A Graph Worth 1,000 Words

One weird trick for knowing if a given action will affect public opinion on Trump.

“President Trump Departs for Louisiana” by The White House is in the Public Domain

We are frequently asking ourselves whether a specific political action, whether large (such as impeachment itself) or small (Pelosi’s strategic decision to not immediately transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate) will influence public opinion. Or, will the latest seemingly outrageous utterance from the president, such as suggesting the late Representative John Dingell is currently residing in Hell, move the needle in any appreciable way?

Well, here’s your one weird trick to answer those, and other, questions. Just remember this graph from FiveThirtyEight:

This is Trump’s approval/disapproval numbers from his inauguration to the present moment. Note that the aside from what might be the shortest honeymoon period of all time that the fluctuations of both lines are quite narrow. The stability of opinion about Trump is stunning and suggests such deep polarization that nothing is going to change an appreciable number of people’s minds.

Keep in mind that the last roughly three years has included things like the firing of the FBI Director, the longest government shutdown in US history, a special counsel’s investigation, as well as record DJIA numbers and the best unemployment rates in 50 years. And the needle barely moves in either direction.

The only thing that might actually change his approval would be a recession, but even then I am not so sure that the polarized nature of the electorate wouldn’t lead to supporters blaming Democrats (as opposed to the historical expectations that a poor economy redounds negatively to the president).

The graph is also a constant reminder of the fact that Trump did not win the popular vote and never did anything in office to change the majority’s collective minds. It also is a reminder to an adjacent issue: that he governs as if he is only president of his supporters, rather than President of the United States.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Impeachment, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    It’s the most amazing graph in the history of polling. Trump’s feet are nailed to 40-43%, and the opposition is nailed to 52-53%. When you see something like this you’re not seeing reality-based politics, you’re seeing tribalism, people confusing their own identity with Trump’s, and on the other side, people who viscerally reject what is in effect a white supremacist cult of personality.

    Trump has enthralled the 42% and made no inroads at all beyond. The Trump cult breaks largely along educational and racial lines: you gotta be white and not very bright. Trump’s support comes from the most primitive and anti-intellectual iterations of Christianity, from racists whether overt or not quite overt yet, from frightened old people too fckin stupid to figure out that they won’t be around for the societal changes they all fear, and from the sorts of capitalists who think poisoning a river is just the price of business.

    Or in @Teve’s excellent phrase: stupid people with shitty values. And by gazing upon that unbroken 42% we can see exactly how many stupid people with shitty values we have in this country.

  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Had a conversation with a Trumpie last night in a bar.
    Things I learned:
    Cohen did NOT plead guilty to Campaign Finance Violations and Trump is NOT an un-indicted co-conspirator.
    Mueller found absolutely nothing.
    Obama sparked the economy, but Trump has turned it into an inferno.
    Job creation under Trump far outstrips jobs under Obama.
    Trump has brought manufacturing roaring back.
    Oh…and unrelated to Trump…the BP Horizon oil spill did zero damage to the environment.

    FYI…none of those things is true.

  3. CSK says:

    “I love the poorly educated.”– Donald Trump, Feb. 23, 2016

  4. gVOR08 says:

    I’ve often said, “If a picture is worth a thousand words, a good chart is easily worth 500.”

  5. CSK says:

    BTW, Trump Tweeted earlier today that he wants to raise the “smocking” age to 21.

  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    Trending Twitter hashtag: #IMPOTUS.

    Genius. Trump will eat his own liver.

  7. mattbernius says:

    Whelp, there goes his vaping college incel vote. TheDonald on reddit must be having fits.

  8. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    I think George Conway dreamed up that one. It’s great, isn’t it? Impotus…

  9. CSK says:

    Well, Lardass wanted to ban vaping nationwide for about five minutes a week or so ago, and then someone took him aside and told him he’d lose 50% of Cult45, so he dropped that notion like a hot rock.

  10. just nutha says:

    @CSK: If people under 21 are not going to be able to smock, how are Kindergarteners going to learn how to finger paint? Or has finger painting fallen by the wayside?

  11. CSK says:

    @just nutha: It will certainly adversely affect couture for little girls, who often wear smocked dresses.

    Didn’t Trump accuse Mueller of not finding a “smocking gun”?

