Americans at Odds with Trump Policies -- and Priorities

Americans at Odds with Trump Policies -- and Priorities

Trump's policy agenda is losing traction among the American public as he begins his third year in office, according to a January Pew Research Center report. From the economy to health care to the environment, voters find themselves increasingly at odds with both the president’s priorities and apparent solutions.

As in years past, the economy ranks first among voters’ policy concerns. But since the end of the Great Recession, that concern has dropped, from 87 percent of voters saying the economy was their biggest priority to 70 percent today. During Trump’s time in office alone, that number has dropped 5 percentage points.

Despite this shift, Trump has made economic recovery a centerpiece of his domestic agenda—often in unpopular ways. He has damaged relationships with key partners, such as China, Mexico, and Canada, by threatening trade wars and undermining trade agreements.

Yet Americans clearly do not approve of his supposed solutions. Over the past two years, support for NAFTA has gone up by 7 percentage points. Meanwhile, fewer voters are concerned about China’s presence than anytime in the past 15 years. 

Trump has also put immigration and terrorism at the top of his domestic agenda, often conflating the two through dog-whistle Islamophobia. Once again, voters don’t seem to be buying it. While immigration remains an important issue for Americans, the percentage of people concerned about terrorism is at its lowest since the September 11 attacks. From the time of Trump’s inauguration, this share has dropped nine points, from 76 to 67 percent. It would not be surprising if this percentage dropped even more due to the recent shutdown negotiations with Congress. Few outside of Trump’s base approved of the president’s hard-line approach regarding the border wall. Even now, less than 40 percent view his national emergency declaration favorably.

Meanwhile, due in part to Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act, more Americans view health care as their biggest concern than at any point since 2008. It’s not hard to see why: Since taking office, Trump has worked to undercut Obamacare at every turn, from attacking protections for patients with pre-existing conditions to allowing higher premiums that undercut the individual mandate. In response, the public made health care the most important issue for the midterm 2018 elections. Approval of Obamacare has even increased.  

Finally, in spite of the administration’s fervent climate denial, protecting the environment saw the most dramatic rise on Americans’ list of priorities. Over the past two years, Trump has waged a vicious war against environmental policy and climate science, empowering fossil-fuel interests, undermining the scientific consensus on climate change, and withdrawing from the critical Paris Agreement, which aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Trump also gutted the budget and staff of the Environmental Protection Agency, giving polluters an increasingly free reign to defy federal regulations. However, according to a 2018 study by the Pew Research Center, most people want more regulation to protect the planet, not less. In this sense, the president is failing the citizens of the U.S. by not helping air and water quality and maintaining enough natural habitat. This is why legislation such as the Green New Deal has arisen in Congress.

Overall, people want change, but not the kind that Trump wants to deliver.