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Trump’s poll numbers remain fairly stable, with 54.5% disapproval

Donald Trump had the shortest “honeymoon” in presidential history, at least since the dawn of polling, which gives us approval ratings to measure how Americans are feeling about their presidents. Trump’s approval rating fell underwater (meaning more disapprovers than approvers) within a couple of weeks of his inauguration, and has never climbed back above that dismal standing since.

He does not have the lowest approval numbers in the history of such things. Other presidents have had worse ratings after some scandal or disaster had destroyed their popularity. But no previous president has been underwater for an entire term, minus the first few weeks.

On the other hand, no president in the history of approval ratings has demonstrated such stability in their approval ratings.

Basically, after that drop into net-negative ratings during his first month in office, Trump’s ratings have moved around less from week to week than any of the presidents in the modern era of polling. As I have often confessed when I started a small project of writing a piece every month or two to update Trump’s approval ratings, it has turned out to be a very boring story because it changes so little. 


His approval number never strays from a range in the low 40s or high 30s. His disapproval number has never strayed from a range in the low to high 50s, basically with a top of 57 and a bottom of 51.

For the historical comparisons above, I rely on Gallup, which has been in the business forever. The historical overview of the ups and downs of every president since Harry Truman is viewable here, and you can see at a glance that Trump stands out as having the smallest range of variation over time. 

For the Trump era itself, I have been guided by the political number crunchers at fivethirtyeight.com, who follow a huge number of polls, even adjust some of those polls to correct for what they see as methodology/reliability issues, and publish a constantly updated average of them all. As of Wednesday morning, the updated 538.com average was 41.0 percent approval, 54.5 percent disapproval, a negative gap of 13.5 percentage points, which is toward the high end (in terms of the size of the Trump’s approval deficit) but really incredibly consistent with the generalizations above. 

That is viewable here and also confirms how little Trump’s numbers move around more than a few points.

With all the evidence that has come to light about his unpresidential conduct and now the possibility of impeachable offenses, you might (if you hadn’t lived through the past two-plus years), think that some of his approvers might begin to change their view. But, at least by this measure, which I think is a good one, no, his base is sticking with him. They are entitled to their view. 

I don’t understand them as well as I would like to, and they are far less than a majority, or even enough to get him re-elected 13 months from now. Presumably, he would have to hold them all, get more than his share of the small percentage who show up as “don’t know/refused” in the various polls, maybe even pick up the votes of some of his disapprovers who will decide at some point after the Democrats nominate his opponent, that although they disapprove of Trump, they view him as marginally better than his opponent — especially after Trump has assigned the opponent an adorable insulting nickname and made up some lies about that person or exaggerated some small flaws into evidence of colossal felonies, as he did with Hillary Clinton. And, then too, we will see efforts in some states when the electoral system is controlled by Republicans, to suppress/deny the vote in areas that are likely populated by likely Democratic voters. Lastly, there are the vagaries of the Electoral College system itself.

Unless Trump is both impeached (which seems likely) and removed by the Senate (which seems much less likely), or unless he makes a deal to resign before November 2020 in exchange for his crimes and misdemeanors not being prosecuted, which I could imagine, I guess we’ll find out. At this point, I would almost guarantee that his approval numbers will not improve much. But, if the past is any indication, they won’t go down much either. What, exactly, would cause a significant chunk of his 40 percent to abandon him, I don’t claim to know.

Comments (25)

  1. Submitted by cory johnson on 10/23/2019 - 09:02 am.

    If this “impeachment inquiry” continues to be held in secret with selective leaks from chairman Schiff I’d say his 40% won’t abandon him. The ridiculous Russia collusion attack from Schiff et al (still waiting on the proof he promised he had) didn’t make me like Trump more as much as it made me disgusted with Democrats. This impeachment charade has made me want to vote for him even more than in 2016 (which was quite reluctantly).

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/23/2019 - 10:24 am.

      Alas, plenty of proof of Trumpian abuse of power has been presented to the public – not always by Mr. Schiff. Lately, it’s been presented by Mr. Trump himself, or by one of his minions. In addition, voluminous statements from career foreign service officers provide ample corroboration of the charge of corruption (assuming you don’t like the term “quid pro quo), as do “orders” from the State Department and, to a lesser degree, the Department of Justice (lately an oxymoronic name) to employees not to comply with perfectly legal subpoenas from House committees seeking more information, as is their constitutional duty. Even heretofore staunch allies (Newt Gingrich comes readily to mind) have called Trump’s attempt to hold the G-7 meetings at his own resort – from which he would profit personally, in contravention of existing law and the Constitution’s “emoluments” clause, which Trump referred to as “phony,” though it’s been there for more than two centuries – as “stupid.”

