On Trump’s historically bad approval numbers, six months in

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
President Donald Trump arriving at the U.S. Women's Open golf tournament at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Saturday.

As regular readers of this space know, I’m mildly obsessed with President Trump’s approval ratings. Of course, new numbers come out every day, so I generally restrain myself from writing about them unless he hits a new low or (if he ever does) a new high.

Although I look at the numbers most days, I haven’t mentioned them for over a month, so here’s the update, which I justify based on the latest Washington Post/ABC poll. It shows Trump with an approval rating of 36 percent in July, down from 42 in the previous WaPo poll in April, and a new low in that poll. As one might suspect the new low comes with a new high in disapproval at 58 percent, up five points from April.

A gap of 22 percentage points, in the negative direction, in one’s approval rating is, of course a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad day. It is not the worst showing  in presidential approval rating polling history, but it is the case that Trump’s general numbers during his first six months in office are, by far, the worst first-six-months of any president in polling history.

And, because I am addicted to the old objectivity gag on factual matters, I feel honor-bound not to mention only the president’s worst numbers. I should mention that the Gallup organization, which polls every day and publishes the latest three-day moving average, shows the current incumbent with a slightly better 38 percent approval/56 percent disapproval approval. The other “good news” for Trump is that Gallup doesn’t agree that his current ratings are the worst of his presidency, although they are within hailing of his worst Gallup three-day average, a rating of 36 approval/60 percent disapproval, in June.

You can see the entire trend of Trump approval since inauguration, as measured by Gallup here. According to Gallup, approval of Trump fell below disapproval on his third day in office and has never risen above since. Nothing like that has ever happened to a president in the age of approval ratings.

Trump, who is less committed to the old objectivity gag, used to occasionally cite outlier approval polls that showed him above water and just ignore the majority of polls that showed him below.

The last time I recall him doing so was a February news conference at which he called out “how about that Rasmussen Poll,” referring to a 55 percent approval rating he had recently achieved, without mentioning that 10 other polls showed him below water at the time. But he long since fell below water in Rasmussen’s polling too, and, one might add, has stopped giving news conferences. Rasmussen’s most recent approval number for Trump, as of Sunday, was 43 percent, which is still on the high side of the many polls that measure this.

The Huffington Post aggregates all established public polls on the subject and averages them together, a practice that some pollsters view as illegitimate. That trendline is here, and it results in an average disapproval/approval rating of 55.3/40.7.

Of course, to divulge my own belief (as if it isn’t obvious), whether the portion of the public that approves of the job Trump’s performance in office  is 40.7 percent, per the Huff Post aggregation, or 43 (Rasmussen), or 36 (Wash Post/ABC) or 38 (Gallup), that’s not bad, considering what he has actually accomplished that benefitted the country.

After all, 46 percent of the electorate voted for him. So, presumably, if his approval rating is in the 30s or around 40, the overwhelming majority of those voters still approve of his performance to date. Of what is it that they approve? Will they ever change their view? Stay tuned.

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Comments (29)

  1. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/17/2017 - 09:30 am.

    What do Trump Voters Like?

    They like his rudeness, and his utter boorishness (“He’s not politically correct!”) They like that he still hates on Obama and the Clintons, even though there is no reason for him to do so anymore. They like how he dismisses the “liberal” media in such blunt, if not crude, terms. They like that he withdrew from the Paris Accord, for no better reason than it was an Obama initiative.

    What about policy? Surely you jest. Policy didn’t get him elected.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/17/2017 - 10:03 am.

    What’s to like?

    He got elected by a statistical fluke (aided by some questionable interventions) despite a record setting loss in the popular vote.
    Most people didn’t like him then, and they don’t like him now.
    The only thing that will save him from impeachment is the fact that Pence would be even worse (he might actually DO something).

    • Submitted by Henk Tobias on 07/17/2017 - 10:30 am.

      The problem with the Mike Pence is worse meme

      is that if something terrible happens, a terrorist attack say, Trump is going to do something really really stupid and really really horrible. I don’t think marshal law is out of the question in that situation. Every second Trump is in office endangers this country, its people and our freedoms. The only thing that should guide those deciding to introduce articles of impeachment is whether or not he has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. That is it, we can worry about Pence when that time comes. He’s likely neck deep in Trump’s criminal enterprise as well.

