Trump Populism Won’t Stop Reshaping the GOP Anytime Soon

The establishment GOP hoped Trump populism would run out of steam, but recent polling shows Trump remains extremely popular, and a majority of Republican voters want their elected officials to be more like Trump, not less.

By a margin of greater than two to one, Trump voters say they side with the President over the Congressional GOP, as Market Research Foundation wrote last week. Forty-nine percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they are “more supporters of Trump” than the GOP, while just 19% say they are more supporters of the GOP, according to a recent YouGov/Huffington Post poll.

Trump or the GOP

There is a substantial gender gap between those who align more with Trump versus the GOP. Fifty-nine percent of men say they are more supporters of Trump versus 40% of women. Conversely, 25% of women say they are more supporters of the GOP versus 12% of men.

Voters over age 65 hold a particularly low opinion of the Republican Party, with just 9% of those who voted for Trump saying they are more supporters of the GOP, versus 50% who say they are more supporters of Trump.

Support for the GOP over Trump is lowest among households who make less than 50K (19%) and higher among those making over 50K.

Among independents who voted for Trump, only 4% say they are more supporters of the GOP, while 63% say they are more supporters of Trump.

Not only do many conservatives remain steadfastly loyal to Trump over the GOP, three out of four Republicans want their elected officials to “be more like President Trump” in 2021 according to a recent Rasmussen poll. Pollsters asked voters, “as the Republican Party reorganizes itself next year, should it be more like President Trump or more like the average GOP member of Congress?” Republicans picked the “more like President Trump” option 72% to 24%.

What’s more, a year-end roundup of polls from Newsweek shows Trump is already the frontrunner for 2024, despite not having officially announced yet. No candidate comes within striking distance of Trump, who is the number one choice for around 90% of Republicans.

What is abundantly clear is that Trumpism isn’t going anywhere, and for many Trump supporters, loyalty to the GOP is slim to none. As MRF noted last week:

“Loyalty to the GOP of old is in the gutter as many Americans are recognizing just how self-serving politicians on both sides of the aisle are. The Republican Party is splintering apart, shedding the neoconservative, globalist policies of the early 2000’s and building an unapologetically populist coalition that demands leaders focus on the needs of Americans.” 

As true as it is that anti-establishment Trump supporters are a defining force within the GOP, there is an ever-widening split on the right between Trumpers and those who support the old Mitch McConnell establishment GOP.

Trump continues to draw widespread enthusiasm from men, including men of color, independents, lower-income Americans and Midwesterners. Meanwhile, women, higher income Americans and East Coast Republicans are more likely to favor the establishment GOP.

It’s no surprise that men favor Trump, but 2020 saw that tent expand to include significant portions of Black and Hispanic men. As Market Research Foundation noted in November, Trump ended up winning 18% of Black men this year, up from 13% in 2016, and 36% of Hispanic men, up from 32% in 2016. Exit polls show that Trump supporters, particularly men of color, chose Trump because of his strong leadership. Trump received 71% of the vote among voters who indicated in exit polls that they wanted a string leader.

Men as a group are more likely to be upset about a Biden administration than they are to be enthusiastic or satisfied, and white men without a college degree are especially apprehensive. A recent YouGov survey found just 21% of men are enthusiastic about a Biden administration, while 24% are satisfied but not excited, 17% are dissatisfied but not upset, and 30% are upset. Among white men without a college degree, a full 42% are upset about a Biden administration and only 12% are enthusiastic, but a quarter of white men with a college degree are also upset. 

Although women are more enthusiastic than men about a Biden administration (29% are enthusiastic), 24% are upset, and among women without a college degree that rises to 36%.

Wealthier voters are more enthusiastic about a Biden administration, with 33% of those with income greater than 100K stating enthusiasm, compared to just 25% of those with income between 50K and 100K and 23% of those with income below 50K. Enthusiasm for Biden is lowest in the Midwest, with just 23% of Midwesterners saying they are enthusiastic about a Biden administration, while 30% say they are upset.

Voters 65 and older are significantly more upset about a Biden administration than younger voters a full 39% say they are upset, compared to between 12% and 32% of all younger age cohorts. Enthusiasm is lowest overall among Millennials and younger Gen Xers (age 30 to 44), only 17% of whom are excited about a Biden administration.

Gen Zers (age 18 to 24) and younger Millennials (25 to 30) are also low on enthusiasm, with just 24% saying they are excited about a Biden administration.

As Market Research Foundation noted in November, Trump earned 4 additional points with young Whites in 2020 than he did four years ago, going from 47% in 2016 to 51% in 2020. His numbers with young Hispanics rose 3 points, from 26% in 2016 to 29% this year, and he neither gained nor lost ground with young Blacks, 9% of whom voted for Trump both years.

Trump young votersTrump’s unwavering popularity and ability to make inroads with new groups – like young Americans, Black and Hispanic voters, and first generation immigrants – poses a serious threat to the establishment GOP, as well as the left.

Washington elites spent the last four years in a state of disbelief that President Trump won the election, and no doubt assumed Trumpism would fizzle out after the 2020 election. However, all data points to an intensifying split on the right, as Trumpers remain steadfastly loyal to populism and the President, putting them at odds with status que Republicanism.