The economy, and ways to improve it, is arguably the most important issue in the upcoming presidential election. In May, a Gallup poll showed that Americans thought the economy was more critical than foreign affairs, immigration, or terrorism.
For the almost laughably large field of GOP hopefuls, that means that the ability to convince Republican voters of their ability to manage the economy is essential in order to remain in contention.
And right now it seems the person doing the best job of that is Donald Trump.
According to a recent poll from Reuters/Ipsos, 59 percent of Republicans surveyed said that they trusted Trump to manage the economy. He was the leader by a wide margin. The runner up was Ben Carson, with only 36 percent of respondents saying they’d trust the economy in his hands.
The results—though polling, and especially not polling this early, is by no means conclusive—indicate that Trump’s strategy is working, at least on some level. So far, that strategy has mostly included touting his success as a businessman and negotiator as evidence of his fluency with finances. In order to “make America great again,” Trump’s economic plan recommends streamlining tax brackets, from seven to four, with the top tax rate cut to 25 percent. American families who make less than $50,000 pay nothing. He wants to slash the corporate tax rate to 15 percent, eliminate deductions and loopholes, and do away with the death tax, among other things. An analysis by the conservative Tax Foundation found that Trump’s plan would cut federal revenue by around $10 trillion over the next decade, even accounting for growth.
Trump has voiced opposition to existing trade agreements, such as NAFTA, and said that he would take a strong negotiating position with foreign leaders. He has also said that he would “be the greatest jobs president God ever created,” which would include efforts to pull business and trade away from places like China and Mexico, bringing it to the U.S. instead.
Trump’s demeanor has long been divisive, and his policy proposals have been received similarly, garnering both praise and condemnation. Critics have said that Trump’s plans are short-sighted and ill-fated. That they will wind up increasing the deficit and widening the already large inequality gap in the country. Supporters say that more aggressive reshoring and more favorable corporate tax rates will spur job growth at home, which will help middle-class Americans. Compared to some of his GOP competitors, several of Trump’s proposals are actually more politically moderate, yet another fact that has earned him both commendation and scorn.
Like him or not, it seems that Trump’s appeal isn’t waning among the Republican base. The recent poll also showed Trump as tied with Carson for the candidate respondents most trusted to be commander in chief, and ahead of Carson when it came to overall support. It’s also worth noting that often a strong showing on subject-specific poll questions, like those about the economy, are closely aligned with candidates who are polling well overall.
For his part, Trump has tried to take criticism of his economic prowess and turn it on its head. During the most recent Republican debate, the real-estate mogul was grilled about the bankruptcies of his Atlantic City hotels, and asked whether his self-portrayal as a successful businessman and jobs creator would hold up to closer scrutiny. He brushed off the assertion, blaming the failure on the challenges of the city itself, not his business plan. In fact, he said, filing for bankruptcy showed that he was a savvy.
“People are very, very impressed with what I've done,” Trump said during an earlier debate. It looks like he’s right.