for respondents.) Overall, Trump’s approval/disapproval spread was much worse in the IBD/TIPP poll (39 percent approve, 55 percent disapprove) than it was in the Selzer poll, which explains why the IBD/TIPP poll is worse for Trump in all three geographic categories as well.
This is perhaps stating the obvious, but Trump would do well to improve his standing among suburban and urban voters before 2020. Less than 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural areas. Granted, not all rural voters will cast their ballot for the president, nor will all urban and suburban voters back whoever is the Democratic nominee. But elections are winner-take-all contests waged within discrete geographic areas — states or districts.
None of this means that Trump lacks a path to electoral victory. It’s still early in the 2020 campaign; approval ratings may change, and a person’s feelings about the president aren’t the only determinant of his or her vote. But those numbers aren’t great for Republicans even if institutions like the Electoral College give disproportionate influence to rural areas. Without urban and suburban areas, they’ll find it difficult to cobble together a sustainable majority.
Date Posted: Sunday, December 16th, 2018 , Total Page Views: 483
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