The latest survey numbers from America First Policies, the nonprofit affiliate of a pro-Donald Trump super PAC, were obviously intended to make the president's agenda look popular. Using strongly leading language—a question about immigration asked respondents if they supported "open borders"; a question on healthcare asked people whether they would prefer "getting rid of fraud and waste in the system" to "creating a whole new healthcare system"—the poll found that people were more in favor of Republican positions than leftist policies. In the context of this survey, that is less than shocking.
But even this partisan poll found a pretty striking level of support for radical progressive positions. Though it trumpeted the finding that 62 percent of voters "believe the United States should continue as a capitalist economy," it also found that 19 percent of voters wanted socialism. But even more surprising was that 25 percent of self-identified Trump supporters wanted to abolish ICE, while 24 percent thought Medicare should be expanded to everyone—both positions usually associated with the bleeding left-wing edge of the Democratic Party.
The caveat here is that a great deal probably depends on how the poll questions were worded. For instance, though a quarter of Trump supporters said they'd be in favor of abolishing ICE, when given the statement "We should have open borders, amnesty, allow sanctuary cities, and abolish ICE," only 8 percent of MAGA types agreed with it. But it's amazing that so many Trump fans favored the idea, even in the abstract, of abolishing the agency associated as much as any other with the president in the public imagination.
The broader lesson is that though a great deal has been written about "NeverTrump" conservatives—mostly because many of them have jobs in the media—there is a less-discussed faction of Trump fans who may like or even trust the president personally but remain unsold on his Republican agenda. An inconvenient truth for people who write about politics as a war between two competing ideologies is that some political science research shows that many voters don't follow politics closely, have inconsistent or contradictory views on issues, and can swing from being liberal to conservative in the space of a few years.
Among those of us who follow politics closely, results like these poll numbers don't really make sense. Why would you support Trump and at the same time favor policies he hates? For that matter, how could you vote for Barack Obama then turn around and vote for a man who obviously wanted to tear his legacy down? But a lot of Americans follow politics casually and don't carefully select their candidates based on stated policy goals. That means that many Trump voters are totally reachable by the right Democrat, and that, in 2020, the right candidate won't need to tack meekly to the center to win them.
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