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.