U.S. President Donald Trump listens to members of the media on the South Lawn after returning to the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Bloomberg)

Trump’s Political Risk Spreads to Small-Town America, Poll Finds

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump is nearly as unpopular in small towns as he is in suburban areas and cities, signaling potential trouble for his re-election prospects, according to a survey that highlights the Republican president’s vulnerabilities.

The latest Grinnell College National Poll also shows just less than a third of Americans say they definitely plan to vote for him in 2020, while 41 percent say they’re certain to cast a ballot for someone else.

The incumbent’s weakness is swelling the field of Democrats contemplating challenging him, with some already making pilgrimages to Iowa and other states that will host the first nominating contests just more than a year from now.

The survey of 1,000 adults, conducted by Selzer & Co. for the Iowa school, reveal stark divisions in how Trump is regarded between rural America and everywhere else.

In rural areas -- not including those living in small towns -- 46 percent say they’ll definitely vote for him for a second term. But in all other geographic areas, there’s much higher skepticism about a second Trump term. Just 33 percent of those in small towns definitely plan to vote for him, while 27 percent in suburbs and 24 percent in cities say they will.

Trump’s Political Risk Spreads to Small-Town America, Poll Finds

The poll’s findings reflect the dynamics at work in last month’s midterm congressional election that may carry into 2020.

Trump helped some GOP candidates in heavily rural areas, keeping the Senate in Republican hands with victories in states such as North Dakota and Missouri. But Republicans were routed in suburban House districts -- including some where Trump won in 2016 -- giving Democrats control of the U.S. House. It was the Democrats’ biggest net gain in seats since the Watergate scandal of the 1970s.

Trump’s weak support everywhere outside of purely rural areas could foreshadow trouble for his re-election prospects in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. He narrowly won all three in 2016, but Democrats scored major victories in House, Senate and governors’ races in those states last month.

“Those who live in towns act much more like those who live in cities and suburbs than they do rural residents,” Iowa-based pollster J. Ann Selzer said. “They are less likely than their rural counterparts to approve of or feel favorable toward the president. That lack of support extends beyond Trump to the Republican Party overall, which should raise concerns for the GOP.”

Geographical Differences

Geographical differences also are obvious in questions about Trump’s job approval and feelings about the Republican Party he leads. Overall, 43 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing, the poll shows, with 61 percent in rural areas giving him positive marks. But the number falls to 44 percent approval among those in small towns, 41 percent in the suburbs and 31 percent for city dwellers.

Roughly two-thirds of rural Americans have favorable feelings toward the president, while just a third of those in cities like him.

The Republican Party is viewed favorably by 58 percent in rural areas. That number is closer to four-in-ten for those in towns (37 percent), suburbs (41 percent) and cities (39 percent).

Trump’s Political Risk Spreads to Small-Town America, Poll Finds

A majority of Americans -- 54 percent -- say they’re more hopeful for the country following last month’s election. There’s even greater optimism when it comes to expectations for the nation following the 2020 presidential election, with 58 percent saying they feel hopeful about the nation’s prospects after that milestone.

With the national unemployment rate at 3.7 percent in October, Americans are generally optimistic about their personal finances. Almost two-thirds -- 64 percent -- say they’re moving closer to their goals, while just more than a quarter say they’re moving further away.

Republicans and independents are more likely to be positive about their personal finances, at 71 percent and 69 percent, respectively. Among Democrats, just 57 percent are optimistic.

At a time when Trump has deployed thousands of active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexican border, where thousands of people traveling in caravans have arrived in recent weeks after fleeing poverty and violence in Central America, a 55 percent majority in the survey said they think America has a “moral responsibility” to grant asylum to refugees.

Just less than a third of those in the poll said the U.S. is allowing too many refugees into the country. Republicans and those in rural areas -- 53 percent and 49 percent, respectively -- are much more likely to feel that way.

In an immigration-related question, the poll asked participants to consider a dozen different attributes and identify how important they are to being a “real American.” The top trait selected was “to believe in treating people equally,” which was rated by 90 percent as being very important. That was followed by “to take personal responsibility for one’s actions,” at 88 percent, and to “accept people of different racial backgrounds” at 81 percent.

The telephone poll, conducted Nov. 24-27, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, higher among subgroups. Full results and methodology are at www.Grinnell.edu/poll.

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