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Donald Trump’s Republican Party wants him to stick around: new poll

Most Republicans want former President Donald Trump to have at least some influence over their party’s direction even as many who side with the party say they are uneasy about its future.

Republicans have plenty of concern about their own party, too. Fewer than half of Republicans, 41 per cent, say they are optimistic about the GOP’s future. Just 13 per cent say they are “very” optimistic. And one third, 33 per cent, say they are pessimistic.

Donald Trump remains popular and influential within the Republican Party.
Donald Trump remains popular and influential within the Republican Party. (AP)

Just a few seats shy of majorities in the House and the Senate, Republican leaders hope they are within striking distance of retaking control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections. But the findings about the party’s lukewarm optimism could be an early warning sign of lagging enthusiasm among Republican voters, particularly without Mr Trump on the ballot after he helped lift congressional candidates in 2020.

That’s despite the fact history has shown the president’s party almost always loses seats in the midterm elections and despite the general enthusiasm about the party’s long list of potential 2024 candidates.

Some Republicans in especially competitive states said they are increasingly disillusioned with the political process.

“It’s frustrating,” said Dennis Herzog, 36, a contractor who lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin, of the constant bickering between the parties. While he describes himself as a staunch Republican, he said he’s disenchanted by “the whole system in general.”

“It’s nonstop,” he said. “I don’t care who is in office. Just do what’s right for the people and stop picking certain sides.”

While Donald Trump is unpopular among most Americans, he has a loyal following among Republicans.
While Donald Trump is unpopular among most Americans, he has a loyal following among Republicans. (AP)

Republican leaders have spent much of this year trying to rile up voters, pointing to concerns about inflation and stoking culture wars over issues including immigration, election conspiracy theories and critical race theory, an academic framework that examines history through the lens of racism.

That’s doing little to appeal to people like 28-year-old Nicholas Blethrow, a Republican who lives in Orange County, California, and described the state of his party as “pretty much a disaster.”

Mr Blethrow, who did not vote for Mr Trump in 2016 or 2020, said he was frustrated by his party’s ongoing efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he calls “ridiculous,” along with some of its members’ opposition to COVID-19 vaccinations and continued embrace of the former president.

“Clearly there’s a lot of people that enjoy him. But I don’t think it’s good,” he said.

Other Republicans disagree. The poll shows that Mr Trump remains a commanding figure in the party. While most former presidents tend to cede the spotlight after leaving office, Mr Trump has continued to assert his power, holding rallies, making endorsements and teasing a 2024 comeback run.

While 60 per cent of the public overall has an unfavourable view of Mr Trump, 76 per cent of Republicans view him favourably. And most would like to see him maintain at least some degree of influence over the GOP going forward.

Nearly half of Republicans, 47 per cent, say that Mr Trump should exert “a lot” of influence over the future of the party, and another 34 per cent say he should have “a little” influence. Just 18 per cent say Mr Trump should have none at all.

A crowd of Trump fans gathered to hear him speak earlier this month.
A crowd of Trump fans gathered to hear him speak earlier this month. (AP)

“I think he did a lot of good for the party,” said George Hunter, 61, who lives in Washington state outside Seattle and runs an online store. Mr Hunter was among the minority of Republicans who said he felt optimistic about the party’s future given what he sees as Democrats’ failures on crime, foreign policy and the economy and his expectation that Republicans will sweep contests next November.

“After the next election, I think things will be better. I think the Democrats will lose their majorities. That way Biden will get less done than he wants,” he said.

For Mr Herzog, who describes the current political situation as “quite the mess,” pessimism is driven, in part, by concerns about the economy, especially inflation, and the rising cost of his supplies. He said he knows of businesses that are talking about closing their doors because they can’t find workers and he doesn’t understand why the government keeps sending out additional relief payments.

But he’d also like to see his party embark on a new direction.

“I think there needs to be a switch in the Republican Party,” he said. “There’s got to be a happy medium between the old schoolers,” he said, and a new generation. “You have to find some middle ground.”

Supporters of former President Donald Trump cheer as he arrives on stage at a Turning Point Action gathering on Saturday.
Supporters of former President Donald Trump cheer as he arrives on stage at a Turning Point Action gathering on Saturday. (AP)

As for the 2020 election, the poll shows that 62 per cent of Republicans say it’s “extremely” or “very” important that investigations into the election continue, even though no substantiated evidence has emerged to support Mr Trump’s claims of mass election fraud, which have been dismissed by numerous judges, including some he appointed, state election officials and his own attorney general.

Just 38 per cent, in contrast, say it’s “extremely” or “very” important to continue investigations into the events of January 6, when a group of Mr Trump’s supporters violently stormed the Capitol building, trying to halt the transition of power.

Like Democrats, few Republicans, only 10 per cent, say democracy is working “extremely” or “very” well in the country today. But Republicans are more negative than Democrats; 63 per cent of Republicans say democracy is not working well.

Just 17 per cent say they think the nation is headed in the right direction.

As for other Republican leaders, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell faces mixed reviews from his party, viewed favourably by only about 4 in 10 Republicans; roughly as many dislike him. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is more popular than not with Republicans, though about half say they don’t know enough about him to form an opinion.

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who voted for Mr Trump’s second impeachment and has since emerged as one of his top Republican critics, has the inauspicious distinction of being rated favourably by more Democrats than Republicans, 47 per cent versus 21 per cent.
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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who has drawn headlines with her incendiary comments and conspiracy peddling, remains largely an unknown, even within her own party. While 29 per cent of Republicans have a favourable opinion, 48 per cent say they don’t know enough about her to say.

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