In diverse, rural counties in North and South Carolina, people are strongly supportive of President Donald Trump. In a dense Urban Suburb around Denver, they are not. There’s less certainty about the president’s performance in Rural Middle America counties in Iowa. Those are some findings in a new poll from the Taubman Center at Brown University, released Wednesday.
The poll is an attempt to dig into five different kinds of communities using the American Communities Project county typology. It looks at the types above as well as the Kent County Rhode Island, a Middle Suburb, and Chester County Pennsylvania, an Exurb in the ACP breakdown. The ACP county map is below.
The Trump presidency is having a unique impact on the electorate, exciting new voters and causing concern among others. The poll from the Taubman Center, part of Brown’s Winston Institute for international and Public Affairs, captures many of those effects.
On the whole the Taubman Center poll shows Trump doing better than might be expected in educated, well-to-do Chester and doing not as well as one might think in Kent. But beyond the basic job performance numbers, the poll sheds light on some of issues that seem to be creating the splits in the electorate.
Kent County Rhode Island, Middle Suburb: The Middle Suburbs were a big win for Trump in 2016, he carried them by more than 13 points. Kent, an aging industrial hub, bares the classic marks of that kind of community. People here favor pulling back on trade agreements 38% favor/ 33% oppose and those numbers jump when the question becomes pulling back on China trade agreements, 42% favor/ 27% oppose. But there is less interest in defunding Planned Parenthood, 35%/ 52% oppose. And there is opposition to getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, 36% favor/ 49% oppose. Those numbers, plus Trump’s lower 43% job performance number in Kent suggest the president has work to do in these communities and trade may be a prime target. Trump’s change of heart on China could hurt him in Kent and other Middle Suburbs.
Iowa counties, Rural Middle America: Trump won Rural Middle America by a solid 28 points in November. In many ways the numbers from these counties are the mirror image Kent, key data points are reversed. People in these counties strongly favor getting rid of the ACA, 45% favor/ 31% oppose. And they slightly support defunding Planned Parenthood, 44% favor/ 41% oppose. But they have mixed feelings on pulling back on trade agreements compared to Kent, only 31% favor/ 30% oppose and if the question is pulling back on trade deal with China, 35% favor/ 33% oppose. What accounts for this trade differences? Agricultural exports likely play a role. The point is, this is a different kind of Republican in these counties and so far they feel a bit more positive about President Trump.
Arapahoe County Colorado, Urban Suburb: Over the past decade big, dense counties like this have been moving left politically to become dark navy blue — Trump lost the Urban Suburbs by 19 points in November— and Arapahoe shows why in this poll. People here strongly oppose getting rid of the Affordable Care Act 33% favor/ 49% oppose, but oppose dumping it even more when it is called Obamacare 29% favor/ 54% oppose. They also strongly oppose building the border wall, 56%. Voters are evenly split on pulling back on trade agreements and Arapahoe was the county type in the poll where more voters believe Trump has ties to Russia, 45%, than disbelieve that statement, 37%. In short, Arapahoe shows the continuing struggles Trump is having in dense urban communities.
North Carolina counties, African American South: At first, poll numbers show Trump doing well here may come as a surprise. Black voters tend to be strongly anti-Trump. But remember, the southern states were strongholds for Trump during the GOP nominating contests and these counties offer a good reason as to why: they also hold large numbers (often majorities) of rural white voters. And in this poll, these counties took the pro-Trump position on every point. People here favor getting rid of the ACA, 42% favor/ 33% oppose, but they strongly favor dumping Obamacare, 57% favor/ 27% oppose. They strongly favor the president’s temporary ban of visitors from Muslim countries 55% favor/ 24% oppose and they support building a wall on the Mexican border 49% favor/ 36% oppose. They want to pull back on trade agreements 40%/ 26% and even more trade agreements with China 50%/ 18%. And they favor defunding Planned Parenthood 46%/ 31%. This is Trump’s core group of voters and they are with him.
Chester County Pennsylvania, Exurb: The best news for Trump in the poll may be his breaking even on job performance in Chester County. The president lost Chester, long a GOP stronghold (as Exurbs generally are), by about 9 points in November, so 49% rating his performance as good or excellent is something of a win for him. But some of that may be residual Republican “give him a chance” support. On the issues, people in Chester have concerns. They have mixed feelings about getting rid of the ACA 46% favor/ 43% oppose and they are against dumping Obamacare 42% favor/ 50% oppose. They oppose building a wall on the Mexican border. On the whole, they favor pulling back on trade agreements 44% favor/ 34% oppose, but are more mixed on pulling back in trade agreements with China, 38% favor/ 34% oppose. But they oppose defunding Planned Parenthood 39% favor/ 51% oppose. In short, Chester and places like it bear close watching.
The point in all these numbers may be less about how Trump is doing now in communities, and more about what comes next. For all the news the president has generated in the opening 100 days of his presidency, there have not been many major accomplishments, particularly in Congress. The numbers from these communities suggest that as Trump pursues different policies he may find big challenges with different segments of his supporters.