      • Submitted by Marc Post on 07/17/2017 - 01:47 pm.


        Henk raises interesting questions.

        If Trump were to declare Martial Law, is there any sort of check/balance on that power? Can he keep it in place indefinitely? Does he become emperor until he decides he’s not?

        I don’t know, so if someone could chime in…

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/17/2017 - 02:35 pm.

          Without Looking it Up . . .

          The only explicit grant of power to the President to impose martial law is in Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution (“The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”).

          State Governors may have the power to call out the National Guard to suppress insurrection, but the use of the US military for civilian law enforcement requires Congressional authorization.

          • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 07/17/2017 - 04:26 pm.


            Well SCOTUS is a check on the president. Look how well it worked when the west coast had effective martial law for citizens of Japanese descent in 1942.

            I’m sure we’ll be safe. Oh and Congress. They’ll keep a steely eye on our freedoms as well.

            • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/17/2017 - 07:21 pm.

              Minor point

              The Nisei were a very small minority.
              In this case, POTUS is backed by a minority.
              And Congress has not declared war. In fact, it has not declared war since 1942.
              And foreign troops have not been on American soil since 1812.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/18/2017 - 09:01 am.

              Technically . . .

              It wasn’t martial law, since the courts were still functioning. They weren’t functioning for everyone, but that’s never been a big issue.

              I used to think the internment of the Japanese was a shameful part of our history,m but we’ve learned from it and that kind of thing would never happen again. Now, I’m not is sure.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/17/2017 - 02:53 pm.

        The problem with Pence

        is that he is a consistent radical conservative, unlike Trump who is radically off the wall.
        Pence might well end Democracy as we know it (see ‘Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan For America’, by Nancy MacLean.

  3. Submitted by Greg Gaut on 07/17/2017 - 11:01 am.

    Statistical question

    Eric, just a small quibble about categories. Trump got 46% of those who voted in the election. Is that the same as the “electorate?” Shouldn’t that term refer to all eligible voters? I think turnout was about 55%. So Trump actually got about 26-27% of eligible voters, in which case his approval numbers are better than his vote totals. Be that as it may, the historical comparisons and trend lines are instructive.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/18/2017 - 10:04 am.


      Thanks Greg, I was about to point this out. Trump is an unpopular president that squeaked into office in an extremely bizarre election cycle. He’s the sitting president but let’s not give him more credit than he deserves.

  4. Submitted by John Edwards on 07/17/2017 - 11:34 am.

    Liberals still believe in polls?

    Before Eric, the journalist, gets too excited about the widely reported poll he should first check the internals. Republicans comprised just 23 percent of the 1,001 adults sampled. Thirty-five percent self identified as Democrats and 35 percent as independent. Sounds like a pre-election poll in, say,

    What is astounding is that Trump got a 38 percent approval rating from this group.

    • Submitted by Patrick Tice on 07/17/2017 - 12:08 pm.

      Which poll?

      Which “widely reported poll”? Mr. Black’s essay took note of multiple polls and he observed a trendline.

  5. Submitted by Tom Karas on 07/17/2017 - 12:21 pm.

    The problem with polls

    is that they can be like any other commodity, useful if you get the right one with a good track record. Or you can lose your credibility with a cheap one. I really enjoy Eric’s work but there is a risk of credibility by even mentioning a HuffPost poll these days in my book. We may come to find one day that the HuffPo delivery of a 95% victory for Clinton was actually correct, as we have yet to understand the full details of ‘the Russia thing’, but please tread carefully in these waters. As proven out, we have the ability to lose a tremendous amount.

  6. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/17/2017 - 01:47 pm.

    Trump has yet to do anything that significantly affects the lives of the majority of his followers. What he has done is deliver on an overdose of bluster and swagger–poking his finger in the eye of many of the demon children raised by right-wing media over the years.

    The single-most dangerous threat to his popularity is the current health-care bill with the Cruz amendment in place. The disruptions without the Cruz amendment will affect them–but more years down the road than most people plan for. But the Cruz amendment has the probability of blowing up the insurance market immediately after the bill is passed.

    That, his followers will feel and react to. Not many other issues will affect them that directly so they are satisfied with the verbal jousting.