      You may be correct in asserting that his 40% won’t abandon him. Should that turn out to be the case, it will only provide more proof to social scientists that “true believers,” whether religious zealots or political disciples, are not swayed by facts or reason. More’s the pity, since the various forms of the cliché remain precisely on target in saying something like, “Facts are true whether you believe them or not.”

      It’s also worth noting that, if Trump manages to get 40% of the vote in 2020, he’ll have lost his bid for a second term by something close to a historic margin – only 3 candidates since WW II have gotten less than 40% of the popular vote, and – a reminder – Trump didn’t win the popular vote in 2016, either. He managed 46% to Clinton’s 48%. A logical (though not practical) argument can be made that he’s not a legitimate president. I’ve read that that argument drives him into a rage…

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/23/2019 - 12:08 pm.

      Back in the real world, the Republican members of the investigative meetings have been participating in the hearings.
      It’s only Republican NONmembers who have been barred; standard Congressional procedure according to the House parliamentarian.

    • Submitted by Brian Simon on 10/23/2019 - 12:13 pm.

      I don’t understand the claim that impeachment hearings are a charade. The allegations are that the Trump administration threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless Ukraine opened an investigation into Hunter Biden. The Trump administration admits to asking Ukraine for that investigation; and admits to withholding the military aid. Their entire defense is that “there was no quid pro quo.” The investigation & hearings are into whether that defense is true. That the hearings are behind closed doors is much like grand jury investigations. At the conclusion of the investigations a decision is made whether to file charges. The claim that this is somehow unfair relies on the belief that the President is above the law.

      • Submitted by cory johnson on 10/25/2019 - 09:25 pm.

        They aren’t holding a vote so Schiff can continue to make up rules and selectively leak testimony. He leaked Taylor’s opening statement, but miraculously not any Republican cross examination. He most likely helped craft Taylor’s statement when he and Schifff’s staffer met in August.
        How many witnesses have Republicans been allowed to call? Zero.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 10/24/2019 - 06:19 am.

      Never you worry – they’re going public soon:

      https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/addybaird/democrats-trump-impeachment-investigation-tv-public-hearings

  2. Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 10/23/2019 - 09:30 am.

    That has to really depress Schiff & Co.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 10/23/2019 - 09:54 am.

      That such a large share of citizens support a POTUS who encouraged foreign powers to meddle in an American election is depressing indeed.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/23/2019 - 01:43 pm.

      I don’t see why. It’s entirely unsurprising that those who have stuck with Trump this long would continue to do so, no matter what evidence is presented to them. It’s long been clear that they suffer from a pronounced myopia that is a direct consequence of an unwillingness to gather information from any source not known to reflect a reliable right-wing bias, and a tendency to reject out of hand information that counters their preconceptions.

      • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 10/24/2019 - 10:19 am.

        Absolutely, as an occasional visitor to Powerline, I read a recent piece by one of their founders giving logical and proper respect to the West Point / VietNam / Reagan / Bush credentials of William Taylor.

        Pitchfork nation immediately cranked out 400 posts attacking any deviation from “he’s a never Trumper plant in the State Dept.”. The author is likely serving a 30 day timeout.

        It is a country gone mad: a couple of Euro criminals named Igor and Lev, with a business named “Fraud Guarantee” are great patriots to these guys and folks with 50 years of selfless service to the nation are traitors because Donald Trump told them so.

        As a former teacher I will take partial responsibility for the total failure of an educational system that produced these mindless folks incapable of critical thought…

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/24/2019 - 11:38 am.

          “A couple of Euro criminals named Igor and Lev, with a business named ‘Fraud Guarantee’” sounds like something the late Elmore Leonard would have dreamed up.

  3. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 10/23/2019 - 10:09 am.

    Well Eric an elder once commented, “you can lead a man to knowledge but you can’t make him think” maybe its because quid pro quo is Latin?

  4. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 10/23/2019 - 12:00 pm.

    Trump’s term in office began much like a precocious 3 year old acting out and his parents looking on how “cute this is”, while friends and relatives are amazed by the lack of any attempt to parent and moderate the behavior. Soon he is a 9 year old and the behavior has further deteriorated and the parents begin to see an issue but believe it will go away with age. Our presidential brat is now 17, stealing cars, doing drugs, abusing his parents and all who get in his way. The parents must now decide whether to take the difficult road of tough love and intervene much to the discomfort of our presidential brat or just decide that: “He will be 18 in a few months and we’ll let someone else deal with this mess”.

    Thanks Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell. Will you visit him in prison in 2021?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/24/2019 - 02:43 pm.

      “Trump’s term in office began much like a precocious 3 year old acting out and his parents looking on how “cute this is”, while friends and relatives are amazed by the lack of any attempt to parent and moderate the behavior.”

      The Republican Party is acting like the parents of that 3 year old who are hurt and astonished that anyone would take issue with them allowing their precocious little guy to “explore” a crowded restaurant, while they continue to dine, oblivious to the havoc being wreaked.

