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People Are Skeptical Of The GOP’s Tax Bill. Can Trump Change Their Minds?

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup. Today’s theme song: “Then Came You” from the television show “Webster.”

Poll of the week

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released this week found that just 25 percent of Americans think President Trump’s tax plan is a good idea — before the legislation had even been presented to the public. More Americans, 35 percent, believe it’s a bad idea. Perhaps most worrying for Trump is that the bill’s level of popularity (again, before its actual unveiling, which happened Thursday) is more comparable to that of recent legislation that didn’t pass than that which did.

Take a look at arguably the two most important pieces of legislation that passed in the past decade: the Affordable Care Act and the 2009 economic stimulus package. With Obamacare, 33 percent of Americans thought it was a good idea in April 2009, when pollsters first asked the question, compared with 26 percent who thought it was a bad idea. The numbers were even better for the economic stimulus package: 43 percent believed it was a good idea in January 2009, when pollsters first asked about it, to just 27 percent who believed it was a bad idea. This initial popularity likely made it easier to move these bills forward.

On the other hand, Trump’s tax plan looks a lot more like failed legislative efforts. The 25 percent of people who think Trump’s proposal is a good idea nearly equals the 23 percent in May who thought the Republican health care bill that was passed by the House was a good idea before the Senate put forward its bill. Granted, a much higher 48 percent thought the health care bill was a bad idea than don’t like the tax plan. But that gap still has a bad precedent: President George W. Bush’s unsuccessful attempt to privatize Social Security efforts in 2005. When Americans were first polled about it in December 2004, 38 percent said it was a good idea and 50 percent thought it was a bad idea. The lack of popularity of these bills no doubt made legislators more hesitant to pass them.

The good news for Trump is that many Americans, 39 percent, haven’t yet formed an opinion on the tax reform bill, according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey. That is, Trump still has time to convince the public.

The bad news for Trump is that undecided Americans are probably not favorably disposed to Trump on taxes. A CBS News survey released this week found that only 38 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing on taxes compared with 50 percent who disapprove. A majority — 56 percent — in the CBS News poll said Trump’s tax cut plan would most benefit the rich; 13 percent said it would most benefit the middle class, and 24 percent said everyone would benfit equally. That’s a big no-no for popularity because, as I have noted previously, Americans don’t want to reduce taxes on the wealthy. In the CBS News survey, 58 percent of Americans said they wanted taxes on the wealthy to increase.

Luckily for the Republicans, tax reform isn’t a top issue for most Americans. If that continues to be the case, voter opinion might not greatly affect the bill’s chance of passage. And Republicans should have the enthusiastic support of their donors to help push this through.

Other polling nuggets

  • An ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 49 percent of Americans think it’s likely that Trump committed a crime “in connection with possible Russian attempts to influence” the 2016 election. In contrast, 44 percent think he didn’t. Americans were also split on the indictments of Trump former campaign manager Paul Manafort and aide Rick Gates and the guilty plea from campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopolous. A plurality think the three did something wrong (48 percent for Manafort and Gates and 46 percent for Papadopolous), according to a YouGov survey. But many said they aren’t sure what to think (43 percent for Manafort and Gates and 47 percent for Papadopolous).
  • Thirty-six percent of Americans — a 21-year high — said in a Washington Post poll that they were not proud of how American democracy was working. That’s double the share who said they felt that way in the 2014 General Social Survey and four times the percentage who felt that way in a 2002 Washington Post poll.
  • Phil Murphy, the Democratic candidate for governor in New Jersey, still seems to be cruising to victory in next week’s election, according to surveys released this week from Emerson College, Monmouth University, Rasmussen Reports and Suffolk University. Emerson and Suffolk have him up 16 percentage points over the Republican candidate, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, Rasmussen gives him a 15-point edge and Monmouth puts him up 14 points.
  • Arguably, Guadagno’s biggest problem is Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who has reached a new approval rating low per Suffolk University. Just 14 percent of New Jersey voters approve of the job he’s doing. That ties him for the third-lowest approval rating of any governor in recent history, considering the worst poll for each.
  • Meanwhile in the Virginia gubernatorial contest, Democrat Ralph Northam seems to be holding onto his lead over Republican Ed Gillespie ahead of next week’s election. The Washington Post, Christopher Newport University, Quinnipiac University and Suffolk University give Northam an edge of anywhere from 4 to 17 percentage points. The Polling Company, though, has the candidates tied at 44 percent. An average of these five polls puts Northam up 7 points.
  • The share of employed women who said they had experienced sexual harassment at work (48 percent) is nearly as high as the share who told NBC News/Wall Street Journal pollsters that they hadn’t (52 percent). There was no statistically significant partisan gap, but women who are younger than 35 were more likely to say they had encountered sexual harassment than those older than 55 (56 percent to 40 percent).
  • The percentage of Americans who favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder dropped to 55 percent in Gallup’s latest survey on the topic. That’s the lowest share that Gallup has measured since 1972.
  • A plurality of voters (28 percent) said they were undecided in the 2018 Arizona Senate Republican primary after Republican Sen. Jeff Flake announced that he would not seek re-election, according to Data Orbital. Among the candidates and potential candidates, Steve Bannon-backed Kelli Ward had the most support — 26 percent, compared with 19 percent for the more establishment friendly Martha McSally.
  • Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker’s approval rating dropped 7 percentage points in his home state in the wake of his tangles with Trump, according to the Middle Tennessee State University poll. Only 45 percent of Tennessee voters approve of the job Corker is doing now, compared with 52 percent in February. Corker’s disapproval rating during that same period rose from 27 percent to 41 percent.
  • Americans are split on whether a stranger’s life is worth “just as much as” the lives of friends and relatives, according to a YouGov survey. Forty-nine percent said “definitely,” while the rest were split between “probably,” “maybe,” “probably not” and “definitely not.” Interestingly, just 39 percent of those younger than 30 said definitely, compared with the 58 percent of people aged 65 or older.

Trump’s job approval rating

Trump’s job approval rating is 38.0 percent, while his disapproval rating is 56.4 percent. Those are about the same as they were last week, when his approval rating was 37.5 percent and his disapproval rating was 56.7 percent.

The generic ballot

Democrats hold a 46.6 percent to 37.9 percent advantage over the Republicans on the generic congressional ballot. While still a wide lead, it’s down from the 48.6 percent to 35.5 percent gap last week.

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