Donald Trump: Mogul of the People By John Zogby
President Donald J. Trump grew up in the lap of luxury, has cultivated an image of extravagance, and in many circles has come to define luxurious living in his constructions and branding. Yet to a majority of likely voters, more than a year into his Presidency, Mr. Trump is viewed as one “who is fighting the Washington DC establishment” (54%) than as belonging to that establishment (26%).
A recent John Zogby Strategies Poll was conducted among 1001 likely voters nationwide July 5-6, 2018 and carries a margin-of-sampling error of +/-3.2 percentage points for overall results. Error margins are higher for subgroups.
The largest majorities who characterize him as anti-establishment include Republicans (67%), voters 65 years of age and older (63%), 50-64 year olds (59%), voters from the South (56%) and the Central/Great Lakes region (55%), whites (56%), NASCAR Fans (65%), and men (55%).
One in three Democrats see the President as part of the establishment (vs 46% who do not), while 45% each of 18-29 year olds and 30-49 year olds see him as battling the DC elite. Less than a majority of Hispanics (46%) and African Americans (44%) see him as fighting the elite.
One thing is clear from the polling question: Mr. Trump is not viewed as part of the establishment – especially at a time when being part of that group is not seen as a good thing. This provides fuel for Mr. Trump, especially -- as we can see from the numbers – when his base is solid in supporting his combative style.
This country has had three genuine populists in the White House. Andrew Jackson, the self-styled “Tribune of the People”, was actually a very wealthy plantation owner who cracked through the Massachusetts-Virginia stranglehold of the presidency by taking advantage of universal manhood suffrage. His first official act was to open the White House to the masses and the scene was chaotic. Theodore Roosevelt was the “Steward of the People”, who saw himself as the “trustbuster” fighting the power of corporations as he helped kick off the Progressive Era. His family’s Dutch merchant roots went deep in Oyster Bay (New York City).
And our greatest President Abraham Lincoln was “Honest Abe”, “the rail-splitter” born in a log cabin – when in reality, by the time he sought the highest office he had already been a very successful corporate attorney representing the behemoth Illinois Central Railroad.
Jackson and Roosevelt stayed true to their character fighting the power elite and causing exasperation among leaders of their own parties. Lincoln faced the worst crisis in American history and wielded an iron fist, but he faced critics within his own Cabinet who to a man felt they deserved to be President over this interloper who had only served one term in Congress. All three men – warts and all – stand among the nation’s top Presidents, according to every survey taken of historians over the years.
Outrageous as he is, challenging this nation’s best traditions and even its near-sacred Constitution, Mr. Trump has some precedents. Jackson won the second term. Roosevelt, who was elected to a term after filling in for the murdered William McKinley, could have easily won another term had he not prematurely taken himself out of contention. Lincoln would have easily won a second term.
And all of these men had their controversies which challenge their reputations today – Jackson’s Indian Removal Act, Roosevelt’s overt racism and over-willingness to use the military, and Lincoln’s full-scale attack on civil liberties. Today, Mr. Trump not only thrives on controversy, but he generates them on his own. He is loved and hated, impossible to work for and with, erratic and inconsistent, embarrassing and foolhardy, and even one who (let’s be polite) stretches the truth on a regular basis. He has enabled the angry fringes, outraged those who support equal rights, enraged elites, and broken all the rules of diplomacy and decorum. But again, he is not without precedent.
John Zogby (@TheJohnZogby) is the founder of the Zogby Poll and Zogby companies, including John Zogby Strategies, and author of We Are Many We Are One: Neo-Tribes and Tribal Analytics in the 21st Century America