On Thursday, Pew Research released new data on the 2016 electorate that gives more definition to the resilience of support for Donald Trump. They asked a representative sample of Trump voters to rate the president on a scale from 0 to 100—with 100 representing purely positive or “warm” feelings about him—and had them revisit their opinions over time. As of March, a 62 percent majority of Trump voters feel “very warm” about him, having given him a rating of 76 or higher. That’s only a notch down from the 63 percent who felt very warmly immediately after the election in November 2016, and substantially more than the 43 percent who felt so in April 2016, just before Trump clinched the nomination.
The report goes on to classify Trump voters into four groups: “skeptics” who have consistently disliked Trump despite voting for him; the “disillusioned,” who have soured on Trump substantially; “converts,” who were “cold or neutral” about Trump but have since grown more positive; and “enthusiasts” who’ve consistently been positive about Trump. According to Pew, there are nearly four times as many “converts” who’ve come to think more highly of Trump (23 percent of Trump voters) as there are disillusioned Trump voters (6 percent). Fifty-nine percent of Trump voters are enthusiasts. The average rating for Trump given by those Pew classified as “converts” in April 2016 was 27. By this past March, that rating had shot up to 85, just slightly under the average rating given by enthusiasts, 88.
These results should be considered alongside a recent analysis of Gallup data that challenges the theory that Trump’s consistently high approval ratings among Republicans have been inflated by Trump critics leaving the party in disgust. On Twitter last month, Pollster’s Charles Franklin noted that Republican Party affiliation was only down 3 to 4 points in 2017 from the year before. Gallup’s numbers show moreover that the party took a sharper dip of about 4 to 5 points in the aftermath of the 2012 election before rebounding in time for the 2014 midterms. When voters who lean Republican are factored in, the GOP is only one percentage point below its average proportion of supporters since 2004.
It should be obvious, given these and other numbers, that no large exodus away from Trump by supporters appalled by his presidency looms, and any political strategy that hinges exclusively on Trump voters seeing the light is certain to fail.