  12. Kathy says:

    Side issue, in Mexico a tuxedo is called a “smoking” or also “esmoquin.”

    Closer to the main issue: how many immigrants, legal or not, do you suppose have a better handle on the English language than King Cheeto the Zero?

  13. CSK says:

    @Kathy: It’s properly called a dinner jacket here. “Tuxedo” is considered vulgar, i.e., something Donald Trump would say. Don’t ask.

  14. Kathy says:


    Are you suggesting we’ve been having dinner wrong all these years?

  15. CSK says:


    Dios mio! Nunca! Viva la diferencia!

  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Well, that’s just ridiculous! Mueller wasn’t even trying to spray imitation snow onto a tree and even if he had been…

    Wait. I was thinking of a flocking gun, my bad…

  17. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: You touched on a salient point I don’t think many people opposed to Trump understand the weight of. Identity politics is the primary feature if Trumps brand. The twist is…its not a race or gender identity he plays to ala Democrats… Its identification with Donald Trump HIMSELF.

    This explains why he’s firmly anchored where he is and why there is a good chance he has reserve support that is not identified in current polling models. You cannot attack Donald Trump without his supporters feeling personally affronted. Period. He stresses it ad nausem in his rallys that the attacks on me are really attacks on YOU.

    You have 2 strategies you can pursue to take on this dilemma… You can have a candidate that is polar opposite (Warren) from Trump and attempt to turn out more supporters than Trump can muster. Or you can have a candidate that is in a similar personality vein as Trump (Biden) but with impulse control, empathy, manners, humanity. Either strategy will be hard to pull off because personal identification is the jet fuel of motivation, more so than the motivation to go vote against Trump IMO. I do think, for THIS election, the presentation of a stark personality difference is the higher mountain to climb for Democrats. Whereas a small percentage of Trump support could be peeled off or stay home if the Democratic candidate has also a “Tough Guy” minus twitter rants and reality TV antics. We’ll find out in November

  18. CSK says:

    @Jim Brown 32: Right. And, if you recall, the exact same thing happened with Sarah Palin. Her fan club merged their identities with hers. She was them; they were her.

    Back in 2015, some guy in a bar in New Hampshire claimed that Trump was just like him. Suuuuure.

  19. @Jim Brown 32: I would disagree in the sense that Trump supporters very much see him as a champion of the aggrieved whites (especially males) and of persecuted evangelicals (who truly believe that he protect religious liberty). MAGA is very much about reclaiming as past wherein white, blue-collar males dominated political and social life, and everyone pretended like gays didn’t exist. Men were man back then, dontcha know.

    Trump’s political style is populist, and therefore the personalization of politics.

    @CSK: Palin tapped into the same stuff with “real America.”

  20. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: That “real America” schtick has always amused me, and aroused my contempt, but at base it’s frightening. Are all small towns the automatic repositories of all virtue? Are the northeast and both coasts populated by the spawn of the devil?

    There’s always been a strain of anti-intellectualism in American life, and this exaltation of the “real America”–crude, ignorant, contemptuous of any kind of refinement–is one of the worst exemplars of it.

  21. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I think one identification flows from the other. Most of these people fancy themselves as gladiators who could fix the country and vanquish the libs and immigrants if given the chance. When Donald Trump insulted their enemies in the crass way they would have…the stage was set for him to exploit that admiration in a manner to his liking. This is an old school influence tactic. Trump has successfully turned “me” into “us” for just over half of Republican voters and right leaning independents.

  22. An Interested Party says:

    I would disagree in the sense that Trump supporters very much see him as a champion of the aggrieved whites (especially males) and of persecuted evangelicals (who truly believe that he protect religious liberty).

    It is quite literally breathtaking how much pain and suffering that black people, gay people, and certain religious minorities, among other groups, have had to endure over the history of this country and yet, now, white people (particularly men) and evangelicals are the real victims!? Jesus H. Christ!

    Most of these people fancy themselves as gladiators who could fix the country and vanquish the libs and immigrants if given the chance.

    And yet these supposed gladiators are still the victims of modern times…

  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Trump has successfully turned “me” into “us” for just over half of Republican voters and right leaning independents.

    Based on general polling preferences, I would peg the “me into us” factor at closer to 80 or 90%. They do love them some Trump–beyond the judges and tax breaks for income levels they can’t wave at on the horizon.