Sixty three percent of independents oppose Donald Trump's Paris climate change move
Remember that Trump won independents, who made up about one-third of the 2016 electorate
President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accords last week was cast by most smart observers as a ploy to keep his base in line.
New polling out of the Washington Post and ABC News suggests it will probably work – although the same data make clear that Trump’s decision is almost certain to reinforce doubts about him among Democrats and independents.
Two-thirds of Republicans support Trump’s decision on Paris, according to the Post-ABC poll, with 46% of them supporting the move strongly.
By contrast, 82% of Democrats oppose the Paris move with – and this is stunning – 67% feeling that way strongly. The numbers are similar among independents. Sixty three percent oppose Trump’s move with 51% of those acknowledging “strong” opposition.
What those numbers tell you – beyond the fact that Trump’s decision on Paris was aimed squarely at the base and no one else – is how polarized climate change (and every other issue) has become in our modern American politics.
The average American has very little detailed understanding of what pulling out of the Paris accords means. But lacking the details doesn’t stop people from drawing hard and fast conclusions about how they feel about it. (God bless human nature!)
For a big chunk of Republicans, anything Trump does that liberals – and the media – seem to not like, they are reflexively in favor of. Ditto Democrats, except in reverse. If Trump does it, it’s not bad but is also a part of a broader stepping back from the world stage that they see as corrosive to America’s image around the world.
The real problem for Trump, however, is in neither one of those partisan camps. It’s how dismally the Paris decision polls among independents that should really concern the president.
Remember that Trump won independents, who made up roughly one-third of the total 2016 electorate, by four points over Hillary Clinton. While the energy within the Republican base was clearly a major factor in Trump’s win, he simply doesn’t get over the top in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin without independent voters.
In Michigan, Trump won independents by 16 points. In Pennsylvania, he carried them by 7. And in Wisconsin, Trump beat Clinton among independents by 10.
Now, it’s important to remember that, historically, climate change has not been an issue that has animated large numbers of independents to cast their votes one way or another. So, while lots of independents oppose Trump’s Paris decision, it’s far less clear how many of them will actually vote on the issue come 2018 or 2020. If past is prologue, the answer is not all that many.
The bigger worry for Trump is that his decision on the Paris climate accords wind up being part of a broader concoction that leads independents to conclude that for all of his outsider credentials, he simply doesn’t represent their broader views on a whole host of issues.
Such a conclusion reached by a bloc of independents anywhere near either the 2018 or 2020 elections could spell big trouble for Trump and the Republican Party he leads.