The Washington Post
WASHINGTON - Something odd is happening on Capitol Hill.
It’s not odd that Republicans are pushing for a tax bill that’s tilted toward business and the wealthy. It’s a return to the argument that benefits at the top trickle down to workers in the form of more jobs and better pay. (Whether this would actually happen is a question of its own.) Republicans control the House, they control the Senate, they control the White House. This tax bill is the Republican agenda, and advancing political priorities when you have the majority is how representative democracy works.
It’s just that everything about it is so unpopular. That’s the odd thing.
There’s the legislation itself, which evolves constantly and is therefore hard to poll. Earlier this month, Quinnipiac University asked generally whether Americans supported the tax reform plan. Only 25 percent of Americans said they did.
Why so low? In part, clearly because the effort was seen as benefiting the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.
This is not the only poll to show that the reform proposal is unpopular. In October, The Post and ABC News determined that only 28 percent of Americans supported the plan (presented to the respondents as President Donald Trump’s tax plan). Of that number, only 15 percent supported it strongly. Twice as many people - about a third of all respondents - opposed the measure strongly.
That said, the tax reform measure is actually more popular than the health-care overhaul proposals that Republicans in Congress tried to pass earlier this year. Only 13 percent of Americans wanted to simply repeal the Affordable Care Act (that is, Obamacare) in a July poll. Only a fifth of respondents approved of the final Republican proposal that collapsed in September.
It’s not new that the Congress hoping to pass this legislation is unpopular. Congress has been more unpopular than popular since 2003, according to Gallup polling. In Gallup’s most recent survey, only 13 percent of Americans approved of Congress; 81 percent disapproved.
Diving in further, the numbers don’t improve. Republicans in Congress are not much more positively viewed than Congress itself. In September, Post-ABC polling found that congressional Republicans were viewed positively by only 22 percent of Americans - and were strongly approved of by only 4 percent of the country. Democrats in Congress did slightly better, with 35 percent of Americans approving.
The Republican Party overall is viewed positively by fewer than 3 in 10 Americans, according to polling that same month from CNN. That is the lowest rate of approval measured by CNN since it started asking in 1992. In that poll, only 20 percent of respondents approved of the party’s congressional leadership.
So. Sixty-nine percent of Americans disapprove of Republicans in a Congress that is disapproved of by 81 percent of the country. If it passes (almost certainly on a party-line vote) a tax bill viewed negatively by 52 percent of the country (with 23 percent having no opinion, according to Quinnipiac), it heads to Trump’s desk.
Gallup’s most recent weekly approval numbers show that only 37 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing. More than half the country - 56 percent - disapproves. A Post-ABC poll released this month shows Trump at historic lows on approval. In other words, Trump is the least popular chief executive at this point in his administration of any modern president.
We can extend the chain of unpopularity. Republicans (22 percent approval as a party) move a tax bill (25 percent approval) out of Congress (13 percent approval) thanks to Republican leaders (20 percent approval) and members of the party (also 22 percent approval) to be signed into law by Trump (37 percent approval). When Trump is the most popular part of the equation, you’ve got a problem.
Or do you? In the Quinnipiac University poll, Republicans -unlike Americans overall - viewed the tax bill in a much more favorable light. So let’s look through the lens of only Republican poll respondents.
Republicans (66 percent approval as a party) move a tax bill (60 percent approval) out of Congress (18 percent approval) thanks to Republican leaders (39 percent approval) and members of the party (38 percent approval) to be signed into law by Trump (81 percent approval).
When you look at it that way, as the party doing what Republicans want - with midterm elections looming - it seems a bit less odd.
Philip Bump is a correspondent for The Post based in New York.