As some GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Donald Trump or demand he end his presidential campaign following the surfacing Friday of a video in which he makes vulgar comments about women, an online survey shows that an overwhelming majority of rank-and-file Republicans stand behind the candidate.
Just 12 percent of Republicans said Mr. Trump should end his presidential campaign, according to a Morning Consult/Politico poll conducted immediately after The Washington Post broke the news about the 11-year-old video. Another 74 percent of Republicans said party officials should continue to support Trump, according to the survey. Among all respondents, 45 percent said Trump should not drop out, while 39 percent said he should.
Operatives in both parties told Politico it will take several days and Sunday night’s presidential debate for the video to more fully sink into the public consciousness. But the survey, the first of its kind since the video leak, shows why some Republicans voters are steadfast in their support of Trump. Some point to former President Bill Clinton’s own infidelities and Hillary Clinton’s treatment of the other women afterward. Others say the news doesn’t change their support for Trump’s policies. And other argue that Trump's comments were just the kind of locker-room banter that both men and women engage in.
“I would rather vote for somebody who did guy talk with somebody, which we all know everyone does, including girls. I would rather have that rather than someone who’s had people killed in Benghazi,” Beth Lock, a Donald Trump supporter, told the Los Angeles Times at a rally for House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin Saturday. “My God, look at the list of what’s gone on with the Clintons.”
Morning Consult and Politico conducted the online poll by posting the video and Trump’s apology he issued just after midnight Saturday. In the 2005 video leaked to The Washington Post, a hot-microphone captures Trump telling then “Access Hollywood” anchor Billy Bush how he uses his celebrity to kiss, grope, and try to have sex with women.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it. They let you do anything,” he said.
Minutes after midnight Saturday, Trump issued an apology for the comments in a 90-second video.
In the poll, 1,549 registered voters were surveyed, with 1,390 likely voters. While the poll found Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump’s opponent, leads him by four-points in a four-way race, many Republican respondents said the video didn’t affect them. Nearly half of Republicans (48 percent) acknowledged the video left them with having a negative view of Trump. But they also said that their distaste for his comments didn’t sway them into thinking the Republican should suspend his presidential campaign.
“The results show that nearly all voters have heard about the video and most rate it negatively, but Trump’s supporters are not abandoning him right away,” said Kyle Dropp, Morning Consult co-founder and chief research officer.
This contrasts with the reaction of some GOP lawmakers. Arizona Sen. John McCain (R), the 2008 GOP nominee, was perhaps the biggest name to withdraw his support for the candidate. New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R), who is locked in a tight race for reelection with Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), also withdrew her vote (she said in August she would vote for him, but not endorse him), as did Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. Mr. Portman is one of a number of Republicans who say they plan to write-in Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, for president. Others have called on the Republican National Convention to bump Mr. Pence up to the top of the ticket.
But the poll found this might not be the best move for candidates up for election: 49 percent of voters said it would make them somewhat or much less likely to vote for the candidate, compared to 23 percent who said it would make them more likely to vote for the candidate.
It could be that more Democratic voters have heard much more commentary about the scandal. On cable television, Trump’s comments have been covered far more extensively on CNN and MSNBC than they have on Fox News Channel, according to Politico. More than half of Democrats, 55 percent, said they had heard “a lot” about the Trump video, according to the poll. Only a third of Republicans have heard a lot about it.
Yet Trump supporters across the country testified to the insignificance of the video.
GOP megadonors Robert and Rebekah Mercer told The Washington Post their support for Trump is unchanged.
“We are completely indifferent to Mr. Trump’s locker room braggadocio,” they said.
Many also saw Republican lawmakers’ reactions as another attempt by the party establishment to bump the unconventional candidate from the ticket, a rumor that also circulated last August when Trump got in a war of words with the Khan family.
Other Trump supporters were able to dismiss the controversy once he apologized.
“We need to focus on what’s important to this country and getting it back on track,” Orville Seymer, a Wisconsin Trump supporter told the LA Times. “Logistically,” he added, “I don’t see how to do it. The ballots have already been printed. Early voting has started. People cast their vote. What can you do?” he said.