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If The GOP Wants A More Popular Tax Plan, Minor Tweaks Won’t Be Enough

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup. Today’s theme song: “You Can Count on Me” from the television show “My Two Dads.”

Poll of the week

A Quinnipiac University survey released on Wednesday found that just 25 percent of voters approved of the Republican tax plan. A majority, 52 percent, disapproved. That’s really bad and in line with prior polling.

Senate Republicans seem intent on pressing forward anyway and are now trying to include a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate in the bill. But while attaching a partial Obamacare repeal to tax legislation is probably a mistake politically, some of the GOP’s recent tweaks to the legislation suggest that they’re reading the same polling we are and trying to improve the politics of their tax push.

Tweaks, however, likely won’t be enough.

Remember, the health care debate wasn’t pleasant for the GOP. While 25 percent of voters approved of the Republican tax plan in Quinnipiac’s most recent poll, an even lower 19 percent approved of the party’s health care bill the last time Quinnipiac polled on it in September.

On the other hand, although Obamacare as a whole is fairly popular, the GOP is only going after the individual mandate, which is unpopular. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted this month showed that 55 percent of Americans support eliminating the individual mandate, a key provision of Obamacare that requires almost all Americans to buy insurance or pay a fine. It’s one of the most unpopular parts of the Affordable Care Act.

And the elimination of the individual mandate would supposedly be used to fund middle-class tax cuts. That’s a good move politically. Polling shows that a big reason the Republican tax plan is unpopular is that many people think it benefits the rich. In Quinnipiac’s survey, only 30 percent of Americans said they believe the tax cut will largely help the middle or lower class compared to 61 percent who say it will mostly help the upper class.

Senate Republicans have also made some other changes that are likely to be popular. Their bill would now increase the child tax credit to $2,000 per child, for instance. Morning Consult found that 60 percent of voters supported that credit as it was originally proposed at $1,600 per child. In addition, the latest bill dropped the tax rate for those making between $38,700 and $200,000. That, in theory, could help Republicans claim that the middle class is seeing benefits from the tax plan.

Of course, it’s probably too little, too late.1 Voters aren’t wrong about the Republican plan: The GOP legislation still largely benefits the rich more than the poor or middle class, according to a report released on Thursday by the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s nonpartisan tax analysts. It’s very unpopular, and small changes are unlikely to move the needle much.

We’ll have to see if, unlike with the health care debate, Senate Republicans ultimately ignore public opinion and pass a bill.

Other polling nuggets

  • Republican Roy Moore seems to be clinging to a small lead over Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama’s special Senate election despite Moore facing allegations of child molestation, which were first made public on Nov. 9. In seven public polls released since then, Moore has led in four, Jones has led in two and they were tied in the seventh. The average poll has Moore up 46 percent to 44 percent.
  • A majority of both Hillary Clinton voters (53 percent) and Trump voters (84 percent) told YouGov that sexual harassment or sexual assault claims made against Bill Clinton were credible. A majority of Hillary Clinton voters (83 percent) also agreed that sexual harassment or sexual assault claims made against President Trump were credible, but only a small percentage of Trump voters (6 percent) said the same.
  • Just 15 percent of Americans mentioned an economic issue when Gallup asked them to name the U.S’s most important problem. That’s the lowest percentage of respondents to mention the economy since 1999.
  • Most Americans, 56 percent, said the the North American Free Trade Agreement is mostly good for the U.S., compared to 33 percent who said it was mostly bad, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. But there was a big partisan split: 72 percent of Democrats said it was good, compared to only 35 percent of Republicans.
  • The percentage of voters who think North Korea poses an immediate threat to the U.S. (36 percent) is down 12 percentage points in the latest Quinnipiac survey. It was 48 percent in August.
  • More than one-third of Native Americans (35 percent) have personally experienced racial or ethnic slurs, according to a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll.
  • The Republican governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, leads three possible 2018 Democratic challengers by margins ranging from 34 to 40 percentage points in a MassINC poll. Trump’s favorable rating in the same survey of Massachusetts voters was 27 percent.
  • The liberal group Patriot Majority USA released Public Policy Polling surveys from 15 House districts currently held by Republicans. Those polls suggest that Democrats are in a position to win many of those races. In three districts, named Democrats held leads over named Republicans. In nine districts, a generic Democrat was ahead of a named Republican. In one district, a generic Democrat was ahead of a generic Republican.
  • Americans are split 49 percent in favor to 45 percent opposed over whether young men and women should be required to give one year of service (either military or nonmilitary) to the nation, according to a Gallup poll. Republicans and men were more in favor than Democrats and women, but not surprisingly the biggest gap was age. Just 39 percent of those under the age of 30 were in favor, while 66 percent of those 65 and older felt the same way.

Trump’s job approval rating

Trump’s job approval rating barely budged in the last week: 38.1 percent approve of his performance, while 55.7 percent disapprove. Last week, Trump’s approval rating was 37.7 percent to a disapproval rating of 56.6 percent.

The generic ballot

Democrats hold a large advantage over Republicans on the generic congressional ballot: 48.3 percent to 37.3 percent. That’s up from last week, when Democrats were up ahead 46.8 percent to 38.2 percent.

Footnotes

  1. The GOP has also made some other changes, like making corporate tax cuts permanent, that poll more poorly.

Harry Enten is a senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight.

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