Months before election, Trump finds himself at odds with most Americans' views
By James Oliphant, Chris Kahn and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The makeshift fences that separated the demonstrators from the White House have fallen. But its resident, President Donald Trump, appears to be more isolated than ever.
Recent polls, including a Reuters / Ipsos poll this week, continue to show that Trump is clearly lagging behind democratic challenger Joe Biden with just over four months to go until the November 3 election.
Even more revealing, however, is the fact that a president is becoming increasingly disconnected from the American electorate, whose views have changed rapidly since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, on May 25th in police custody in Minneapolis.
The lightning-fast change in public opinion has resulted in the National Football League and NASCAR embracing athletes protesting racial injustices and renaming some companies brands that have been criticized for racist stereotypes, such as PepsiCo Incs <PEP.O> Aunt Jemima Pancake mix and syrup.
According to an analysis of Reuters / Ipsos survey data since March, Trump is taking the less popular side of topics that Americans currently say are important, such as the coronavirus pandemic and police reform.
It also shows that he is showing bleeding support from a wide range of voters, even those who have been most loyal to him, such as rural Americans and white evangelicals.
Biden is now 13 points ahead of Trump, the largest in the Reuters / Ipsos poll since the Democratic nomination competition began earlier this year. This can be attributed to considerable growth among suburban residents, the independent and high-income people.
Even traditionally Republican-oriented groups - men, white suburban women and over 55-year-olds - have recently opted for bids, as the survey analysis shows. Trump led older voters until May.
Several former White House officials said the president needed to demonstrate more that he understood the challenges facing black people in the United States.
"He needs to be more open to the legitimate concerns that many minorities and African Americans face," said one official, asking not to be named to speak freely.
Trump's supporters said there was enough time to change things and a likely economic recovery would support his reelection offer on time for November.
Record surprises in US economic data in recent weeks have raised expectations of a V-shaped recovery from the COVID-19 recession, which has pushed unemployment higher.
But Trump's apparent reluctance to try to unite a country that has been hit by multiple crises and instead continue to be enthusiastic about his base of hardcore followers would leave him with the economy as his last resort, experts say.
In a silver lining for the president, 43% of registered voters in the latest Reuters / Ipsos poll said Trump would be a better manager of the economy than Biden, while 38% said Biden would be better.
"His continued focus on his base costs him a handful of moderate Republicans and Independents," said John Geer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University, who checked the survey data. "If this trend continues, this election could go very wrong with the incumbent."
The Trump campaign did not respond to the poll results. But Trump has insisted on Twitter that he join the nation's values, saying that his followers are part of a "silent majority" - a phrase Republican President Richard Nixon used 50 years ago in a similar period of social unrest .
AGAINST THE GRAIN
The numbers tell a different story.
While surveys show that almost two-thirds of the respondents sympathize with the demonstrators over the brutality of the police, Trump has openly flirted with using the military to "dominate" them. Earlier this month, the Washington police forcefully removed peaceful protesters to allow Trump to pose for photos in front of a church near the White House.
Trump also rejected growing calls for comprehensive police reform proposals after Floyd's murder. According to surveys by Reuters / Ipsos, 82% of Americans want to prohibit police from using chokeholds, 83% want to prohibit racial profiling, 92% want federal police to wear body cameras, and 91% support independent police agency investigations into the patterns show misconduct.
None of these measures were included in a police reform that Trump signed earlier this week.
Trump rejected the coronavirus threat early and went up against the state governors to slow their spread. He will resume his signature rallies in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday as new COVID-19 cases arise in the state and 76% of Americans are still concerned about the spread of the novel corona virus, according to the latest Reuters / Ipsos survey.
A new memory of Trump's separation came on Monday when his handpicked Supreme Court election, Judge Neil Gorsuch, wrote a landmark decision that protected gay and transgender workers from discrimination in the workplace. Just last week, Trump's government decided to deprive transgender patients of health care protection.
Trump has always crossed the razor blade as a candidate. "His presidency never coincided with the majority opinion in this country," said Geer.
But Trump was able to position itself as an insurgent against the establishment in 2016, fueling fears of white working class voters about jobs leaving the country and an influx of immigrants. This helped him win the state electoral college census that governs the presidency, even though he lost the referendum.
Trump's long-standing promise to fight immigration, however, was put out of focus when the corona virus and the economy became key concerns. Even among Republicans, only 8% state that immigration is their main concern in the latest survey. This is a huge drop from January 2019, when 34% of Republicans described it as the country's most important problem.
Analysts also say that a complaint-based policy that is geared towards white Americans may have lost relevance given the settlement of the injustices that African Americans face - and that Trump, as president, had trouble finding others who are responsible for the state of the nation.
Between April and June, Trump's approval rate among white Evangelicals dropped 11 percentage points. Rural voter approval fell 14 points last month. More than half of the respondents indicated that they agreed with the Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
Republican strategist Alex Conant said the party is looking forward to a "very bad" year in 2020, with Trump's polls influencing other key races in the Senate and voting. But he added that November was not a matter of course.
"Five months is a long time in politics," he said.
Graphic - turning away from Trump: https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-ELECTION/TRUMP-DISCONNECT/xklvygaxyvg/index.html
(Reporting by James Oliphant, Chris Kahn and Jeff Mason; editing by Soyoung Kim and Peter Cooney)
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