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Trump’s approval/disapproval gap slowly widens

As of this morning, 41.3. percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing as president; 54.3 percent disapprove.

President Donald Trump
As of this morning, 41.3. percent of Americans approve of the job Donald Trump is doing as president; 54.3 percent disapprove.
REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

The approval/disapproval ratings of President Donald Trump are bleeding. They are not gushing blood but dripping it steadily over the past month or more. His numbers are not crashing, but the size of the negative gap between his approvers and his disapprovers widened steadily but extremely slowly for a month and a half.

As of this morning, 41.3. percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing as president; 54.3 percent disapprove. Sixteen months before Election Day 2020, he is underwater by 13  percentage points and the depth of the water has been growing lately.

Yes, this is the occasional and probably not-eagerly-awaited update of my series on Trump’s approval ratings, which I usually call the most boring series ever. That’s because Trump’s ups and downs, approval-wise, have been so slow. As always, I rely on the blending of many approval polls managed by the sabre-metrics wizards of (affiliated with the legendary political number-cruncher supreme, Nate Silver).

Click here and you can see what I mean. Or keep reading while I blather briefly on and I’ll give you another link at the bottom. If you look, you won’t have to squint. The negative movement is easily visible to the naked eye, but it is a fairly steady drip, not a hemorrhage of political blood.

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The blended average maintained by the 538 crew shows Trump’s already-bad approval number edging down, a tenth of a percent or two at a time (and his disapproval number up) most days since roughly mid-June, with a noticeable acceleration in the trend over the past five weeks. The size of the negative gap has drifted up to negative 13 points today.

It’s bad, of course, to be under water at all. All recent presidents have spent some time under water during their term. But Trump has been under water since a week or two after Inauguration Day. That’s unprecedented. And it’s worse when the negative gap is growing. And Trump’s approval deficit has been trending now since May, quite slowly but fairly steadily.

Smarter (or possibly dumber) people than me will tell you why. I have long had a negative view of “how Donald Trump is handling his job as president,” which is typical of the language approval polls employ.

I have, frankly, been astonished at how well his approval numbers have held up, considering my own view of how he handles his job. During his first year and more, I kept waiting for his already-bad and always-bad numbers to just crash or crater or collapse or some other c-word. They didn’t, and they still haven’t. He might recover all of his recently lost points next week or next month, or he may continue to slowly bleed support.

Earlier in his term, his approval number flirted with numbers lower than the current level, but rarely and never for long. He last dropped below 40 percent right after his party got clobbered in the 2018 midterms. But he crept back to his normal bad-but-steady approval picture within a few months.

Is something different, more enduring going on this time? I don’t know. Neither do the people working to win him a second term, but I bet they’re plenty worried. And I read a certain panic masquerading as confidence in his words and actions.

Oh, I promised to offer you the link again to the chart of Trump’s approval ups and downs. Here it is. Check it again tomorrow and see if the trend continues. I’ll try not to write about it again for a month, unless something big happens.