Feb 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

First look: Taxes, entitlements test future of GOP

 Data: YouGov; Note: ±3.5% margin of error; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: YouGov; Note: ±3.5% margin of error; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

A major new survey of 2020 Trump voters shows how divided they were over Social Security, Medicare, trade and tax cuts for the rich — while culture, religion and patriotism and the U.S.-Mexico border were unifying issues.

Driving the news: The YouGov survey of 1,000 voters, conducted last month and reviewed by Axios, informs a Friday forum about the future of the GOP hosted by the American Enterprise Institute and Ethics and Public Policy Center. It captures the thinking of this potent slice of the base, not just post-election but post-Jan. 6.

  • "The challenge for Republicans after Trump is how to build on the conservative populist alliance, not to discard the populist part," said EPPC senior fellow Henry Olsen, who directed the study.

By the numbers: Asked to respond to a statement once considered Republican Party orthodoxy — "Cutting the rate of taxes paid by the richest Americans helps to increase economic growth for all of us" — 46% said they disagreed.

  • One-third disputed whether cutting taxes on large corporations helps increase economic growth for everyone.
  • 60% said foreign trade helps the U.S. economy while 40% said it hurts.
  • 40% said foreign trade creates more jobs for Americans while 60% said it reduces the number of jobs for Americans.
  • 55% said controlling the cost of Medicare to taxpayers is more important, but 45% said it's more important to ensure seniors get the health care they need regardless of cost.
  • 63% said it's more important to keep Social Security benefits at current levels even if it means raising payroll taxes, but 37% favored keeping a lid on payroll taxes even if it means cutting benefits for future retirees.

But, but, but: Nearly nine in 10 supported construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall, supported U.S. employers certifying workers' citizenship, worried about rising anti-white discrimination and said Christian faith is essential to American greatness but under attack.

Between the lines: There's real division inside the Trump coalition about the future of the GOP.

  • 66% said they're more supporters of former President Trump than of the Republican Party.
  • 37% said the party is on the wrong track.
  • 40% said Republicans care more about helping people make more money than helping people live decent lives.
  • 54% said they'd definitely support Trump in 2024, if he ran again.

What they're saying: "The Trump coalition is fundamentally different" than pre-Trump Republicans and Republican-leaning voters, Olsen told Axios.

  • "Once we move away from economics, to patriotism, culture, the religious questions, it’s really a clear supermajority, and that unites the coalition. ... There’s really no way a modern Democratic coalition can jump into that conversation on those terms."
  • "But economics definitely divides the Trump coalition. ... All the things that defined economic thinking before Trump are now a complete split.” Shifting back to conservative economic ideas could be “like opening a door for the Democrats to run through."
  • The challenge for Republicans is "they have to cement the Trump coalition outside of Trump’s personality. "

Methodology: This survey of 1,000 Trump 2020 voters was conducted Jan. 11-14, 2021, with a margin of error of +/- 3.5%

  • YouGov interviewed 1,069 Trump voters matched down to a sample of 1,000 to produce the final dataset based on characteristics of Trump voters from the 2020 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. The matched data were weighted by age, gender, race and education using propensity score weighting.
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