Trump approval numbers drifting upward

“Revulsion at Trump is now the driving force in American politics,” E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post wrote in his column this week.

For some of us, this is easy to believe. But we have to watch out for the powers of selective perception and confirmation bias, which cause us to see what we want to see so we can believe what we want to believe.

Revulsion at President Trump certainly exists in the land. I see no evidence that this revulsion, the existence of which certainly dates back to before the 2016 election, is shrinking. But if it were growing, if the ranks of Trump dislikers were expanding, wouldn’t you expect the change to show up in his approval ratings?

Basically, it hasn’t. Yes, this is my occasional look at the president’s approval numbers. And I must report that they are improving slightly and have been improving very slowly since about Dec. 11, when they were at their all-time worst. From that worst day, they are up about 5 percentage points, which borders on statistical significance, and which, for the cadres of Trump disapprovers who see in the news little other than confirmation of their disapproval, it is hard to believe.

Unlike Trump himself, who ignores the bad polls and exaggerates the good ones, (or the good one, as I documented earlier this month) it’s best not to engage in selective perception. So I follow Gallup (which polls on Trump’s approval every week and which currently shows Trump with his highest approval number (41 percent) since last May, and HuffPost Pollster, which averages his ratings as measured by many different pollsters.

The current HuffPost average – approval 42.2 percent; disapproval 52.2 – confirms that his numbers, while very bad on balance, have been drifting slightly upward since December and are nonetheless at their best levels since the relative honeymoon period during his first four months in office. (It was not a happy honeymoon, since Trump’s approval number have been “below water,” meaning more disapprovers than approvers, since a few days after his inauguration.)

So, to belabor, Trump’s approval ratings are bad, but, at present, less bad than they have been for many months. (Understanding how this can be is beyond my poor powers.) And, to the degree that his approval numbers are improving, they clash somewhat with Dionne’s statement quoted above.

But Dionne’s follow-up point is that Trump has created “a vicious cycle that could be disastrous for the Republican Party this fall. So far, Trump has failed to stir his base, but he has become, unintentionally, one of the most effective organizers of progressive activism and commitment in the country’s history.”

I don’t doubt that. Anti-Trumpism is spurring progressive activism. I have expressed my caution about assuming that anti-Trump enthusiasm will enable the Democrats to take over Congress in November’s midterm elections. But that question leads me to one other point that I’ve been mulling since I read this recent New York Times op-ed by Henry Olsen.

Olsen tortured the exit poll numbers long enough until they (the numbers) confessed that, of those who voted in the 2016 election:

“18 percent of Americans did not like either Mr. Trump or Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump owes his victory to the fact that he beat her among this group by a 17-point margin, 47 percent to 30 percent (the remainder voted for a third party or write-in candidate). Multiplying Mr. Trump’s percentage among this group by the group’s share of the electorate yields a startling fact: Nearly one-fifth of all Trump voters didn’t like him.”

I dislike likabilty, at least as a reason for voting. You’re not going to “have a beer” with either of the nominees, so you shouldn’t vote for the one with whom you think you would rather have one.

But, my dislike notwithstanding, likability is a factor. And “likability” was one of Clinton’s big weaknesses, so big that millions of Americans who disliked Trump voted for him anyway, apparently because they disliked Clinton more. Trump  continues to tactlessly and ludicrously bring up his former opponent, perhaps in hopes of continuing to remind Americans that he is not the least likable politician they ever knew.

When it comes to the 2018 midterm election, neither Trump nor Clinton will be on the ballot. Trump might try to turn it into a second referendum on Hillary Clinton, but it won’t — or at least it shouldn’t — work.

Trump’s name won’t be on the ballot either. But I suspect a lot of Americans will use their ballots to express their feelings about him.

Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/12/2018 - 10:08 am.

    The polls

    I confess to no particular expertise at interpreting poll numbers, but can only say that if 40+% of the American electorate still approves of his behavior and policy initiatives in the White House, it strikes me as either one of the great mysteries of the age, or a sad and somewhat frightening commentary on that American electorate.

    I don’t know Hillary Clinton, never met her, was never very enthused about her as a candidate, and doubt that her religious convictions run very deep, but for evangelicals to choose Mr. Trump over Mrs. Clinton means they basically chose the anti-Christ over an agnostic. It’s not a sensible choice if Christian faith is an important criteria for a voter, and apparently, Trump did quite well among evangelicals in 2016. It only makes sense if much of the expressed Christian faith of evangelicals is essentially a smoke screen, or at best, a veneer laid over beliefs that include misogyny and racism, cultural bigotry and a Pharisee’s love of ostentatious display. Neither is admirable.

