New Poll Finds Republican Voters Strongly Back Trump’s Action on Steel Imports

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Mar 14 2018 |
Photo by The White House

Seventy percent of GOP voters support the president’s steel and aluminum tariffs.

The takes around President Trump’s decision to act on steel and aluminum imports have, as they say, been hot.

For an issue that typically is confined to policy wonks, Trump’s trade action dominated the airwaves and editorial pages for days. But missing from most of the coverage has been any real insight as to how Trump’s decision is being received among voters (along with nuance on what the tariffs will actually do — click here for more on that).

Now we have the first bit of data. On Wednesday, Morning Consult/Politico revealed the results of a new poll of 1,997 registered voters, finding that a plurality — 41 percent — support the tariffs, while 35 percent oppose them.

Not surprisingly, there’s a strong party breakdown to the numbers.

On the Democratic side, 54 percent oppose the action. About 25 percent of Democrats support the tariffs; that number drops to 22 percent when Democrats are told of Trump’s support for them.

It's fair to assume that at least some of the Democratic opposition to the tariffs stems from the left’s general disdain for Trump; The Resistance has no desire to cooperate or agree with the president on anything. In true Trump fashion, the president didn’t help matters by rolling out the tariffs in such a chaotic way.

What’s worth noting is that a lot of Trump’s trade agenda echoes “what some Democratic lawmakers have advocated for decades,” Morning Consult reports.

Indeed, much of the congressional support for action on steel imports has come from Democratic lawmakers, and if the latest election results show anything, it’s that trade is still a winning message for Democrats.

Rep.-elect Conor Lamb, the Democrat who won Tuesday’s special election in a Pennsylvania district that Trump easily captured in 2016, supported the tariffs. The Washington Post noted that Lamb “often echoed Trump’s views on trade, in effect stealing back an issue that Democrats have used for decades to rally working-class voters.”

But enough about the Democrats — the most interesting part of the poll findings has to do with the president’s own party.

Trump’s action is backed by 64 percent of Republicans — even when they were not told the president is leading the effort. When poll respondents were told of Trump’s support, the number jumps to 70 percent.

Meanwhile, most of the opposition to the tariffs on Capitol Hill has come from Republicans, including Speaker Paul Ryan.

It’s worth keeping in mind that before Trump won the general election, he had to beat 16 other major candidates for the Republican nomination. Almost all of Trump’s opponents followed the traditional free trade party line. Trump beat them all while running on his tough-on-trade message, shocking much of the Republican establishment in the process.

Two years later, that divide in the Republican party between establishment leaders and the GOP base is again apparent. While policymakers like Ryan continue to push for free trade, the party's rank-and-file support the president's decision to get tougher on the issue.

Given all that’s happened politically over the past two years, it’s a fool’s errand to try and guess what the future holds. And since we’re a nonpartisan bunch here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing, we aren’t going to pick sides.

But what we will say is that these latest poll findings reaffirm that Republican voters want to see strong action from Washington when it comes to trade. Meanwhile, Lamb’s election shows that Democrats can win in traditionally conservative districts with the right message — one which includes trade enforcement.

Perhaps establishment Republicans should take note.