Trump Promotes Caricature of What Conservatives Want

Other polling, however, shows that he remains out of step with many Americans, even some Republicans, on some issues. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll, for instance, showed that 53 percent of voters who described themselves as somewhat conservative had a very favorable or somewhat favorable view of the Black Lives Matter movement, compared with 26 percent of those who described themselves as very conservative — suggesting that Mr. Trump was playing to a smaller slice of Republicans when he described the movement as “a symbol of hate.

But in the absence of a forward-looking case for his re-election or an agenda for a second term, Mr. Trump’s ability to harness conservative hostility against the left has become a defining force in his approach to politics.

Evangelicals, for instance, have long felt that they were being mocked by elites, and they broadly make the point that Mr. Trump has heard their concerns in a way previous presidents have not. Yet Mr. Trump has shown difficulty understanding what motivates evangelicals, as well as the distinction between them and more secular Christians. A former supporter of abortion rights, Mr. Trump could not recall the name of a prominent annual anti-abortion rally, March for Life, despite having been the first sitting president to speak at the event, in January.

Though he rails about the closure of churches around the country to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Mr. Trump almost never attends church.

But because he has aggressively targeted perceived enemies such as liberals and the mainstream media, and has stoked white grievance, most conservatives have been willing to overlook what he does and says in the name of his supporters.

“He’s very good at identifying the villains whom Republicans hate — the liberals, the media, illegal immigrants,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, adding that Mr. Trump’s efforts are “complicated by the current situation where our news is overwhelmed by the virus economic meltdown and mistrust.”

Mr. Trump is also aware that conservatives favor his judicial appointments, of which he has made roughly 200 since taking office, and that those have kept many of his supporters connected to him.