    That his approval number remain far above single digits suggests that a sizable portion of the populace is on board with the crass and boorish thought and language emanating from the Oval Office, or the nepotism and crony capitalism on daily display there. It seems to me less a case of Trump inspiring a flowering of liberalism, though that may be happening as well, as his continued approval is an expression of genuinely selfish resentment, in the least-complimentary meaning of that phrase, by people whose belief in democracy is itself a veneer. As long as it fits their particular prejudices, they’re fine with authoritarian rule – pretty much in line with the ideology currently being practiced by Republicans across the country.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 04/12/2018 - 12:41 pm.

      Yes…

      “It only makes sense if much of the expressed Christian faith of evangelicals is essentially a smoke screen, or at best, a veneer laid over beliefs that include misogyny and racism, cultural bigotry and a Pharisee’s love of ostentatious display.”

      As first demonstrated by the Christian conservative consensus that preferred Reagan to Carter, the only true evangelical to ever hold the office in the last 100 years.

  2. Submitted by LK WOODRUFF on 04/12/2018 - 12:07 pm.

    I’ve read pretty much everything written about Trump

    over the years and firmly believe that if all Americans/voters had also done that:

    his approval rating would have to be ZERO.

    That many voters didn’t do their due diligence and research him thoroughly appalls me.

    That unprecedented amounts of money now influence our elections makes me ill.

    That the Russians blatantly high-jacked our last election and still–with another election scheduled for this Fall (2018)–no meaningful safeguards have been put into place angers me.

    That the REPs in Congress still seem willing to place party over country outrages me.

    And that growing numbers of Americans can’t even be bothered to vote…blows my mind.

    WTH, America???

  3. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 04/12/2018 - 12:25 pm.

    You have stumbled on part of the truth…finally!

    I am aware of no voters who love Trump. Many – including me – can barely tolerate him.

    However, I know many who detest Hilary.

    These voters are equally observant of the obvious “campaigning” for Hilary on the part of the “so called independent press.” This fact is obvious to the fair minded.

    In Mr. Black’s constant, weakly, redundant, lambasting of Trump – he has failed to notice that all the “name calling” toward Trump is at least equally – if not more so – applicable to Hilary.

    Such a blatant and biased use of “journalism” does nothing more than excite the wavering toward Trump.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 04/12/2018 - 01:36 pm.

      Evidence free

      Again, you complain about bias but provide no examples. You claim its the same for Hillary, but don’t explain why.

      Mr. Black actually looks at facts, and substantiates his arguments. Is that the bias? That facts and evidence are given preference over just making things up?

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/12/2018 - 02:20 pm.

      Who has Hillary

      sexually assaulted?
      And her knowledge of domestic and foreign affairs is far greater than Trump’s, as he continually demonstrates.
      Yes there is a difference.

  4. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 04/12/2018 - 02:52 pm.

    I disagree categorically with a comparison of Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump that would equate them as to honesty or any other positive trait. She was qualified to be president, he was not, and is not–as we have daily proof. Those of us who point out Trump’s failings are going way beyond the guy’s innate vulgarity and self-centeredness, to his actions in the office. Most particularly, his authoritarian tendency and his saber-rattling (as a lot of Chicken Hawks and cowards and bullies like to do).

    Perhaps Eric might take comfort from looking at how many Republicans are dashing for the Congressional Exit Door this year: They know better than pollsters do, that what they’ve been doing as a majority to bolster Trump is what the public will not stand for in 2018. From attempts to remove tens of millions from their health care, to gigantic tax cuts only for the extremely wealthy and corporations–so Paul Ryan could create huge deficits that necessitate cutting Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and any other “entitlement” like food stamps–to removing any protections of the world’s environment from man-made pollution, to destabilizing our international relations to all-but-explicit claims that he personally (DJT) is above the law, the Trump era so far has had a supine Congress led by Ryan and McConnell.

    Why are all these Republicans fleeing their relatively safe, incumbent Congressional seats this year? Even in places where Trump won big in 2016?

    They know. They know they have an indefensible record. And they know that when Trump “campaigns”–or even when he’s holding a meeting with “his generals” about possibly starting a hotter war over Syria–Trump talks about himself and whatever personal crisis is on his mind and making him “rage.” [When did we have another president who “raged” as frequently as Trump does? Is this man at all stable, or even rational?] He won’t “campaign” for another politician, and they know that.

    I must say, too, that as a person who has a sibling who voted for Trump, there are lots of Americans who absolutely love him. Love him. Think he’s the best thing since sliced bread. Forgive him anything, because he spouts and fumes and expresses all the resentments and hatred they have within them and can’t say in public. The uglier Trump is in speech and act, the more these people love him. There is no way to reach them by pointing out his moral failings or lack of policy knowledge or consistency or even his lack of Class A White House staff (He’s now down to Class C or D appointees.) They vote emotionally, and they refuse even to countenance the FACT that he lies all the time, inveterately. “He does NOT lie!” they exclaim.

