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Trump’s Poll Numbers Remain Bad, And They’re Getting Worse

Donald Trump Shrug

Chris Cillizza looks at Donald Trump’s poll numbers and finds things are going very badly for the President:

On March 11, 45% of Americans approved of the job Donald Trump was doing in Gallup’s daily tracking poll. It’s been all downhill since then.

In the intervening 86 days, Trump’s job approval has never again reached 45% in Gallup’s data. In fact, the last time Trump was even at 43% was on April 28.

He’s spent most of the time between then and now mired in the low 40s and high 30s.

And now, Trump finds himself in the midst of his worst extended poll run of his presidency. Starting on May 28 when Gallup put his job approval at 42%, Trump has been sliding downward. The latest Gallup track on June 3 put Trump’s job approval at a dismal 36% — a single percentage point away from the lowest ebb of his time in the White House. (On March 28, Trump’s job approval was at 35%.)

The Gallup numbers are no anomaly. A Quinnipiac University poll released in late May put Trump’s job approval at 37%. A Monmouth poll conducted in mid-May put Trump’s job approval at 39%.

Where Trump’s numbers do stand out is compared to his presidential predecessors. President Obama was at 61% in the Gallup tracking poll in early June 2009. George W. Bush was at 55% in Gallup at this time in 2001. The only modern president who comes close to Trump’s poor poll standing is Bill Clinton, who was at 37% approval in early June 1993. (Clinton’s numbers had tanked in the wake of his firing of seven employees in the White House travel office in mid-May, a controversy that came to be known as “Travel-gate.”)

(…)

Trump’s poll numbers — if they stay anywhere near as low as they currently are — could have a hugely negative impact on his party’s chances in the 2018 midterms elections. Since 1946, according to Gallup, when a president’s job approval rating is above 50%, the average number of seats his party loses in a midterm election is 14. When a president’s job approval rating is below 50%? Try an average 36-seat loss.

If history holds, Democrats would likely take back control of the House in 2018 — given that they only need a 24-seat gain to do so. (One factor working against Democrats: The House is pretty well sorted out on partisan lines. Only 23 House Republicans currently represent districts Hillary Clinton carried last November.)

If you look beyond the three individual polls that Cillizza cites to the polling averages, things don’t look much better. In the RealClearPolitics polling average, for example, Trump stands at 39.6% approve and 54.6% disapprove. This puts his job approval at the lowest points it has been since the beginning of the Administration and the disapproval number near the highest point it has been at since that time. In the Pollster average, Trump is at 41.7% approval and 54.4% disapproval, These numbers are also near the lowest and highest points they have been at since Inauguration Day. Breaking those Pollster numbers down by party affiliation, Trump’s job approval remains almost universally in the negative among Democrats and almost universally in the positive among Republicans. Among independents, meanwhile, only 35.2% of self-identified Independents approve of the job the President is doing, while 55.2% disapprove. This is the worst showing that we’ve seen for the President among political Independents since the Administration began. Additionally, the President’s personal favorability average as tracked by RealClearPolitics appears to be returning to pre-election levels, with 40.2% of respondents across the polls that track this number saying that they have a favorable view of Trump and 54,4% percent saying they have an unfavorable view.  In Pollster’s average, those numbers are at 40.5% favorable and 53.1% unfavorable. While neither of these numbers is at the place they were prior to Election Day, they are both trending in the wrong direction for Trump and seem to be bound to head for those numbers, if not worse. Finally, as we can see from the RCP Job Approval chart, the gap between Trump’s negative and positive numbers, which has been wide since the Administration began, is widening:

RCP Trump Approval 6517

As Cillizza notes, if these numbers hold up, they could have a real impact on the 2018 midterms, perhaps even causing the Democrats to take control of one or both Houses of Congress. Another traditional polling measure, the Generic Congressional Ballot also seems to show some good news for Democrats. According to RealClearPolitics, that average currently stands at 46.0% of respondents saying they’d vote for a Democratic candidate in 2018 and 39.2% saying they’d vote for a Republican. Over at Pollster, that number stands at 40.5% of respondents saying they’d vote for a Democratic candidate and 35.5% saying they’d vote for a Republican.

Before Democrats start celebrating, though, there are several caveats to keep in mind.

First of all, it is still very, very early in the midterm election early and far too early to start making projections about something such as who may control the Senate or House after Election Day 2018. As things stand, we are seventeen months away from the midterms and there’s no telling what may happen that could impact the battle for control of  Congress. Given that, while looking at the Generic Ballot is a useful tool in determining where the public mind is right now, it’s worth remembering that this number has wildly fluctuated prior to elections in the past and will likely to so in the future. Additionally, the correlation between the Generic Ballot and the actual outcome of elections isn’t exactly perfect. It’s possible that the national polls will continue showing the Democrats being modestly more favored over Republicans as it does now, but that Republicans will still control Congress in the end.

