This spurred a small industry of analyses speculating that perhaps, after five years of Trump being central to Republican politics, he had finally gone too far, that his rhetoric in the weeks after the election and his encouragement of his supporters to come to Washington and march on the Capitol marked a crossed line for his party.
On Monday, the Pew Research Center released new data bolstering the idea that there was no broad abandonment of Trump by his party. Starting before his inauguration in 2017, Pew asked Americans to measure their views of Trump on a scale from zero to 100. A rating of zero indicated a “very cold” opinion of Trump — as on a thermometer — and a rating of 100 was “very warm.”
From the first measurement conducted by Pew, views of Trump ran more cold than warm. That was largely because Democrats gave Trump more neutral opinions in that December 2016 survey. By the next measurement, in March 2018, Democratic views of Trump were very cold. The views of his Republican base (and Republican-leaning independents) were far warmer. In 2018, 2019 and 2020, the pattern was the same — ice-cold ratings from Democrats, roasting-hot and warmish ratings from Republicans.
That views of Trump remained stubbornly partisan is not news. The pattern held over and over again in polling.
What is news is that the views of Trump didn’t shift in Pew’s March 2021 polling, either. In November, 69 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents had warm or very warm views of Trump. In March, the figure was 71 percent, functionally unchanged. The percentage with cold or very cold views went from 22 percent to 18 percent.
You might wonder whether this is perhaps because Republicans left the party in droves. That’s unlikely, for two reasons. First, Republicans who left the party often became independents, meaning that many would be included in the “Republican-leaning independents” category.
But more broadly, national views of Trump similarly didn’t budge much. In November, 34 percent of the country had warm or very warm views of Trump (most of them Republicans). In March, the figure was a functionally unchanged 32 percent. The percentage of Americans with cold or very cold views of Trump — a measure that would presumably increase if voters were incensed by the Capitol attack — was at 57 percent in each poll.
The evidence at hand, then, continues to tell the same story. Some group of Republicans did shift their party registration earlier this year, perhaps in part because of the Capitol attack. But there is no evidence of a large-scale abandonment of Trump by his party. In fact, the evidence instead suggests that even the unusually tumultuous events that unfolded during Trump’s lame-duck period did nothing to budge the deep-set partisan views about the former president.
A lot of people would like to think that the Capitol attack was a bridge too far. Instead, it appears to have been just another bridge.