    And they do not have any intellectual curiosity. The Old Republicans who had a philosophy and an ideology tear their hair at Trump’s wild antics and can’t stand him, but they are not today’s Trump Republicans.

    If Democrats can get out the vote this fall, we as Americans may have a chance to rein the man in during the second half of his term. No impeachment, just get a majority to pass laws that tie his hands

  5. Submitted by kevin terrell on 04/12/2018 - 04:49 pm.

    LV, RV, AV

    Of course if you really want your head to explode, delve into the approach of the various polls. The only consistent poll that looks at LIKELY voters (Rasmussen) has Trump at 50-50, depending on the day. And while it is certainly useful to understand what everyone thinks of the President, the only ones who matter on election day are those who vote. If an election were held today, Trump would win against a generic democrat. Against the most flawed candidate in my lifetime, Hilary, he wins 300+ electoral votes, again.

    How is that possible, you ask?

    Real world example: My sister earns about $1000 every 2 weeks. This year she got an annual raise and a Trump Bump on taxes – an extra $75 per check. That’s real money to people in that income range, not peanuts.

    Real world – Trump’s favorability goes UP when lower income guys are asked about Stormy Daniels.

    The country does not care what media “elites” think, despite their narcissistic ramblings, and blatant tipping of the scale. If anything, to Ron’s point, it works against them.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 04/17/2018 - 09:25 am.

      Your numbers

      Appear questionable at best. $26K a year and a (26*$75) $1950 ~ 7.5% increase, attributed to Uncle Sam tax scheme? Those numbers do not square with all the data tables. Reality is probably closer to the $1.50 a pay check that Paul Ryan was crowing about. “Media elites, Narcissistic ramblings, blatant tipping of the scales”? Curious, how those remarks compare to a New York Billionaire that lives in a penthouse, has his own hoity-toity golf courses, airplane etc. and hob-knobs with other super rich folks, while spewing BS 70-80% of the time? The issue is some folks struggle to separate truth from fiction, and then blame the truth tellers for their sad fate in life. So the reason “Ts” numbers are going up , supposedly, is folks are selling their souls for $1.50 every 2 weeks? Personally I agree with a previous poster, we acclimated to the pain!

  6. Submitted by Pat Berg on 04/13/2018 - 06:46 am.

    Habituation

    “habituation – the process of people or animals becoming used to something, so that they no longer find it unpleasant or think it is a threat”

    https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/habituation

    I fear that the daily assaults on our sensibilities brought on by the words and actions of this president are causing the American public to become habituated to the atrocity that is Donald Trump.

  7. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/13/2018 - 12:32 pm.

    Why so Small?

    Given the state of the economy (which is pretty well the same as it has been the last several years), why is Don Trump’s approval so low?

    https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/trump-is-far-less-popular-than-the-economy-suggests-he-should-be/

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/14/2018 - 12:00 pm.

      Short answer:

      He’s a sleazeball (to use his terms).
      Serious answer:
      He’s spent so much time saying that the economy was down under Obama that no change looks bad to most people.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/16/2018 - 10:12 am.

      It’s Not About the Economy

      The popularity of Trump among his supporters has nothing to do with the economy, and nothing to do with any point of policy.

      It’s the hatred. Trump hates all the right people, and is willing to say so in unguarded terms. He hates the liberals, he hates the media, he hates foreigners . . . I could go on and on. His people are happy to overlook the overall amorality of his “operation” just to hear the same “non-PC” things they are thinking. They don’t care what he does; in fact, they will go through any manner of intellectual or verbal gymnastics to tell you why he is acting in such a “brilliant” manner. Trump talks the talk, and that’s just fine with them.

      We have devolved into a republic of sullen resentment. Kakistocracy it is.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/17/2018 - 05:45 am.

        A Mirror Reflection

        And to think that the Trump crowd is the same crowd that scoffed when they first heard the term “oppositional defiance disorder”. What utter non-sense psycho-babel they said. Now they embody it.

  8. Submitted by richard owens on 04/18/2018 - 02:35 pm.

    Margaret Mead famously said:

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead –

    A small group of reactionaries isn’t what I thought of when I first read her quote.

    The companion quote might be, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”. – Edmund Burke –

    Failure to even vote?

    Maybe a third quote, to the widow’s question, “Doctor Franklin, what have we got, a Monarchy or a Republic?” “You have a Republic – if you can keep it.”

    An angry, resentful, well-armed and pious minority – hostile to the many demographic changes threatening white male dominance HAVE changed the world. Good men HAVE done little or nothing to stop or temper their rise, and it sure looks like we will not be a represented population wherever reactionary interests can undermine the actual basic act of voting.

    Dubya and Cheney almost destroyed us with endless wars on the credit card and a crashed economy that wiped out homeowner equity worse than the great depression.

    This Republican Prez, armed with seemingly unlimited money and the help of international enemies (and Zuckerberg) just might finish us off for good.

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