Elite Republicans have long assumed that Donald Trump’s support would fizzle quickly. But Trump has dominated the polls for more than a month and appears to be gaining momentum.
If you want to understand why elite Republicans don’t understand his appeal, this tweet has the answer.
Kristol is the editor of the Weekly Standard, which published an article on July 18 entitled “Trump GOP Candidacy Blows Up.” At the time the article was published, Trump was tied for the lead in the national polls with Jeb Bush. He currently leads by 13 points.
The assumption in Kristol’s tweet is that Republican voters want cuts to Medicare and Social Security. Most Republican politicans act this way. Major cuts to Medicare and Social Security have been included in Republican budgets, drafted by Paul Ryan. The “serious” Republican candidates — Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio — all support cuts. It is also a policy favored Republican donors.
But it is not a policy supported by Republican voters.
A Pew poll conducted in 2013 found that just 21% of Republicans favored cuts in Medicare. A higher percentage (24%) favored an increase in Medicare spending. The findings for Social Security were even more dramatic. Just 17% of Republicans favored Social Security spending cuts while 35% favored an increase.
Even among very conservative voters, support for entitlement spending is high. A 2014 Pew poll found that among “consistently conservative” Americans, 59% wanted to maintain current Social Security benefits. Only 38% favored reductions.
Support for any kind of reduction in Social Security benefit is not much higher among very conservative people (38%) than liberals (32%), according to the Pew poll.
Trump clearly understands that. Bill Kristol and Republican elites do not.
Part of Trump’s appeal comes from showmanship, bombast and a willingness to appeal to the darker elements of the Republican electorate. But Trump also benefits from actually supporting policies favored by rank-and-file Republican voters.