A few points about the consistency of Trump’s historically bad approval ratings

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
President Donald Trump

Time for our periodic review of President Trump’s approval ratings.

They continue to be terrible by any reasonable or historical standard. In the past, I have noted that though the numbers were low, they were sort of holding up, in a range of badness. That may be changing.

In order to be consistent in my analysis (and not cherry-pick results), I’ve consistently relied on Gallup, which publishes an updated three-day average most days and which, I should note, is not the worst approval poll for Trump.  Gallup’s latest published three-day average shows him “under water” as he has been since his first week in office, which means more disapprovers than approvers.

The latest Gallup numbers are 58 disapproval/36 percent approval. The gap has been 20 points or so for a long while. The 36/58 split is not the worst approval rating Gallup has recorded for Trump, but he did equal his worst-yet Gallup rating ever a few days earlier when hit 60 percent disapproval on August 1.

Here’s the graph of Trump’s Gallup ratings since he took office. If you look at it over the weekend, you may find fresher numbers.

But looking at a larger number of approval pools, Gallup is not Trump’s worst. Not at all. It’s about average among the many outfits who poll on this. The Huffington Post averages numbers from 32 different polling operations and the current average is 56.5 percent disapproval/37.9 percent approval, but if you look at the whole picture (which they update constantly) you’ll see that there are many better and worse numbers that make it up.

But there are basically no approval rating polls — and haven’t been for a long while — that buck the basic fact that disapprovers of Trump outnumber approvers by between 15 and 20 percentage points and the trend line has been consistently getting worst for him.

Three more small points:

Small point No. 1: Historical perspective: I have said in the past that Trump has had a historically terrible approval rating for a president in his first term. Gallup (which has much more history of measuring presidential approval than most others measurers; their numbers go back to Harry Truman) confirms, for example, that Trump’s average disapproval number during the second quarter of his first year was the worst ever (by a fairly large margin).

Barack Obama had the second lowest and George W. Bush the third lowest, so maybe it says something about how much quicker the American is to turn against a new president, rather than giving him a honeymoon period.

Other than those three most recent presidents, every other new president, going back to Dwight Eisenhower, averaged at least 60 percent, and actually Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy were in the 70s.

Trump’s record-low average for the second quarter was 38.8 percent.

Small point No. 2:  There is, of course, a lot more polling nowadays and a lot more ways of measuring approval. For example, Gallup now asks those who disapprove of the current incumbent whether their disapproval is rooted in his policies or his character.

In Trump’s case, it is 65 percent character, versus just 16 percent his policies. They’ve asked this question only going back to Trump’s two immediate predecessors. When asked at this stage of George W. Bush’s first term, just 17 percent said it was his character of which they disapproved and for Obama just 14 percent said so.  

Small point No. 3: Nowadays, many polls ask of those who approve of a president whether they view him with strong approval or weak approval. As you might guess, a huge portion of those who voted for Hillary Clinton last year say they view Trump with strong disapproval, and that number has risen, but who cares about them, right?

But even among those who voted for Trump, the share who view him with strong approval has dropped from 56 percent on inauguration day to 41 percent now, according to this Morning Consult poll taken at the 200-day mark of Trump’s presidency.

A good question is whether those who have become less enchanted with Trump will continue the direction of their drift and become disenchanted, a development that would obviously have big implications for his chances of being reelected, should he seek a second-term, which he says he will do.

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Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/11/2017 - 03:18 pm.


    Will Trump try to cancel the 2020 election (assuming that he hasn’t been successfully impeached by then)?
    Note: legally, elections are controlled by the states, not the federal government.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/11/2017 - 04:47 pm.

      A Yooge Coup

      There is no constitutional provision for cancelling elections. If he proceeded with the charade, his term would expire, and he couldn’t do anything about it.

      One would hope that Pence and the other Trumpeteers would finally have enough backbone to invoke the 25th Amendment if he tried such a thing.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/14/2017 - 09:21 am.

        The best/worst possibility

        would be a declaration of martial law, which can over ride many constitutional protections.
        Either congress or the president can declare martial law — it is not clear that either can over ride the other’s declaration.
        The ultimate check would be the military, which would have to enforce it.
        And since elections are run by the states, enforcement would be nearly impossible even if the military tried to do it, which is unlikely.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/14/2017 - 04:03 pm.

          Limited Power

          The only constitutional authority for martial law is Article I, section 9, which allows for the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus “when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

          The Supreme Court (Ex Parte Milligan) said that martial law may be declared only when the courts are closed due to foreign invasion or civil war. It is also limited to the areas actually under attack at the time (e.g. an invasion of California cannot justify martial law in New York)

          • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/14/2017 - 05:03 pm.


            Clearly Trump knows or cares little about the Constitution.
            Like his immigration restrictions, he could declare it and then dare the courts to invalidate it, using it to justify his actions in the mean time.
            For instance, he could declare a supposed national crime wave a case of rebellion.
            I hope I’m not giving him ideas 😉
            I’m not saying he would do this (I suspect he will be bored with being President and the Republicans will be fed up with him by 2020), but it would be consistent with his actions so far.

