Trump’s Job Approval Shows Slight Improvement But Remains At Historic Lows
President Trump's job approval has improved slightly, but the numbers remain historically low for a newly elected President.
After a summer that saw the President wading into racial controversy in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, newer polls show that the President has recovered slightly from his lows earlier in the year but that he remains at historic lows for a new President:
President Donald Trump’s approval rating is on the upswing in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday, matching a trend from other polls that also show the president’s ratings inching upward.
Forty-three percent of respondents said they either strongly or somewhat approve of the president’s job performance, a 3 percentage point increase from the poll’s previous iteration, conducted in mid-August. Fifty-two percent said they either strongly or somewhat disapprove of Trump’s job performance, down 3 points from the August poll.
The new poll results are in line with other poll findings that have emerged in recent weeks. Those show Trump’s approval ratings remain at historic lows for a president in his first year in office but are improving from their low-water mark in August. The RealClearPolitics polling average of Trump’s approval rating currently sits at 40.6 percent, just over 3 points better than his low point in mid-August.
Respondents to the NBC/Journal poll gave Trump his best marks on the short-term deal he struck with Democratic leaders to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling, with 71 percent saying they approve of the move and 8 percent saying they disapprove.
On other issues, Trump’s performance has been less popular. Forty-one percent said they approved of the president’s handling of the economy, the second-highest number Trump received among the issues included in the poll. Just 27 percent said they approve of his handling of health care, and 24 percent approved of his handling of the environment and climate change. Twenty-five percent approved of his pardon of controversial former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona. And 20 percent approved of his response to a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month.
Sixty-six percent of those polled said they disapprove of the way Trump uses Twitter to communicate with the American people, the highest disapproval rating of any specific issue in the poll, while just 23 percent said they approve of it.
A second poll from Politico and Morning Consult earlier this week showed similar numbers:
President Donald Trump’s summer swoon appears to be over.
After months of declining poll numbers, the president’s approval ratings have stabilized — and even ticked up slightly — over the past month.
Following a low of 39 percent in the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll last month after his controversial reaction to the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump is back at 43 percent in this week’s survey. Other surveys show similar results: Trump bottomed out at 35 percent in Gallup’s weekly tracking poll in late August, but ticked up to 38 percent last week. Trump is at 40 percent in the RealClearPolitics average, up about 2.5 points from his low-water mark last month.
Trump’s popularity still remains historically low for a first-year president. But since his August polling nadir, Trump has earned positive reviews for his responses to two major hurricanes, Harvey and Irma. And while polls showed his decision to wind down the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — which shielded some undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation — was unpopular, Trump’s subsequent nod to bipartisanship by negotiating with Democratic leaders in Congress may have helped stanch the bleeding.
It’s impossible to attribute Trump’s small uptick in the polls to any or all of these events. His recovery is modest at best: His 40 percent approval rating still lags every other elected president in the era of modern polling at this point in their first terms. But the data suggest that Trump, now at the eight-month mark of his presidency, has at least arrested the gradual decline that plagued him for the first seven of those months.
The body of polling is fairly limited over the past few weeks, so it’s not completely clear whether Trump has won over some of the Republicans who defected after Trump’s Charlottesville response or the GOP’s failure to advance health care legislation in Congress — or if he is bringing in new converts.
Some polls suggest Trump’s slight bump is the result of Republicans and some independents coming home. In this week’s POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, Trump was at 80 percent approval among Republican voters — up from 73 percent at his low-water mark. Among independents, Trump has bounced 5 percentage points, from 35 percent to 40 percent. Trump’s approval rating was virtually unchanged among Democratic voters, however.
“Trump’s post-Charlottesville plunge proved to be short-lived, and his approval has stabilized,” said Morning Consult Co-founder and Chief Research Officer Kyle Dropp. “A key driver of this movement appears to be independents. Immediately after Charlottesville, 35 percent of independent voters approved of Trump, and 58 percent disapproved. In this latest poll, that has risen to 40 percent approval and 52 percent disapproval.”
