President Trump’s defenders never tire of telling us that his base hasn’t abandoned him. Aside from the implicitly low standard (his die-hard fans, marinated in hours of Fox News each day, have not yet fled!), that leaves roughly two-thirds of the country dismayed about his performance. Look closer, and you see it is worse than that.

CBS News reports:

“(Trump’s) core base has shrunk a bit as it intensifies– down now to 18 percent from the 22 percent where it started in February. They like him both personally and politically, but softer supporters do not. … Conditional supporters – who back him but say he must deliver what they want – are still with the president, but increasingly call him distracted, and much less likely to call him effective than they were this spring, and less likely than believers to think he’s gotten things done so far, though most do.”

And then there are those outside the Trump camp, CBS reports:

“Opponents who are potential supporters – we’ve labeled them ‘curious’ because they say they still might consider the president, but are not with him now – say they are neither rooting for nor against him at this point. They disapprove of him personally, because they feel he isn’t making their own prospects any better. They’re more likely to describe themselves as growing impatient than being out of patience yet. Personal views of the president take a big downward turn as people go from conditional supporters to curious opponents. …

“Finally, the ranks of his staunchest opponents – who we call ‘resisters’ in this study – have grown, due in part to former supporters who describe themselves as out of patience, and those in this group overwhelmingly (three in four) call what they’re seeing ‘frightening’ – a sentiment that may, in turn, be exactly what the core supporters want them to feel.”

In sum, the ranks of the true believers are shrinking (18 percent, down from 22 percent in February). His conditional supporters make up a larger share of his support overall – “24 percent now, vs 18 percent who are strongest.” This segment of voters “call him distracted, and are less likely than core supporters to think he’s gotten things done so far. They’re more apt to say Trump is starting unnecessary conflict and drama. They want to see more of Trump working across the aisle. Most of them do not think the ‘swamp’ is being drained.”

In the opposition bloc there is bad news as well: “Opponents who could become supporters (17 percent, fewer in number than at the start of the term) say Trump’s own personal behavior and comments as the main reason they are against him for now. And the ranks of his staunchest opponents have grown (now 41 percent, they were 35 percent six months ago) and they call what they’re seeing ‘frightening.’ ”

Overall, 52 percent of voters see the administration as producing chaos. By a wide percent margin voters see him as “temperamental,” not “presidential.” These findings should help dismiss a few myths.

First, the notion that it doesn’t matter what his opponents say or how erratic his behavior is because his “base is with him” is nonsensical. His base is shrinking, and those voters who were willing to give him a shot in 2016 are less likely to do so now. It’s not a formula to sustain him; his decline in favorability, coupled with failure on a number of big agenda items, should worry his fellow Republicans.

Second, in a similar vein, attacking the media turns out to be a useless exercise. It has not produced results legislatively, and is prompting defections as well as growing fervor among his most ardent opponents. It’s also producing some of the most tenacious reporting in decades.

Third, the president’s demeanor is the decisive factor in turning off voters. That makes it much harder to win back voters or reduce the intensity of his harshest critics. Unless a narcissist in his 70s can change his stripes, he’s much more likely to double down on his aberrant behavior and unhinged rhetoric. He won’t change because he cannot change.


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