President Trump’s approval continues to both low by historical comparisons and historically very, very steady – unprecedentedly so by historical standards, which is especially surprising (to me, at least) because of the chaotic nature of his tenure.
A new survey of state-by-state approval ratings looks somewhat alarming for Trump, although it would be foolish to start analyzing such results as harbingers of what might happen if he were to seek a second term in 2020. The state numbers might reflect on Trump’s power to influence results of the midterm elections in many states.
As regular readers of this space know, I check in about once a month on the current incumbent’s approval numbers, as measured by Gallup and the HuffPost’s blended number.
First, the same old finding: By either measure, Trump’s ratings are “under water,” meaning more disapprovers than approvers. According to the HuffPost average, as of this morning, his disapprovers outnumbered his approvers 51.8 percent to 43.2. This is, of course, a bad number, but not cataclysmic, and is better than it used to be. At his worst point (according to the HuffPost average), it was 56.7 disapproval/38.4 approval on August 15 of last year.) So the latest numbers show about a five point movement toward more approval from Trump’s lowest point.
But the latest numbers are almost exactly the same as they were when I last checked, in mid-May, when they were 52/43 percent. Why such stability amid such chaos? One factor is probably the much-discussed bifurcation of news sources and news audiences, where more and more Americans seek news from sources that confirm what they already believe, such as, for example, Fox News for Trump likers and MSNBC for dislikers. This trend should alarm us, at least of those who think that new information might open people’s minds to new thoughts. But it seems we’re getting used to the new hardening of tribal lines.
Gallup, on the other hand, while still showing Trump under water, gives him his best number in more than a year, with 50 percent disapproval and 45 percent approval. (That compares to Gallup numbers of 54/42 a week ago. Let’s see if that most recent bump holds up in future weeks.)
In historical perspective, how do Trump’s numbers look? Bad, maybe very bad, but lots of previous presidents have, at some point in their presidencies, had lower approval ratings than Trump’s current numbers.
Gallup also makes available a great graph that shows the ups and downs of every president’s approval rating going back to Harry Truman. Almost all of them, at some point, had a lower approval rating than Trump’s current number. But Trump is just a year and a half into his first term. And he has had the worst first year-and-a-half of any. If he continues to have a solid floor of approvers in the 35-43 percent range, he’ll be both historically unusual, and historically not as terrible as his predecessors, many of whom had a lower low than Trump’s lowest so far.
Lastly, I mentioned above a new report on Trump’s state-by-state numbers. For Republicans, there is ground for some alarm in this report from the polling-obsessed crew at FiveThirtyEight.com. According to them, Trump’s net approval has fallen in all 50 states since he took office. Of course, as I mentioned above, Trump had better numbers on Inauguration Day than he has ever had since (47 disapproval/45 approval, in Gallup, for example).
But presidential elections are held on a state-by-state basis, and so are Senate elections, of course. Trump is so popular among Republicans that he may be able to help his allies in Republicans primary elections, but to win general elections in November, and looking forward to his own possible re-election campaign in 2020, he needs help from independents and even some Democrats. At the moment, his approval among all respondents, on a state-by-state basis, has fallen, according to FiveThirtyEight.
This will get you the full FiveThirtyEight overview of the state-by-state Trump approval polls. They show drops in Trump’s state-by-state approval ratings in all 50 states. They range from a 31-point drop in New Mexico and Illinois to a mere six-point drop in Alabama and Louisiana. (In Minnesota, of special interest, Trump’s approval has dropped 18 points from +3 on Inauguration Day to -15 now.)
It would be silly to overreact to this. And bear in mind that these are all compared to Trump at his highest moment. And – if you are looking ahead to November 2020 when Trump may be seeking another term — bear in mind that the question on the ballot will not be “Do you like Trump?,” it will be whom do you prefer, Trump or his TBD Democratic opponent.
But, for the obsessed, I’ll just pass along the change in Trump’s statewide ratings in the three states that according to many analysts determined the outcome of the election, the three “Blue Wall” states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, all of which Trump carried narrowly.
In Pennsylvania, Trump’s approval when he took office was +10. In the latest polling, it’s -4.
In Michigan, it’s dropped 17 percentage points, from +8 to -9.
And in Wisconsin it’s fallen 18 points from +6 to -12.
On balance, according to 538’s table, Trump’s approval numbers are still above water in 20 states, 12 of them in the south, including the key swing state of Florida, where is net approval has declined from +22 on Inauguration Day to +5 in this roundup.