Voters want to “drain swamp,” don’t trust GOP to do it

“Drain The Swamp” was an important rallying cry of the Trump campaign. But does it still resonate a year-and-a-half after the 2016 election?

It does. So finds a poll commissioned by Ear to the Ground and conducted by McLaughlin & Associates.

The poll (of 1,000 likely voters) found that 55 percent of Americans are “concerned” or “very concerned” about “the Swamp,” with 36 percent very concerned. 59 percent of those who identify as “very conservative” said they were very concerned.

Levels of concern increased when the Swamp was defined in terms of “the influence of the network of DC-centric professional bureaucrats, media, and insider elites.” 60 percent said it was important “to eliminate the influence” of that network.

To what extent do voters blame Republicans, who after all now control the White House and have majorities in both chambers of Congress, for the failure to curb the Swamp? According to the poll, almost half of Americans (46 percent), and 41 percent of all conservatives, blame Republicans for not draining the Swamp.

Indeed, when asked what is the top impediment to draining the Swamp, 42 percent of voters said it was the GOP. Republicans thus ranked just behind lobbyists.

What do these results tell us about the upcoming mid-term election? Nothing reassuring for Republicans. The base believes the Swamp is a major problem and a significant chunk of the base holds Republicans responsible for enabling it.

This doesn’t mean the base will vote for Democrats, but it may well portend a significant decline in enthusiasm for Republicans. Barring a change in the behavior of congressional Republicans, we should expect that decline.

One finding from the survey demonstrates the problem in stark terms. Only 15 percent of Republican voters say they trust the GOP to keep its promises. By contrast, 65 percent of Democrat voters say they trust their party to keep its promises.

This “trust gap” can’t help but translate into an enthusiasm gap. The results of a series of special elections during the past half year show that it already has.

As the 2018 campaign heats up, Republican candidates should demonstrate a commitment to reforming Washington. The resignation of Speaker Paul Ryan may provide them this opportunity. But only if they make clear that they support new leadership in the House, not a continuation of Ryan’s disappointing regime via his team.