Secondly, it’s worth noting that the Generic Congressional Ballot remains fairly close notwithstanding the widening gap in Trump’s job approval numbers, an indication that perhaps Democrats won’t benefit from anti-Trump sentiment as much as they might hope. If Democrats are going to take control of the House or the Senate, then we should expect that the gap between the parties will be larger than just six or seven points. Also, the fact that the numbers are so close eve in the face of the President’s overwhelmingly bad poll numbers may be an indication that the public isn’t inclined to punish the GOP as a whole for the President’s failings.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the battle for control of Congress isn’t really the national race that the Generic Ballot makes it out to be. Instead, it boils down to what’s happening at the District level for the House and the state level for the Senate, and from that perspective, the Republican position doesn’t seem quite so precarious. Notwithstanding the unpopularity of the President, for example, there are many reasons to believe that nearly all of the Republican incumbent up for re-election will win and that the vacant seats held by Republicans who will not stand for re-election to stay in GOP hands. At the Senate level, the current math suggests that nearly all of the small handful of Republican seats up for re-election will stay in the GOP column, with only Dean Heller in Nevada being considered realistically vulnerable right now. At the same time, there are at least a half-dozen Democrats up for re-election in states that are traditionally red. Democrats would need a net gain of at least three seats to take 51-49 control of the Senate, and even now that seems like an uphill battle. Yes, it’s possible that Trump will be so unpopular by November 2018 that we’ll see a Democratic wave, but it’s far too early to forecast that.

Even with all those caveats, Trump’s historically low poll numbers pose problems for the Administration and for Republicans on Capitol Hill. The worse these numbers get, the harder it will become for the President to get his agenda through Congress and the less influence he will have over waivering Republicans in the House or Senate on controversial issues such as health care. Additionally, these negative job approval numbers, if they are sustained, suggest that the President’s ability to get the public outside of his base to support him will become more and more difficult and that there will be more doubts about his ability to lead in a crisis. It’s possible, of course, that these numbers will change and that the public will come to view Trump more positively than negatively. If the past 136 days are any indication, though, that doesn’t seem very likely, and that suggests that Donald Trump will not have a very successful Presidency. If that happens, it will basically be his own fault.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Janis Gore says:

    To partially account for declining poll numbers, the following tweet is entirely believable:

    https://twitter.com/Chicomaki1/status/871705628510695424

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. Pch101 says:

    Since 1946, according to Gallup, when a president’s job approval rating is above 50%, the average number of seats his party loses in a midterm election is 14. When a president’s job approval rating is below 50%? Try an average 36-seat loss.

    A lot of things have happened since 1946. Most House races are just not that competitive now that party politics are largely a function of cultural identity. With Republicans controlling much of the districting, Democrats often end up with disproportionately fewer seats.

    I doubt that most disgruntled Republicans will defect. The questions are whether there are enough independents who can be flipped (maybe, maybe not), whether Dems will be apathetic (they often are, but maybe not), and whether Republicans will show up (sadly for Democrats, they often do show up.) Demographic shifts can help over the long run, but there aren’t many of those over a two-year period.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  3. KM says:

    At this point, we should just pay people to stand outside the White House and Mar-a-lago chanting non-stop “Nobody loves you!!” like kids on the playground. Pull a Noriega and blast is through the speakers (keep it within noise ordinances though – gotta be legal). Make it the background noise of his life. When he starts whining about bullying, point out Melania is supposed to be running a campaign about that and you’re waiting for the literature when she finally decides to show up in DC.

    His supporters are trying to insulate themselves with comforting lies like “it’s only the liberals who hate him” or “its the coastal elites that are making those numbers”. They say polls are worthless since they didn’t predicate Trump’s rise. Don’t let him or them fall into the comfort zone of fake news. Any republican sticking to their guns with him because they think they are part of a greater support group needs to understand how bad its going to get.

    Nobody loves you, Trump. ~ Nobody loves you. ~ And its getting worse every day.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  4. al-Alameda says:

    Trump’s job approval remains almost universally in the negative among Democrats and almost universally in the positive among Republicans. Among independents, meanwhile, only 35.2% of self-identified Independents approve of the job the President is doing, while 55.2% disapprove.

    Unless the 2018 mid-terms upend either the Senate or the House there will be no change to this situation – Trump’s base is still with him, and Republicans who are wary of Trump are still afraid to alienate the hyper motivated conservative voters who elected Trump in Fall 2016.

    I think, absent a truly shocking disclosure about Trump/Russia, or a mega-event, there will be a push to jam through the radical Republican agenda before we get too deep into the 2018 election season.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  5. CSK says:

    Two breaking news items about Mangolini:

    1. The NATO speech he gave was NOT the one of which his national security staff approved.

    2. He’s still trashing the mayor of London on Twitter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  6. Mr. Bluster says:

    Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, told NBC today that Trump’s tweet Sunday was not a political attack. Conway would not say whether the president should apologize to Khan and, instead, argued that there’s an “obsession with covering everything Trump says on Twitter and very little of what he does as president.”

