Three other questions divided Americans almost evenly. While 48 percent said the next president and Congress should focus on “increasing taxes for wealthy families,” 47 percent said it should emphasize “cutting federal taxes for everyone.” Adults split exactly evenly—47 percent on each side—over whether in dealing with such questions as immigration, trade, and military involvement abroad “America should focus on strengthening relationships with foreign nations” or “should focus on being independent and prioritizing the interests and needs of our citizens first.” (In mirror image, two-thirds of Trump voters picked independence while two-thirds of Clinton voters prioritized strengthening relationships.)
And, in a broader philosophical measure, adults divided almost evenly between those who endorsed the Ronald Reagan-esque sentiment that government is more the problem than the solution; those who said government must play an active role in the economy; and those who said they would like government to play an active role but cannot trust it to do so effectively. That core question has divided Americans almost exactly in thirds each time the Heartland Monitor has asked it since January 2010.
On several of these questions, most of Trump’s voters backed a position that a majority of the overall public rejected. While most adults wanted to improve the Affordable Care Act, for instance, 70 percent of Trump’s voters preferred repeal. “There’s got to be something better,” said Sinclair, the retired Postal Service worker. “And some of these people that are choosing just to pay the penalty—I mean, what else are they going to do? You can’t pay these high premiums. You just can’t.”
Likewise, while most adults want to stress renewable energy sources, over three-fifths of Trump voters favored expanded fossil-fuel production. While most adults want to stiffen oversight of business, 71 percent of Trump voters say it should be loosened. And in one of the sharpest divergences, most Trump voters also said the federal government now spends too much on education.
In all, these results could foreshadow a 2017 environment in which Trump and the Republican congressional majority feel confident about advancing an agenda that unifies the coalition that elected them—while Democrats feel equally confident about resisting the same ideas because they offer little appeal to their coalition, and lack majority support overall.
The twist could be Social Security and Medicare: While congressional Republicans have consistently proposed restraining spending on Medicare, and at times on Social Security, Trump repeatedly rejected reductions in either program during the campaign.
One last finding reinforces this dynamic. When asked what issues Congress and the president-elect should make priorities in 2017, adults responded with a list that blended favorites of the two parties. At the very top was “creating jobs for American workers in all industries,” which both sides claim as a priority. After that, the list hopscotched between ideas associated with each party, including enforcing equal pay for women, passing comprehensive immigration reform, launching a major infrastructure initiative, fortifying the military, and improving college affordability.