  7. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 07/17/2017 - 03:28 pm.

    Pander and pan to popularity…

    The strangest part of this is that he has no core political beliefs and basically only wants to be loved and admired by all:

    “Howard Stern said he believed the presidency wouldn’t be a “healthy experience for Trump.”

    “I know something about Donald Trump, he really does want to be loved,” Stern said. “He does want people to really love him. That drives him a lot. I think that he has a very sensitive ego and when you’re president of the United States, people are going to be very very critical.””

    Yet, Trump continually takes positions that have 60% plus opposition. The idea of some loyalty to his base seems unlikely: he’ll throw anyone not named Trump under the bus if it serves his needs.

    All he needed to do was/is look at the public’s majority position on issues of the day such as: healthcare (fix ObamaCare), climate change (stay with the Paris accords), Muslim ban (forget about it) and stop whining about the media and move his bi partisan wrath to members of congress (who are hated more than the media) and suddenly he looks a whole lot better. And I am not displeased with his current trajectory, just surprised that he does not pander to every majority position he can and pan every member of congress that will not support positions with strong majority support.

    If he did, say goodnight Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul….

  8. Submitted by Bill Willy on 07/17/2017 - 04:29 pm.

    It’s not just the president

    “Less than 1 in 5 people (17%) approve of the Senate [“health care”] bill . . . A majority — 55% — disapprove. The numbers are disastrous among Democrats (8% approve) and independents (13%) but perhaps most surprisingly bad among Republicans — just 1 in 3 (35%) of whom approve of the Senate legislation. More self-identified conservatives disapprove of the bill (34%) than approve of it (31%).”


    And then there are the polls that say some version of this:

    “Fewer than three-in-ten Americans have expressed trust in the federal government in every major national poll conducted since July 2007 – the longest period of low trust in government in more than 50 years. In 1958, when the American National Election Study first asked this question, 73% said they could trust the government just about always or most of the time.”


    What do those two polls have in common?

    Call me simple minded, but I’ve always been under the impression that one of the foundational principles of American representational democracy is the idea that our representatives create legislation and cast votes based on what We The People tell them we want them to do.

    But that “quaint notion” seems to have gone out the window long ago and — as the Republican health care bill poll numbers illustrate perfectly — the message from Congress to We The People is now, “Go to hell. We will do what WE want to do.”

    The overwhelming majority of Americans are jumping up and down, sending emails, letters, making phone calls and showing up in the streets and outside their representative’s Washington office doors to yell, “We do NOT want your stinking health care bill!”

    Yet Republicans aren’t paying any attention to them and, instead, viewing the situation as a “political challenge” (like it’s a “high level” chess game) to find a way to “round up the votes” they need to pass a “highly unpopular piece of legislation.”

    In terms of representational democracy and “the American way,” Republican thinking and legislative behavior has devolved to the point where they’re saying the ideas, desires and votes of 52 Americans in the Senate are more important and valid than the those of the many tens or hundreds of MILLIONS of Americans who disagree with them.

    You go to a restaurant and order a bowl of soup. 20 minutes later the waiter brings you a lobster dinner and, when you complain and ask to talk to the manager, the manager comes to your table, hands you the $52 bill and says, “Pay this, get out and, if you have a problem with that, call our attorney.”

    It wouldn’t take long for “fewer than three-in-ten” customers to lose trust in that restaurant.

    “Government is the problem.”

    Even though that’s the same as saying, “We The People is the problem,” Republicans have gotten incredible mileage out of that smash hit marketing slogan. But the string MAY be running out. As Jennifer Rubin (a conservative) put it in a Washington Post column (on this topic) today,

    ” . . . the good news for the country is that Trump — who got 46% in the general election — has lost more than 20 percent of his support in just six months. In short, the true believers won’t be converted, but they can be soundly defeated at the polls.”


    I haven’t read any poll numbers that look at what the true believers in House and Senate Republicans think, but we’ll find out 15 or 16 months from now. It should be one of the most interesting elections in a long time.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/17/2017 - 05:00 pm.

