During what was advertised as a “cabinet meeting” Wednesday, the current occupant of the Oval Office brought in the media and treated them to a weird, deranged, self-aggrandizing ramble, in the course of which he claimed to be “the most popular president in the history of the Republican Party.”
He said a lot of other untrue things that will briefly occupy the fact-checking industry. It is truly hard for those among us who once thought that telling transparent self-glorifying falsehoods would not be good for one’s political career to understand Trump’s admirers’ delight in being lied to (and bragged at). But since he decided to brag about his historically high popularity, I thought I would just update my endless and boring Trump Approval Ratings Watch.
I never meant it to be so boring. But the truth is that, while Trump is nowhere near the most popular president in the history of the Republican Party, it is still the case that the minority of the country that approves of the job he is doing is neither growing nor shrinking significantly (which is what pretty much all of these updates, to date, have said, to my continuing surprise, although the level of surprise is declining).
Gallup hasn’t published a fresh weekly average of His Excellency’s approval rating for a couple of weeks, but this graph of its daily sampling will show that Mr. Trump is still “below water” (meaning more disapprovers than approvers) as he has been since roughly Inauguration Day.
The most recent measure shows him with 40 percent approval, 55 percent disapproval. It wanders a tad from week to week, but his disapproval stays in the 50s, occasionally scraping 60, and his approval number ranges from the middle 30s to the upper 30s, occasionally touching 40. It’s possible to detect some slight upward bias over recent months, but not enough to change the basic verdict: Very stable, but underwater.
Since it is he, not me, who raised the question of how this compares with previous, especially Republican presidents in history, you should know that approval ratings polling does not go back to the earliest Republican president, one Abraham Lincoln, nor any of the other bearded Republicans of the latter 19th century. But Gallup has numbers going back to the Harry Truman administration, and they are all viewable here. The Republican presidents covered include Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and two Bushes. All of them had higher highs than Trump. Both Bushes had periods (associated with wars, which often create a rally-round-the-flag effect) when their approval that got into the low 80s. (Trump has never been above 50.) But for the consistent popularity over an extended period, the most approved-of Republican president was Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose highest approval number was 80 and lowest was 48.
It would be interesting bordering on phantasmagorical to imagine how Trump might explain how anything about his popularity was better than Ike’s. But, in truth, if you don’t torture the numbers, Trump’s overall record, especially the part about never being above water, would appear to be the worst of any Republican president (or any Democrat either) ever (although several of them had lower lows, like Nixon just before he resigned).