Survey: two in three Trump supporters want a president who breaks the rules

Survey: two in three Trump supporters want a president who breaks the rules
The latest American Values Survey finds a deepening polarisation, as Trump diehards stay loyal but fractures appear in the Republican party
By David Smith in Washington
Dec 5 2017

The spectre of “authoritarian” leadership has been raised by a survey that shows two in three Donald Trump supporters think America needs a president willing to break rules in order to set the country right.

The eighth annual American Values Survey from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) revealed fractures in the Republican party and deepening polarisation in America.

Assaults on government agencies, the judiciary and the media have been a feature of the Trump presidency, prompting critics to draw comparisons with autocrats in Africa, the Middle East and Russia. His strongest supporters do not appear to object.

Some 66% of Republicans classified by the researchers as “Always Trump” agreed that “because things have gotten so far off track in this country, we need a leader who is willing to break some rules if that’s what it takes to set things right”, according to a random sample of 2,019 adults.

More than half (55%) of all Republicans or Republican-leaning independents hold the same view, although Trump’s sworn opponents disagree.

Robert Jones, chief executive of the PRRI, told an audience at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Tuesday: “Among the ‘Never Trump’ camp, only 35% agree that this kind of authoritarian leader is the kind we need.”

Nearly a year into his wildly unorthodox presidency, the survey shows Trump retaining diehard loyalty but hemorrhaging support elsewhere. Just over four in 10 Americans (41%) approve of the job he is doing. A majority (54%) disapprove.

But 84% of Republicans, including more than nine in 10 “strong” Republicans, approve of the job Trump is doing as president. More than seven in 10 white evangelicals approve. Nearly a third of white evangelical Protestants say there is almost nothing Trump could do to lose their approval.

Still, around one in three Republicans say they would prefer the 2020 GOP presidential nominee be someone other than Trump. There has been speculation that moderates such as Ohio governor John Kasich could mount a challenge.

Jones said: “After a tumultuous first year in office, a significant minority of Republicans would prefer another candidate in 2020. But key Republican base groups such as white evangelical Protestants are maintaining their commitment to the president.”

If the 2018 midterm elections were held today, 44% of registered voters would support the Democrat while 37% would vote Republican.

But as the current US Senate race in Alabama involving alleged sexual abuser Roy Moore has illustrated, tribal divisions run deep. Negative views of the other party among partisans are nearly identical. A majority of Republicans (52%) say Democratic policies are so misguided they present a threat to the country; 39% believe Democratic policies are misguided but not dangerous.

Democrats hold similarly negative attitudes toward Republicans: most (54%) feel Republicans policies pose a threat to the country while 38% believe they are simply misguided.


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