  5. Submitted by Kevin Schumacher on 10/23/2019 - 12:25 pm.

    trump is characterologically disinclined to take responsibility for negative things….perhaps those in the 40% are also.

  6. Submitted by cory johnson on 10/26/2019 - 10:11 am.

    He isn’t allowing committee members to access all documents pertaining to the interviews. Just a one page summary which can only be viewed in the presence of a Democrat staffer. This is against House rules.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 10/26/2019 - 04:49 pm.

      CJ, there are Republicans designated to sit on that committee and get the same information as the Democrats, unless of course they are parading around outside the door demanding that they be seated at the meeting they were suppose to attend but chose not to, so they could parade around with a bunch of other Republican clowns suggesting that something that is perfectly legal is illegal! We can’t make this stuff up, when the Dictator want to be rallies the non-patriots, Feel free to lay out those house rules, everything seen from this perspective is the #1 rule/law/morale/ethical/ etc. etc. breaker is some folks favorite dictator want to be, the hell with the constitution, or any other form of legalese. Folks backed a Russian agent for president, think it is time to reevaluate those perspectives yet?

      • Submitted by cory johnson on 10/27/2019 - 08:10 am.

        House rules give ALL members a right to committee docs. Schiff is keeping documents and transcripts from committee Republicans and other Republicans. Apparently we are supposed to believe Schiff has such a strong case it’s imperative that no Republicans be allowed access to committee transcripts. Read the House rules. Page 568.
        You also must have been given exclusive access to the proof Schiff and Brennan claim to have of Trump’s collusion with Russia. The rest of the world is still waiting.

        • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 10/28/2019 - 07:52 am.

          Ask and you shall receive:

          Col·lude

          Verb

          Cooperate in a secret or unlawful way in order to deceive or gain an advantage over others.

          “The emails show music promoter Rob Goldstone telling the future US president’s son that “the crown prosecutor of Russia” had offered “to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father”.

          British-born Goldstone adds in the exchange of 3 June 2016: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.”

          Seventeen minutes later, Trump Jr welcomes this with the reply: “If it’s what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer.””

          The Trump campaign actively sought to gain an advantage, just as they are now doing with Ukraine.

          Trump is 100%, absolutely incapable of learning from the past: I have no doubt that the Russian collusion investigation has made Trump’s life miserable for the past 3 years. And then what does he do:

          THE EXACT SAME THING!

          Can anyone explain that?

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/28/2019 - 09:27 am.

          Rule XI allows a committee to keep some records secret and to meet in closed door executive session.

          Private interviews, according to one expert on closed-door committee investigative sessions, are a more efficient and effective means of discovery. “Interviews allow witnesses to be questioned in depth by a highly prepared member or staff person . . . Interviews also allow the Committee to safeguard the privacy of witnesses who may fear retaliation for cooperating or whose work requires anonymity, such as intelligence community operatives.”

          In addition, this expert noted that “[b]oth witnesses and members of Congress conduct themselves differently in interviews than when in the public glare of a hearing. Neither have an incentive to play to the cameras . . . Perhaps more importantly, political posturing, selfserving speeches, and theatrics serve no purpose in a closed interview and, as a result, the questioning in interviews tends to be far more effective at discovering information than at public hearings.”

          Because we want to get at the truth, right?

        • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 10/28/2019 - 10:20 am.

          CJ, “Additional and special meetings (c)(1) The chair of each standing committee may call and convene, as the chair considers necessary, additional and special meetings of the committee for the consideration of a bill or reso-lution pending before the committee or for the conduct of other committee business, subject to such rules as the committee may adopt. The committee shall meet for such purpose under that call of the chair.” One quote does not tell the entire story., you do know that committees can set their own rules? That is that section “subject to such rules as the committee may adopt”, Could you speak to that section from someplace else other than a “Red State” source. You also know that it is very unlikely, unless you are a Russian agent like Trump, that intelligence meetings are published for the world to view, Suspect they would call those ignorant meetings, not intelligence meetings.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 10/28/2019 - 02:40 pm.

      It is interesting that the House Rs are beside themselves on process and pretty much mum on the results. Many of the witnesses have given opening statements that are well reported in the media.

      We hear very little questioning the credibility or substance of what these witnesses are actually saying.

      Which leads one to deduct that these guys are behind the scenes saying:

      “Boy, am I glad this was not broadcast end to end on every cable news outlet, it won’t be easy defending what Trump has done”

      Unfortunately for them, the day of public reckoning is nearing when we do get to hear from these witnesses in public as the Rs have asked.

      Watch the rats desert the sinking ship at that point: Gordon Sondland learned this lesson quickly. How long for the others? All depends on the credibility of the public testimony:

      “I’m going to put my credibility on the line for a guy who did this? No way!”

      Trump, Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows will be there at the end to turn out the lights.

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