If the 2020 election is an up-or-down referendum on whether Americans want four more years of Donald Trump as president, he has little chance whatsoever of winning re-election.
Of course, his national approval rating has been locked in the low 40s (or occasionally the high 30s) during most of his term. But the Electoral College is a state-by-state affair. I base my strong statement above on state-by-state approval polls, just released by Morning Consult, compared to the results of the 2016 election in those states.
The overall impression these results give is consistent with what most reputable pollsters are finding. Nothing magical about this one poll, except that Morning Consult’s online polling technique enables it to get fresh state-by-state results every month or so at a reasonable cost. The latest numbers from each state, discussed below, are from July.
Trump currently has an under-water approval rating (meaning not just that his approval number is below 50 percent, but that he has more disapprovers than approvers, disregarding those who had no opinion) in in enough states to cost Trump re-election by a healthy margin. He has a net negative approval rating in more than enough states to support my opening statement, and he is way under water in many of them.
Let’s get some important caveats out of the way, before I give you the numbers. Some people who disapprove of Trump will vote for him anyway, if he can convince them that his opponent would be even worse. He has kind of a knack for that. Some will vote for minor candidates, and those votes aren’t reflected in this analysis (but, of course some of those third-party voters might also prefer Trump to his Democratic opponent, so that one cuts both ways).
Turnout is another complication. Then there’s cheating, and intentional disfranchisement of eligible voters through various means at which Republicans demonstrated in 2016 they are good and are willing to employ.
But I stand behind my first sentence above: If the election is a referendum on whether people want four more years of Donald Trump (and elections involving an incumbent president are said to be heavily influenced by that logic), he’s not in a good place, based on these state-by-state Morning Consult poll numbers, as linked above and specified below.
Let’s get Minnesota out of the way. Although Trump didn’t carry Minnesota in 2016, Hillary Clinton carried it by just a 1.5 percent margin of the popular vote. The latest Morning Consult poll (which is consistent with most other polls of Trump’s approval in Minnesota) shows him below water (more disapprovers than approvers) by 14 percentage points. Fourteen points. I know people talk about Minnesota as a possible Trump pickup, based mostly on how close he came in 2016 (although when they make that argument they tend to disregard Democrats’ very strong showing up and down the ballot in the 2018 midterm). I don’t call them dumb. I can’t be sure they’re wrong. But Trump’s net-14-percent negative approval rating will be hard to overcome.
That’s the only state I’ll mention in this piece that Trump lost in 2016. (I do so for the obvious reason that I and most MinnPost readers live here.) The rest will all be states Trump carried.
Let’s do the three famous “blue wall” states that Trump carried, without which he would not have won his electoral college majority in 2016: Pennsylvania, Michigan and our neighbor, Wisconsin.
Pennsylvania: Trump beat Clinton in 2016 by 0.8 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania. His current Morning Consult approval rating there: Trump is eight points under water. Eight percent higher disapproval than approval.
In Michigan, it’s worse for Trump. He carried Michigan by just 0.23 percentage points. He’s currently 11 points under water in approval among Michiganders, according to Morning Consult. Eleven points. That’s a lot of people he has to convince that he’s the lesser of two evils.
Wisconsin. Still worse for Trump. Carried it by 0.75 percentage points. Under water by 14 points. Fourteen points under water.
If Trump carried all the rest of the states he carried in 2016, but lost those three, he would lose the electoral vote. But they aren’t the only states he carried in which he has an under-water approval rating.
Arizona. Trump carried by 3.5 percent margin. Current approval seven points under water.
Iowa: Trump carried by 9.5 points (!!!). Current Morning Consult approval: 11 points (!!!) under water.
And lastly, one that Trump carried narrowly, and is now under water approval-rating-wise, but just barely:
North Carolina: Trump carried by 2.65 points. Current approval: One point under.
I’m certainly not putting North Carolina in the bag for whomever the Democrats end up nominating. I’m not putting any of the states mentioned above in the bag. Nothing is in the bag. The election will not be an up or down vote on Trump. It will be a choice between Trump and a specific Democrat.
Part of Trump’s dark genius is to demonize whomever it is to his advantage to demonize. He will assign an insult nickname. He will mock their appearance. He will lie. He will frighten. He might be able to get some people who disapprove of him to vote for him as the lesser evil. He might get some who would never vote for him to stay home by convincing them that the alternative is no better. He might lose both the popular and the electoral vote and refuse to leave office, claiming the vote was rigged. I’m just saying, based on current polling, he’s in a lot of trouble in a lot of states he needs to carry.