  2. Submitted by Marc Post on 08/11/2017 - 03:44 pm.

    Huff post

    First, thank you, Eric, for your fine articles.

    You stated the Huffington post “current average is 56.5 percent approval/37.9 percent disapproval”.

    Is that backwards?

  3. Submitted by Howard Miller on 08/11/2017 - 04:14 pm.

    Trump running in 2020

    I’m skeptical. I don’t think Trump is having fun, he hates having press that isn’t fawning all over him. And he’s old, in lousy physical shape. Only way he runs again is if Congress refuses to call him on his Russian corruptions, his self-dealing, and his boorish attack-everyone conduct. He’ll continue to enrich himself and his family as long as We, the People let him.

    I count on Congress eventually remembering their responsibility in governing our democratic republic, forcing Trump on those issues …. come January 2019 if not before hand. Let’s hope he doesn’t decide to nuke someone or some thing in the mean time.

  4. Submitted by Joe Musich on 08/11/2017 - 08:57 pm.

    Could he be arrested ….

    By a local D.C. Cop for assault ?

  5. Submitted by Eric Black on 08/12/2017 - 01:59 am.

    Thanks Marc

    I fixed the error.

  6. Submitted by LK WOODRUFF on 08/12/2017 - 01:33 pm.

    38% approval is very, very high

    I read the exposes’ about Trump in the ’80s and ’90s, and pretty much everything else written about him. So I’ve long understood that lies, fraud and corruption, and constant chaos and destruction have been driving forces in his life.

    Sadly, today’s media didn’t bring those exposes’ to the forefront in the recent presidential election, and update them and add to them. Nor, apparently, did enough voters do their own ‘research’, as all good responsible voters should. (I know, it’s about a full time job these days keeping up, but it’s critically important!) So I assume that is why he garnered the votes he did (tho still almost 3M less than Ms Clinton! Gotta fix that Electoral system….)

    But Trump’s half year+ in the White House now should surely be more than enough to clue everybody in to the type of person he is, and demonstrate fully just how flawed, dishonest, needy, insecure and dysfunctional he is?!?!

    So from my perspective: 38% approval is very, very high. Zero would seem much more plausible.

  7. Submitted by Patrick Tice on 08/12/2017 - 06:04 pm.

    Trump thrives on adulation

    So how does he manage to ignore these polls? A rational person would at least recognize that something is wrong – but not Trump. Instead, he lies, denies, and blames. It’s just weird.

  8. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 08/14/2017 - 08:11 am.

    I think you will find the Charlottesville action very instructive as a reason why Trump remain popular among a portion of the population–William Kristol on Twitter:

    Bill Kristol ✔ @BillKristol
    WH staff told Trump they had to put out a statement, but couldn’t prevail on him to say it himself, in the first person. A revealing moment. https://twitter.com/abc/status/896747281172631554
    11:23 AM – Aug 13, 2017

  9. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/14/2017 - 08:16 am.

    The emperor

    …has no clothes, but it’s important for the rest of us to remember that the emperor himself isn’t aware of his condition, and thinks he’s dressed very finely, indeed. Trump has all the flaws other commenters have mentioned and more, but he’s not thoughtful enough or educated enough to be a functioning part of what the loathsome Karl Rove referred to as the “reality-based community.” Emperors and dictators and demagogues surround themselves with “yes-men” because those “yes-men” reinforce the emperor’s already-narrowly-restricted world view. The Current Occupant is merely behaving as others of similar personality have done in the past when they’ve had the opportunity.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/14/2017 - 09:24 am.

      To add to this

      I doubt that Trump is capable of thinking three years ahead and planning for the next election. He’s winging it moment to moment.

  10. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 08/14/2017 - 08:47 am.


    If he fires Bannon and Co. does he go up or down? The events of Charlottsville and the clear disdain of Kelly, McMaster, Mattis and Tillerson for Bannon could be the last stand for Bannon and his band of louts…

    I am betting that the base would not leave him even if he walked down Fifth Ave. shooting people. Which brings up the irony of where does he go from here: Do you try to convert the populace to Bannon thinking and add to the base or do you simply do popular stuff and be popular. And in the final analysis all he really cares about is being popular. And popular is healthcare that covers equal or more than the ACA, real infra-structure spending, drug pricing, etc..

    He made so many election promises that he can pick and choose and act like he is fulfilling his mandate, of course, that may also interfere with his countless vendettas against nearly everyone beginning with Obama and the Clinton’s.

  11. Submitted by Tim Smith on 08/14/2017 - 09:35 am.

    new name for your column

    Wash, rinse, repeat

  12. Submitted by Brian Simon on 08/14/2017 - 02:48 pm.

    61-34 today…

    Gallup’s numbers are 61 – 34 today, or 27 points underwater… a new low & still including polling prior to Charlottesville.

    How low can he go? Below 30 by Wed?

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