    Kelly Kelly Kelly Kelly Kelly Kelly Kelly Kelly

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  7. CSK says:

    @Mr. Bluster:

    And Kellyanne’s husband George, who just turned down a job offer from Trump, just trashed Trump on Twitter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  8. MarkedMan says:

    Polls are all well and good, but I’ve been saying, since before the election, that Trump voters are essentially parallels to Marion Barry voters during the D.C. mayor’s post caught-on-videotape-smoking-crack-with-a-prostitute comeback. Barry outperformed the polls on his way to victory, and I believe it was in large part because his voters were more motivated by the desire to stick it to those they felt slighted by, then by any particular love of their candidate. In both cases, the fact that their chosen leader upsets people they don’t like is the most important concern by far.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  9. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Agree. Isn’t this known as “cutting off your nose to spite your face”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. Mr. Bluster says:

    The frantic, last-minute maneuvering over the speech, I’m told, included “MM&T,” as some now refer to the trio of Mattis, McMaster and Tillerson, lobbying in the days leading up to it to get a copy of the president’s planned remarks and then pushing hard once they obtained the draft to get the Article 5 language in it, only to see it removed again. All of which further confirms a level of White House dysfunction that veterans of both parties I’ve talked with in recent months say is beyond anything they can recall.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  11. Franklin says:

    @Mr. Bluster: Despite Tillerson being “uniquely” “qualified” for the position of Secretary of State, he seems to be one of the reasonable voices (alongside Mattis and McMaster). He was also lobbying hard to stay in the Paris Accord.

    Guess I’m just looking for anything positive here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  12. Mr. Bluster says:

    Guess I’m just looking for anything positive here.

    Good luck with that!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  13. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK:

    Isn’t this known as “cutting off your nose to spite your face”?

    Read more: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/trumps-poll-numbers-remain-bad-and-theyre-getting-worse/#ixzz4j9HTki5r

    When I lived for 4 years in the South, I used to say they were shooting holes in the bottom of the life boat because they can’t stand to see the other guy dry.

    BTW, lately when I cut and paste from someone, I get that obnoxious “Read more” string automatically attached. Is that happening to anyone else?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  14. Tyrell says:

    Trump needs to stay out of these playground spats he has with some of these other people: nobody cares about Rosie. I have already said here how he missed a golden opportunity with the Prias agreement: he should have taken the challenge turned it into a Kennedy moonshot type of program. Instead he sounded scripted and predictable. He needs the pragmatism of Nixon and the positive convictions of Johnson. He needs a select team of veteran, crafty politicians who can guide him through the Byzantine maze of Washington politics.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  15. michael reynolds says:

    @Tyrell:
    All good suggestions, but what Trump really needs is to resign. He’s the problem. Until he’s gone the problem cannot be fixed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  16. CSK says:

    @Tyrell:

    He does have some sane, reasonable, experienced people advising him. Clearly, he doesn’t listen to them.

    And even if he did listen, he’s not intellectually or temperamentally capable of following the advice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  17. JohnMcC says:

    I’ve noticed several ‘straws in the wind’ headlines on my ‘bing’ facepage: CEO’s giving up on Trump; military communities turning away from him.

    My thinking is that when four years have gone by the committed Trumpets will account for about 30% of the electorate but about 90% of the Republican base. I hope no one is so innumerate that the math is difficult. The problem with that is that it’s going to be an amazingly painful four years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  18. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Seriously…just how stupid is this guy?
    The Court decisions against the Travel Ban EO hinge on his own words. So then he goes out and undercuts the DOJ by explicitly saying, or tweeting, that they are a BAN!!!
    I’m telling you…some tragic event is going to happen, sooner or later, and this is not the child you want captaining the ship when that day comes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  19. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    Despite Tillerson being “uniquely” “qualified” for the position of Secretary of State, he seems to be one of the reasonable voices (alongside Mattis and McMaster). He was also lobbying hard to stay in the Paris Accord.

    Of course this is quite irrelevant as they seem to have no measurable influence on him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  20. MarkedMan says:

    @Tyrell:

    He needs the pragmatism of Nixon and the positive convictions of Johnson. He needs a select team of veteran, crafty politicians who can guide him through the Byzantine maze of Washington politics.

    Read more: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/trumps-poll-numbers-remain-bad-and-theyre-getting-worse/#ixzz4j9uVlhYh

    All well and good, but if he had those things he wouldn’t be Trump.

    I need the good looks of Ryan Gosling, the guitar chops of Derek Trucks, and the singing ability of Joe Cocker in his prime. But then I’d be someone else completely.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  21. the Q says:

    Marion Barry won re-election because he had the classic slogan:

    “No hookers, no blow, just good government”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  22. Terrye Cravens says:

    I think a lot of people have left the Republican party. The people who say they stand with Trump are the ones who are not ashamed to admit they are Republicans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. Jake says:

    He wins the election again today. Your brainwashed

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  24. rachel says:

    @Jake:

    He wins the election again today. Your brainwashed

    Don’t leave us hanging like President Covfefe did; finish your sentence. His brainwashed what?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  25. gVOR08 says:

    @Mr. Bluster:

    All of which further confirms a level of White House dysfunction that veterans of both parties I’ve talked with in recent months say is beyond anything they can recall.

    And it’s not going to get better unless the man at the top gets better. And he has, amazingly, shown not one shred of evidence of learning anything.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. gVOR08 says:

    @Tyrell: He needs a brain transplant and personality transplant. Aside from the Wizard of Oz, anybody offering these services?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0