Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Taubman Center

Support for Republicans Declining in Locales Where Trump Surprised, Gaining in the Heartland

June 20, 2017

PROVIDENCE, RI [Brown University] — The second in a series of polls conducted by the Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy at Brown University’s Watson Institute continues to show strong partisan divides across the country with voters in swing districts moving away from President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans, even as the Republican base remains strong. The poll, conducted June 10-15, was fielded by RABA Research, a bi-partisan polling firm, in collaboration with Brown University.

The poll did a deep dive into five distinct types of geographies with different recent voting patterns — including two areas that voted for both Obama and Trump. Results underscore that President Trump is losing support in locales that switched into the Republican column in the November 2016 election. But he’s gaining support in places that traditionally vote Republican. For example,in the Working Class Suburb of Kent County, Rhode Island, those responding that President Trump is doing an “excellent” job fell from 30% to 23%, while in the Rural Midwestern Sample of Iowa, those responding that President Trump is doing an “excellent” job rose from 25% to 29%.

Fewer than 1 in 5 respondents across all five locales polled said they have confidence in Congress to act in the best interest of the country. Everywhere but in the Rural Midwestern Sample of Iowa, support for the GOP Congressional candidate on the generic ballot has fallen. In fact, in the places that switched from Obama to Trump, net support for a generic Republican relative to a Democrat slipped 6 percentage points in the Working Class Suburb of Kent County, Rhode Island, and 11 percentage points in the Diverse Rural Southern Sample of North Carolina and South Carolina. The generic Democrat relative to the generic Republican also gained 5 percentage points in the Middle Class Exurb outside Philadelphia which polled for Romney and then Clinton.

“A deeper analysis into five distinct locales across the country suggests areas that swung from Obama to Trump appear to be moving back into the blue column, while traditionally Republican strongholds are solidifying behind the President,” said Susan Moffitt, incoming director of the Taubman Center at Brown. “Even more striking are the numbers showing dissatisfaction with Congress. Despite the partisan divides that shape political discourse, certain issues pierce red and blue bubbles and reveal common ground among Americans.”

The poll shows a strong majority of Americans everywhere believe that “the nation has a moral responsibility to provide healthcare to all Americans.” But there is less consensus about how that health care should be provided. Voters are increasingly opposed to proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but they are powerfully influenced by whether the existing health care law is called “Obamacare.”

For example, while a plurality of voters in the Taubman Center’s April poll supported getting rid of the ACA in the Rural Midwestern Sample of Iowa (45%/31%), a plurality in June now opposes the same proposal (36%/38%). Notably, when the phrase “Affordable Care Act” is switched out for word “Obamacare,” support for repeal grows—often dramatically. While only 36% of these Iowa voters support “getting rid of the Affordable Care Act,” 54% support “getting rid of Obamacare.” 

“Americans seem to share the view that the nation has a responsibility to provide healthcare, a striking change when you consider the heated debates around healthcare during Obama’s first term. But partisan divides continue to play a strong role in influencing voter opinion,” Moffitt added.

NOTE: The June poll tested voters on healthcare, climate change, education funding, Trump’s immigration travel ban, and attitudes about alleged Trump ties to Russia.

The counties studied in the Taubman Poll are generally representative of certain types of counties—meaning that they have demographic and ideological similarities to other counties around the country. Learn more about the types of counties chosen:

  • Working Class Suburbs (Obama/Trump): Kent County, RI
  • Diverse Rural South (Obama/Trump): An amalgam of Bladen County, NC, Richmond County, NC, Darlington County, SC and Calhoun County, SC
  • Upper Middle Class Exurbs (Romney/Clinton): Chester County, PA
  • Wealthy First-Ring Suburbs (Obama/Clinton): Arapahoe County, CO
  • Rural Midwest (Romney/Trump): An amalgam of Cass, Clay, Hardin, and Page Counties in Iowa


The poll measured attitudes among 3,136 voters and was conducted between June 10-15, 2017. The surveys used random digit dialing (RDD) to respondents culled from a list of voters who have shown some history of voting.  Surveys were conducted via Interactive Voice Response (IVR) over the course of several consecutive days.  The raw response data was weighted to historical voter turnout quotas for age and gender to ensure proportional response.  The overall margin of error (MOE) for each poll is approximately +/- 4% at a 95% confidence interval, with a larger MOE for split-sample questions.