A Marist College poll last week found Trump’s approval rating at 39 percent, up from 35 percent in August — a bounce that also came mostly from Republicans, according to Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. The percentage of Republicans who approve of Trump jumped from 79 percent in August to 87 percent last week. Trump’s scores among Democrats and independents were essentially unchanged
“There has been some rallying behind President Trump for his handling of hurricanes Harvey and Irma,” said Miringoff. “But his improved standing is seen only among his core supporters. He is still unable to reach beyond his base.”
But other polling data found more modest gains among Republicans. In SurveyMonkey’s polling over the past four weeks, Trump has gained more among independents than among Democrats or Republicans. (Overall, Trump’s approval rating over that time increased from 39 percent to 42 percent.)
Gallup’s weekly data more closely resemble SurveyMonkey’s findings. Trump has ticked up 2 points among both Democrats (from 7 percent to 9 percent) and Republicans (from 78 percent to 81 percent) since late August, but he jumped from 30 percent among independents in late August to 35 percent last week.
Neither of the four surveys shows a statistically significant gain among Democrats.
Looking at the polling averages, we see similar numbers and a slight improvement for Trump and his job approval numbers. The RealClearPolitics average, for example, stands at 41.1% approve and 52.8% disapprove, which constitute about the best numbers Trump has seen in the average since the beginning of the summer. Over at Pollster, Trump’s numbers stand at 40.1% approve and 53.2% disapprove, and the numbers among the respective partisan breakdowns are about what you’d expect. Among Democrats, for example, Trump’s disapproval is averaging well above 80% just as it has been since he took office. Among Republicans, meanwhile, it’s the President’s job approval that stands above 80%, which is actually a slight improvement from where it had been earlier in the summer. Among Independents, meanwhile, the average stands at 35.4% approval and 53.4% disapproval, which is, of course, worse than his numbers as a whole. This seems to demonstrate that Trump’s recovery among the public as a whole is largely a reflection of winning back Republican support after what has been a pretty bad summer rather than improvement of any kind among Democrats and Independents. Finally, FiveThirtyEight’s average, which is also weighted for historic pollster accuracy, shows Trump’s approval at 39.4% and his disapproval at 53.4%. As noted, all of these averages show at least some improvement in Trump’s numbers from the post-Charlottesville lows, but they are still historically low for an incoming President. Additionally, as the RealClearPolitics chart shows, the improvement has been modest, to say the least:
The fact that Trump’s numbers have improved slightly is also like a reflection of recent news headlines. After a summer that was highlighted by events such as the Charlottesville violence and Trump’s response to it, the failure of the Senate to pass health care reform legislation after a month-long effort to do so, and chaos inside the White House that led to several members of the President’s top staff leaving the White House, things have arguably turned around for the White House at least temporarily. For one thing, the news cycle has been somewhat overtaken by coverage of the impacts of Hurricanes Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Irma in Florida, and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally, while the President has undertaken several controversial actions such as pardoning Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, announcing a ban on transgender troops in the U.S. military, and the decision to end the DACA program there have also been a number of developments that seem to be resonating positively with the general public. Chief among these is the deal that he struck with Congressional Democrats that allowed for passage of a temporary spending bill and extension of the debt ceiling, and the apparent deal to pass legislation to pass a bill that would codify the DACA program and make Trump’s decision to end it moot. While it’s still unclear whether or not that last deal will actually come to fruition, it is clear from polling that the public has reacted positively to those developments. Whether that will lead Trump to move in a more bipartisan direction remains to be seen.
This slight improvement, though, shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Trump’s numbers are worse than they have been for any newly elected President since World War Two. The closest that any such President has come was former President Clinton, whose job approval numbers at the start of his first term were rather weak, but even Clinton was in better shape than this, with his approval numbers starting to reach the high 40% range and on their way above 50%, where they stayed for a good period of time. Other than Clinton, though, no other newly elected President in the past seventy years has shown the kind of weak job approval numbers that Trump is showing. What that means going forward is something only time will tell.