New GW Politics Poll Finds Democratic Advantages in Party Support, Issue Positions and Volunteer Activism Held Through the Summer

August 23, 2018

Jason Shevrin: [email protected], 202-994-5631
Timothy Pierce: [email protected], 202-994-5647
WASHINGTON (Aug. 23, 2018)—While Americans believe President Donald Trump may be able to sway voters using his Twitter account, a new edition of the George Washington University Politics Poll found a generally unfavorable environment for Republican candidates continues to shape the 2018 midterm elections. 
The poll, conducted in late July and early August, re-interviewed a group of registered voters first surveyed in May. It found 45 percent approved of the job Mr. Trump was doing, virtually unchanged from the May survey. Moreover, as has been true in most polls, those who strongly disapprove of Trump (46 percent) outnumber those who strongly approve (28 percent). 
“Hope springs eternal that positive economic news will help Republican candidates. There is reason to be doubtful, however,” John Sides, associate professor of political science and a poll co-director, said. “For one, seat swings are more strongly predicted by presidential approval than economic trends. In other words, to the extent that the economy matters, it is via its impact on presidential approval. The problem, though, is that Trump is much less popular than he should be given how people feel about the economy.”
Other unfavorable signs for Republican candidates: The Democrats’ advantage in the generic ballot for U.S. House also remained stable. It was 44-39 in the May poll and is now 45-38. Democrats also report more engagement than Republicans. Democrats were more likely to report sharing political opinions on social media, signing a petition, talking to someone about how to vote, donating to candidates and going to meetings or rallies. 
Several policies closely identified with the Trump administration failed to generate support from the majority of registered voters, including the repeal of the mandate in former President Barack Obama’s health care law that individuals be insured, the ban on emigrants from Muslim-dominated countries, the new tax law, tariffs on steel and aluminum and family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border. 
Asked about Democratic party strategy, a fifth of self-identified Democrats (21 percent) said the party should take more liberal positions to motivate the base, while a quarter (26 percent) said it should take more moderate positions to appeal to independents and swing voters. More than a third (37 percent) said candidates should take whatever positions will help them win.
Republican respondents showed a much more unified front. More than half (59 percent) said candidates should support the president’s positions in order to motivate the party’s base, while only 8 percent said they should break with the president. A fifth (21 percent) said candidates should take whatever positions would help them win.
Respondents were asked what they thought would influence voters as the campaign cycle comes toward its conclusion in November. More than half (53 percent) said Mr. Trump’s tweets and other comments about candidates would influence voters in November. However, two thirds of respondents (67 percent) thought local news stories about candidates will affect voters in 2018, and 58 percent said candidate television ads would be influential as well. 
Only 35 percent of those surveyed thought Russian disinformation would have much influence on voters in 2018. A majority (53 percent) thought misinformation on social media would be influential.
While most respondents did not think Russian efforts to spread disinformation would have an influence, they are still are not confident (63 percent) the government is protecting future elections from foreign interference, nor do they believe (78 percent not confident) social media and data companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter are doing enough to prevent such interference. Between May and late July there also was a slight drop in already-low confidence in Mr. Trump himself doing enough to prevent foreign interference (from 57 percent not confident and 43 percent confident, to 61-39). 
The GW Politics Poll also measured the favorability among registered voters of various specific events and policy topics in the news.
Some Health Care Provisions Popular
While the Affordable Care Act continues to be a divisive issue generally (45 percent favorable, 47 unfavorable; 42 percent support repeal), certain provisions of the law are extremely popular. Most of those surveyed (84 percent) said it’s important to maintain a prohibition on charging sick people more for insurance. A large majority (86 percent) also said it’s important to keep the ban on denying coverage because of preexisting conditions. 
Strong Opposition to Immigrant Family Separations
Public opinion on immigration topics remain mixed, but most people (62 percent) continue to favor allowing children brought into the U.S. illegally to stay in the country. Roughly the same proportion of the public disapproves of separating undocumented immigrant children from their parents (58 percent disapprove, 34 approve), and the opposition is intense (47 percent of the public disagrees strongly with child separation; only 19 percent agrees strongly). 
Thoughts on Roe v. Wade and Abortion
Most people agreed abortion should be legally available in cases of rape (78 percent) and when there’s a threat to the health of the mother (81 percent) or the child (64 percent). There was no scenario provided where a majority thought abortion should be illegal, although 47 percent said it should not be possible if “the woman wants it for any reason” (42 percent said it should).
Despite those dividing lines, more than half of those surveyed (57 percent) said the Supreme Court should not overturn its landmark Roe v. Wade decision (30 percent said it should). With nomination hearings for potential Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh on the horizon, 53 percent of people thought it was unlikely Roe will be overturned. 
Successes and Challenges in Foreign Policy 
Mr. Trump did enjoy a bright spot in foreign policy. A majority (55 percent) supported his decision to hold a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (35 percent opposed). However, people were split (47-44) on a summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Views on trade policy differed depending on the nations involved. Generally, more people disapproved of the president’s steel and aluminum tariffs (49 percent oppose, 38 support). But asked about tariffs on specific countries, 45 percent supported action against Chinese goods, while only 34 percent supported tariffs against Canada. 
Other than tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, the least popular foreign policy decision polled was the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement climate accords; Half (50 percent) of respondents opposed the choice, while 38 percent supported it. 
Pardons Unpopular
While conducted before former Trump advisors Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort guilty statuses were reached in the courts, the poll did confirm earlier findings that most people (57 percent) would find a presidential pardon connected to Russia-investigation charges to be inappropriate. 
Approval ratings for most prominent politicians also stayed close to their numbers from the first wave of the GW Politics Poll in May. For additional data including those new ratings and the public’s views on congressional incumbents, the national outlook, the Russia probe and more, visit the GW Politics Poll website. For interviews with the professors leading the poll, contact GW’s press office.
The GW Politics Poll is managed jointly by GW's School of Media and Public Affairs, Graduate School of Political Management and Department of Political Science. YouGov, a respected leader in online polling, conducted the academic, nonpartisan research poll for GW. This poll was fielded July 23-Aug. 9, 2018 with a sample of 2,716 registered voters (reintroduced from 3,150 who participated in the May 2018 poll) and a margin of error of ±2 percentage points. This is the second of four surveys focused on the 2018 midterm elections. The GW Politics Poll will interview the same respondents once more before the election and then after the election to track public views over the course of the campaign.
The GW Politics Poll continues the strong tradition of public opinion research at GW, which includes the GW Battleground Poll, a nationally recognized series of surveys conducted by Republican pollster Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners. The final edition of the GW Battleground Poll was released in March 2018.
YouGov recruits individuals in a variety of ways into their panel and then uses sample matching to create a representative sample from this nonrandomly selected pool. YouGov has constructed a sampling frame of U.S. citizens from the American Community Survey, including data on age, race, gender, education, marital status, number of children under 18, family income, employment status, citizenship, state and metropolitan area.