Skip to main content
ABC News
Is The Economy Protecting Trump From A Trade War Backlash?

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll of the week

Trade wars can sting. Talks between the U.S. and China broke down this month, and President Trump raised tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports to 25 percent from the 10 percent he imposed in September. The import taxes have affected a variety of U.S. industries, with reports that farmers and manufacturers are hurting. Consumers may also be feeling the effects, with retailers like Walmart and Macy’s indicating that prices may rise.

And there is evidence suggesting that Trump’s approach to China is becoming more unpopular among the public. According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday, the share of Americans who say they approve of the way Trump is handling the nation’s policy toward China is 40 percent, a decline of 7 points from April 2017, when Trump first met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on trade. But while Trump’s handling of the U.S. relationship with China may be losing popularity as the trade war escalates, one reason it may not be more unpopular is that the economy is strong.

The U.S. unemployment rate in April dropped to its lowest point in nearly 50 years — 3.6 percent. Employment numbers have grown for more than 100 months in a row, and more than 20 million jobs have been created since 2009. Americans’ confidence in the U.S. job market has also increased. In May, Gallup found that the share of Americans who say that now is a good time to find a quality job was 71 percent — the highest level since Gallup first asked the question, in 2001. And the Quinnipiac poll that came out this week found that the share of Americans who feel “the state of the nation’s economy” is either “excellent” or “good” was also 71 percent — its highest point in nearly 18 years. As you can see in the chart below, according to Quinnipiac polls, the share of Republicans and Democrats who say the economy is either “good” or “excellent” has increased. In this week’s poll, 54 percent of Democrats and 92 percent of Republicans said they thought the economy was either excellent or good; that’s an increase of 3 points and 24 points, respectively, from April 2017.

As long as the economy continues to do well, Trump may not be risking much by doubling down on his strategy with China — despite headlines about how the trade war is hurting U.S. businesses. A CBS News poll conducted last week found that even though 49 percent of Americans anticipate that the tariffs will lead to short-term economic pain, 39 percent — a plurality — felt that they could lead to better trade deals with China in the long run. And 6 in 10 Americans said that they favor China changing their trade policies toward the U.S.

But things could get complicated for the president if the trade dispute continues. This month, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden dismissed the idea that China poses an economic threat to the U.S., saying that the country is “not competition for us.” This drew criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, many of whom said Biden was downplaying China’s economic strength, but there is some evidence that Americans think Biden would be a better manager of the country’s relationship with China than Trump is. A Fox News poll conducted this month found that 42 percent of Americans thought Biden would do a better job “protecting America’s interests with China,” compared with 38 percent who thought Trump would do a better job.

With the Trump administration already threatening higher tariffs on Chinese imports and the Chinese government seemingly preparing for a prolonged trade conflict, other candidates’ approach to handling trade with China may become more appealing to voters.

Other polling bites

  • 44 percent of Americans said in a CBS News poll conducted May 17-20 that they believe abortion should be “generally available” to those who want it. Thirty-four percent said the procedure should be available but under stricter limits than there are now. And 20 percent said abortion should not be permitted. The pollster also asked respondents about their views on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 court decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. A majority said the Supreme Court should not overturn it.
  • It’s been more than a month since the release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and according to a Monmouth University poll, 52 percent of Americans think Congress should move on to other issues. However, 69 percent said Congress should have access to a full, unredacted version of the report, and 54 percent think Mueller should appear before Congress and testify publicly.
  • According to that same Monmouth poll, 39 percent of Americans think Trump “should be impeached and compelled to leave the presidency,” while 56 percent, including 21 percent of Democrats, do not. Since the pollster first asked the question in July 2017, support for impeachment has been between 36 percent and 42 percent.
  • 38 percent of Democrats said in a YouGov/Economist poll that almost all their friends are Democrats. And 24 percent of Republicans said that almost all their friends are Republicans.
  • According to a poll of Americans who live in rural areas conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard University, about 1 in 4 respondents said that at some point in the past few years, they didn’t get health care that they needed. Of the more than 7,000 areas in the U.S. that are underserved by health care professionals, 60 percent are located in rural areas, according to data from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.
  • After the final “Game of Thrones” episode aired on HBO on Sunday, Morning Consult asked fans of the show whether they planned to keep paying for the channel. Eight percent said they had already canceled their HBO subscriptions, and 19 percent said they planned to cancel. Fifty-five percent said they had no plans to cancel, and 17 percent were not sure.
  • European countries are holding European Parliament elections this weekend. In the United Kingdom, the Brexit Party, which formed only a few months ago, is projected to win 25 of the 73 seats allotted to the U.K. in the 751-seat body, according to Politico’s election model. That’s more seats than any other individual party is projected to win.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 41.2 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 53.9 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -12.7 points). At this time last week, 42.0 percent approved and 53.1 percent disapproved (for a net approval rating of -11.1 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 41.3 percent and a disapproval rating of 53.5 percent, for a net approval rating of -12.2 points.

From ABC News:

President Trump on China trade war: ‘I love the position we’re in’

Check out all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the 2020 elections.

Dhrumil Mehta was a database journalist at FiveThirtyEight.