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Trump’s early COVID-19 approval bump is over, Gallup numbers confirm

Last week, when Gallup took a new survey, Trump had returned to a double-digits-below-water rating.

President Donald Trump got a bounce, it’s over, and things are back to where they were.
President Donald Trump got a bounce, it’s over, and things are back to where they were.
REUTERS/Al Drago

The bump in his approval ratings that President Donald Trump received in the early days of the COVID-19  crisis is over, the latest Gallup numbers confirm.

Back on March 13, Trump’s approval rating sat at 44 percent, with 52 percent disapproving (and the rest expressing no opinion). That was roughly normal for most of Trump’s term, pre-COVID-19 and during the early days of the pandemic, with Trump still claiming it wouldn’t be that big of a deal in the United States. His Gallup ratings during his entire term have been bad but remarkably stable (which made my determination to periodically update the picture pretty boring).

But Gallup’s next sample, reported on March 22 based on interviews in the early days of the U.S. COVID-19 crisis, showed a sharp improvement, with Trump approval poking into net positive territory for the first time ever in his presidency. Still below 50, but 49 percent of that March 22 sample told Gallup they approved of how Trump was doing as president, versus 45 percent disapproval. It was a rare moment of Trump being “above water,” as the pollsters refer to the president with more approvers than disapprovers.

(To my credit, if I may say so, considering that I’m not the biggest Trump admirer, I reported this bump. True, I mentioned that it might reflect a temporary rally-round-the-chief-in-time-of-crisis effect. But I didn’t further undermine his bump by noting that many political leaders around the world were getting similar and, in most cases, bigger rally-round-the-leader bumps.)

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So, you saw this coming, but last week, when Gallup took a new survey, Trump had returned to double-digits-below-water rating. Gallup’s latest showed a Trump approval rating of 43 percent, with 54 disapproving (and the remainder expressing no opinion).

The latest poll numbers were not the lowest approval Gallup has ever measured for Trump during his term. He was below 40 percent several times during his first year. But the latest measure merely showed a return to the status quo ante.

Thus reasonable minds could surmise his brief March spike had indeed been almost entirely a pandemic-inspired rally, not a true suggestion that a lot of Americans had deeply or durably changed their minds about his fitness for the high office he occupies.

As I mentioned above, some other world leaders have had recent spikes in approval. This link will get you an overview. The prime minister of Italy, which rivals the United States for the top of the countries-hit-hardest-by-COVID list, saw his positive ratings rise to 71 percent.

Anyway, the short-term rally stuff is over for Trump, at least for the moment. And not only Gallup, but the FiveThirtyEight.com average of many approval polls (on which I also always rely) shows the same return to normal after the brief rally although, because of the effect of averaging many polls, 538 shows a less dramatic drop after a less dramatic rise.

But that average, maintained by Nate Silver and his team of obsessive political number crunchers, also shows the same basic fact: Trump got a bounce, it’s over, and things are back to where they were. Here’s that link, which as of Monday morning showed Trump’s latest average at 52.2 percent disapproval, 44 percent approval, not exactly the numbers a president would want seven months before facing the electorate for a second term.