Outside the Morgan County fair in McConnelsville, in a rural swath of Ohio that fervently backed US President Donald Trump in last year’s election, ticket seller John Wilson quietly counts off a handful of disappointments with the man he helped elect.
The 70-year-old retired banker said he is unhappy with infighting and turnover in the White House. He does not like Trump’s penchant for travelling to his personal golf resorts. He wishes the president would do more to fix the healthcare system, and he worries that Trump might back down from his promise to force illegal immigrants out of the country.
“Every president makes mistakes,” Wilson said. “But if you add one on top of one, on top of another one, on top of another, there’s just a limit.”
Trump, who inspired millions of supporters last year in places like Morgan County, has been losing his grip on rural America.
According to the Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll, the Republican president’s popularity is eroding in small towns and rural communities where 15 per cent of the country’s population lives. The poll of more than 15,000 adults in “non-metro” areas shows that they are now as likely to disapprove of Trump as they are to approve of him.
In September, 47 per cent of people in non-metro areas approved of Trump while 47 per cent disapproved. That is down from Trump’s first four weeks in office, when 55 per cent said they approved of the president while 39 per cent disapproved.
The poll found that Trump has lost support in rural areas among men, whites and people who never went to college. He lost support with rural Republicans and rural voters who supported him on Election Day.
And while Trump still gets relatively high marks in the poll for his handling of the economy and national security, rural Americans are increasingly unhappy with Trump’s record on immigration, a central part of his presidential campaign.
Forty-seven per cent of rural Americans said in September they approved of the president’s handling of immigration, down from 56 per cent during his first month in office.
Poll respondents who were interviewed by Reuters gave different reasons for their dissatisfaction with the president on immigration.
A few said they are tired of waiting for Trump to make good on his promise to build a wall along America’s southern border, while others said they were uncomfortable with his administration’s efforts to restrict travel into the United States.
“There should be some sort of compromise between a free flow of people over the border and something that’s more controlled,” said Drew Carlson, 19, of Warrensburg, Missouri, who took the poll.
But Trump’s “constant fixation on deportation is a little bit unsettling to me.”
To be sure, Trump is still much more popular in rural America than he is elsewhere.
Since he took office, “I like him less, but I support him more,” said Robert Cody, 87, a retired chemical engineer from Bartlesville, Oklahoma who took the poll.
Cody said that Trump may rankle some people with the way he talks and tweets, but it is a small price to pay for a president who will fight to strip away government regulations and strengthen the border.