Ed Goeas, a veteran Republican pollster, said that many traditionally Republican voters and independents have no major problem with the president’s policies, but can’t stomach his public persona. “There are those who like his policies but really are turned off by his persona,” Mr. Goeas said.
Until the coronavirus pandemic, he added, Mr. Trump’s strong suit had been the thriving economy. Most voters are still about evenly split, according to polls, on whether Mr. Trump or Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, would be a better steward of the economy. But with unemployment in the double digits amid the shutdowns, Mr. Trump has lost his strongest argument — while only increasing his presence in the public eye.
“For the last five months, with the coronavirus and the social unrest, all they’re seeing is the persona side of him, and not as much focus on the one thing that is his main strength — which is performance on the economy,” Mr. Goeas said.
Polling shows that many of the policies Mr. Trump touted in his renomination speech, including ditching the Paris climate accord and signing an enormous tax cut in 2017, have long been relatively unpopular. So are some of the most central aspects of his political agenda: According to a Fox News poll this month, 53 percent of voters disagreed with Mr. Trump’s approach to immigration, while 41 percent agreed. And when it comes to negotiating with China — a particular point of pride for the president — 57 percent of Americans said they disapproved of how he was handling that, while just 40 percent approved, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Yet only one-third of the country said his policies were “too conservative” over all, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll this month. That includes just 34 percent of independents — a key voting bloc in his 2016 victory that has largely turned against him since then.
By comparison, in October 2004, on the eve of that year’s election, multiple surveys found that a greater share of Americans — four in 10 — saw then-President George W. Bush as too conservative. He won re-election anyway, beating John Kerry by more than than 2 percentage points.
For Mr. Trump, 43 percent of respondents to this month’s ABC/Post poll said he was about right ideologically, and another 11 percent didn’t give an opinion.