      Two comments–the “government is the enemy” meme of the past few decades has had the effect of diminishing governments power to interfere with the self-serving designs of the powerful. Government, in the US, was evolving into a means of protecting the interests of the ordinary citizen–hence life, health and safety acts that were alway opposed by the powerful who considered the money the made more important than the lives of others. The “government is the enemy” group opened the door wide for a demagogue who proposed destruction of the administrative state.

      So who will gain ?

      The wealthy and powerful.

      Who will lose ?

      Those people who have permitted the destruction of the only structure that was evolving to guarantee their freedom, safety and interests.

  9. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/17/2017 - 05:01 pm.

    The ‘true believers’

    think what they’re paid to think.
    One dollar one vote is the word now.

  10. Submitted by Joe Musich on 07/17/2017 - 08:47 pm.

    The mass…

    hallucination seems to be coming to and end. Maybe it’s time for GOP congressional level office holders to try drinking some profiles in courage. The Tea Party weed has gone bad. The opposition better starting speaking up about what they will improve pretty soon and more vocally !

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/19/2017 - 04:48 pm.

      Excellent Point

      I voted against Hillary in November because of her Democratic Platform, which meant I checked the box next to Trump’s name. 🙁

      However given the Democratic Parties confusion and unwillingness to move towards the center… I won’t hesitate to do it again even given how much I dislike Trump’s character or lack there of…

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/20/2017 - 10:18 am.

        “I won’t hesitate to do it again”

        In other words, you’re okay with a President who displays wildly erratic behavior, has no concept of how to govern, and whose administration is going to break all prior records for lawlessness or corruption.

        Based on the evidence of the past six months, I think more than hesitation is in order.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/20/2017 - 08:29 pm.

          Two Evils

          Let’s see… I seem to have 2 choices…

          1. An idiot who seems to support less expensive, intrusive and burdensome government.

          2. A person who seems to support more intrusive and burdensome government.

          The choices are pretty bleak… I’ll still vote for the idiot.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/21/2017 - 09:27 am.

            Except . . .

            Add in that the idiot has no respect for democratic norms, the rule of law, or the usages of international conduct.

            But hey, no estate tax or clean energy regulations. We’ll be the greatest failed nation in history!

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/24/2017 - 01:04 pm.


              Please remember that our society has been moving left pretty consistently for 100+years. Maybe stopping that drift and going a little right would help…


              • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/24/2017 - 02:04 pm.

                Help What, Exactly?

                Trump has shown himself to be a dishonest egotist with no ability to formulate public policy. He has shown himself willing to empower some of the worst elements of the American polity. He has foreign entanglements that are, at best, unsavory.

                But limiting the growth of Medicaid is worth giving this man control of our nuclear arsenal. That’s an interesting cost-benefit analysis you’ve given us.

                PS I don’t know where you got that diagram you link to, but it convinces me of nothing. There are some things that can’t be quantified.

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/24/2017 - 02:46 pm.

                  How Much is Too Much

                  That diagram is an original mash up from many sources. I was trying to understand and depict where our country has been, where it is going and who is demanding what?

                  I mean for years I have exchanged comments with those who swear that it is the Conservatives who changed radically, when after looking at the diagram it becomes clear that it is the Liberals who have an insatiable desire to pull this country to the Left. (ie more taxes, more government controlled distribution, more regulations, more bureaucrats, etc)

                  Now I understand that passing environmental laws, caring for the truly disabled / old/ young /etc, passing some financial regulations, etc were necessary and good. The problem is that at some point the law of diminishing returns kicks in and what was good becomes bad. So I think our country will do better if we turn the knobs back a little.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/18/2017 - 11:04 am.

    Don’t get distracted…

    Trump can be mesmerizing but look at the budget the GOP is preparing to roll out and ram through the senate. The problem is that the GOP doesn’t believe in representing constituents, they only believe in wielding power once elected. GOP agendas actually damage the nation, and people still vote for them so they just keep going.

  12. Submitted by Curt Carlson on 07/18/2017 - 11:54 am.

    Like Trump

    Many Trump supporters are much like Trump: their opinions are little influenced by reality. According to the interviews I’ve seen recently, they continue to believe whatever seems to make them feel better about themselves. Trump’s actual behavior, lack of accomplishment and inconsistencies matter not a whit. Fortunately, they seem to constitute a fairly small minority of the total population, despite the noise they make (or are reported to make).

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