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So far, the WaPo poll on Trump is an outlier

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

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.

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.

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/07/2018 - 10:01 am.

    I don’t expect much movement in disapproval ratings for the most part, it was the OTHER findings that interested me. Even larger percentages of American’s support the various investigations and the investigators. And a larger majority thinks Trump committed a crime (if he directed hush money). Even more remarkable is the fact that almost 50% of those polled support impeachment if the Democrats take control of Congress. The fact that so many American’s already support the idea of impeaching this president, before the first midterm elections, is historically unprecedented.

    Trump hasn’t actually been officially accused or charged with anything, yet 40% feel “strongly” that he should be impeached? Only 33% of respondents feel “stongly” that Trump should not be impeached, which means that up to 77% either support impeachment or are on the fence. That’s nothing short of amazing.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/07/2018 - 10:05 am.

    The Huff Post poll aggregate does seem to slow a (small) divergent trend of disapprove over approve since May.
    The FiveThirtyEight aggregate ( shows the same trend. Since Trump’s disapproval numbers are already record breaking, that doesn’t appear about to change.

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/07/2018 - 10:09 am.

    I guess that the polling streak is not entirely a surprise considering that their fans have not abandoned their party with the history of 3 of the last 4 Republican presidents all having to have public campaigns that addressed the obvious unfitness of the President with the “reassuring” message that there were competent adults in the room.

    And the 4th, Bush Senior, was booted from office by Republicans after one term for being too reality based…

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/07/2018 - 11:07 am.

    “…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.”

    One need only note the narcissistic glow on Mr. Trump’s face in the photo at the head of Eric’s piece to realize that a certain level of heightened anxiety on the part of the citizenry is a sensible response. That he’s still actually **holding rallies** nearly 2 years after he was elected, and using Twitter to publicly attack almost anyone who voices any sort of public criticism, seems to me another sign that he operates from what used to be called “the illusion of central position,” characteristic of small children, wherein the only needs and desires that count are his own.

  5. Submitted by David Mindeman on 09/10/2018 - 05:37 pm.

    Judging by polls coming out on Sept 9 and 10th, do you still feel that the WaPo poll is an outlier?

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