Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


So far, the WaPo poll on Trump is an outlier

The Post poll showed a new low of the president’s approval rating, at 36, and a new high in his disapproval rating, at 60 percent. The most recent Gallup weekly numbers were 41/53.

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump has had very bad approval ratings throughout the first half of his term.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

If you are even half as obsessed with politics as I am, and even one tenth as focused on the approval ratings of President Donald Trump, you may have seen a Washington Post/ABC poll last week that showed a new low of his approval rating, at 36, and a new high in his disapproval rating, at 60 percent.

A full writeup of the Post poll is here, headlined: “60 percent disapprove of Trump, while clear majorities back Mueller and Sessions.”

The president has had very bad approval ratings throughout the first half of his term. An approval/disapproval rating of 36/60 would be terrible and a new low for Trump. But when I say “would be” I am exercising caution, and encourage you to do the same.

Article continues after advertisement

The Post poll was published last Friday and based on interviews conducted by phone Aug. 26-29. If it holds up over time and is reflected in subsequent polls by others, it would be a semi-serious signal that some members of Trump’s famously loyal base have changed their feelings about him, to his detriment. And, given the really strange news over the past week, including the Bob Woodward book and the anonymous op-ed by a senior administration official about how many White House officials are treating Trump like a dangerous imbecile, it seems there might be grounds for some Trump enthusiasts to reconsider.

But I remain cautious about the result because most other approval polls are not showing the same decline, or really any significant decline.

As regular Black Ink readers know, I check Trump’s approval ratings frequently and write about them monthly. It’s turned out to be a mostly boring project because there so little movement. Although he has been “under water” throughout his term, Trump’s ratings have also been unusually stable, perhaps consistent with his obnoxious boast that he could shoot someone in plain sight and his ratings wouldn’t go down.

My method is to check the Huffington Post’s agglomeration of many approval polls and to check Gallup’s approval number, which comes out weekly. As of Thursday evening, the Huff Post aggl0merations showed Trump with a blended average rating of 41.9 percent approval/ 53.3 percent disapproval. That’s much closer to where it has been for months than it is to the Post/ABC average.

If you go to the HuffPost graphic (link above) you’ll be more struck by the sameness of the curve than any big change.

Likewise, the most recent Gallup weekly numbers, published Monday (after the Post poll) were 41/53, which, on the disapproval side, was seven percentage lower than the Post’s.

Why am I making a big deal of knocking down the Post poll? Well, first of all, it’s not that big a deal. No trees died so that this little post could be published. But second of all, I value my credibility and would not like to be like Trump himself, who ignores all the bad approval polls and then — when an outlier poll appears that is good for him —  tweets it out and pretends it is the only one in the world, even though it disagrees with the great majority of polls.

Is there a name for that particular kind of selective perception? To me, it’s just a lack of intellectual rigor or honesty, committed for self-serving purposes at the cost of credibility. It’s scary to think of a president whose ego needs are so extreme that he can’t be trusted to want to deal with reality.

If you look at the HuffPost graphic, you’ll see there are a couple of other polls since the Post/ABC that reached similar findings. But perhaps the Post poll is the beginning of a significant long-term change in the status quo. So far, it’s not.