Infrastructure Spending Deemed Most Important Trump Promise

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The FINANCIAL — Two-thirds of Americans (69%) say it is “very important” for President-elect Donald Trump to keep his campaign promise to enact major spending on infrastructure renewal. More than half say Trump’s promises to reduce income taxes for all Americans, establish tariffs on foreign imports and deport illegal immigrants convicted of crimes are very important.

Less than half of Americans say it is very important that Trump follows through on each of nine other promises — ranging from 46% for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, to 23% for requiring that any new government regulation be accompanied by removing two existing ones.

These results are based on a Jan. 9-10 Gallup poll. editors selected Trump’s most consistent or visible campaign promises to test. Phrasing for each campaign promise was based on the language the Trump campaign used.

It is important to note that the reality behind some of these campaign promises is subject to debate or has changed in recent months. For example, Trump’s original tax proposal featured significant reductions in taxes for all Americans. But under the revised plan he released in September, some earners would see their taxes go up. Separately, while Trump has promised to “deport the more than 2 million illegal immigrants who have committed crimes,” the most recent Department of Homeland Security figures put that number at 1.9 million immigrants living in the U.S. who have been convicted of crimes, a figure that includes both the documented and undocumented, according to Gallup.

Healthcare Repeal Most Politically Polarized Promise

Republicans’ and Democrats’ views on how important it is for Trump to keep his campaign promises vary widely. The issue that most divides Republicans and Democrats is repealing and replacing Obamacare. While 68% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say keeping this promise is very important, 26% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say the same, a 43-percentage-point difference. Deporting illegal immigrants convicted of crimes and renegotiating or withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are also highly divisive campaign promises.

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Increased infrastructure spending is the only Trump promise that both Democrats and Republicans agree is very important — 71% vs. 68%, respectively. The next least-divisive promise is withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, with a 13-point gap between the parties.

The importance Americans attach to Trump’s promises also differ by education level. Those without a college degree are more likely than those with one to say that all but one of the 13 promises asked about are very important. The widest gap (21 points) is on lifting restrictions on fossil-fuel extraction, followed by eliminating the freeze on defense spending and repealing and replacing Obamacare.

The only Trump campaign promise that a majority of college graduates deem “very important” is increased infrastructure spending. College graduates and non-college graduates show similar levels of agreement on the importance of removing two government regulations for every new regulation enacted; fewer than one in four in either group say keeping that promise is very important.

Divisions on Importance of Promises Have Shifted Since 2009

In January 2009, Gallup tested a list of Barack Obama’s campaign promises. It appears Obama’s agenda was more popular than Trump’s is, based on the average percentage saying it was very important for him to keep his promises. On average, 53% of Americans said in 2009 that Obama’s promises were very important, compared with 41% saying so about Trump’s promises in 2017.

Much like today, members of the president-elect’s party in 2009 were generally more likely than those of the opposing party to say keeping each promise was very important. Yet the substantial drop in Democrats’ “very important” ratings now compared with eight years ago is not matched by the increase in Republicans’ ratings, explaining the lower overall percentage rating Trump’s promises as very important.

Aside from partisan differences, Americans are most divided on Trump’s campaign promises based on their education level. Those with a college degree are, on average, 15 points less likely than those without a degree to rate Trump’s campaign promises as very important, up from an eight-point spread in 2009.

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This differs from 2009, when race/ethnicity was the most important factor after party identification for determining views on Obama’s campaign promises. Nonwhites were, on average, 16 points more likely than whites to say Obama’s promises were very important. For Trump’s promises, there is a two-point gap between the groups.

The most divisive promise Obama made in his 2008 campaign was withdrawing most U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months, which 71% of Democrats said was very important versus 27% of Republicans.

Much like this year, Obama’s promises about healthcare were divisive in 2009, though overall majorities did say they were very important: 90% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans said keeping his promise of ensuring all children have health insurance was very important. Similarly, there was a 34-point difference in the percentage of Democrats (85%) and Republicans (51%) saying reducing healthcare costs for typical families was very important.

Bottom Line

Overall, increasing spending on the country’s infrastructure and reducing taxes are broadly shared priorities today, much as they were eight years ago. More protectionist trade policies have now joined them, though these priorities are not as widely shared.

Other Trump campaign promises such as repealing and replacing Obamacare and building a wall along the border with Mexico are much more divisive, sparking widely different reactions from Americans of different parties and backgrounds.

While many Americans still see Trump’s promises as important, the specifics of how he seeks to follow through on them may greatly influence how popular they remain in the coming years. Trump’s agenda does not appear as popular as Obama’s was in 2009 overall, or even among his own partisans. So far, many Americans have yet to be convinced of the importance of many of the president-elect’s campaign promises.


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