Looking at Trump’s Numbers

Mostly stability.

“#UNGA” by The White House is in the Public Domain

Here’s a look at 538’s approval/disapproval tracker of Trump:

Note that if you look at likely/registered voters the gap is 54.1 to 42.3 (and is 54.2 to 40.9 for just polls of adults).

Overall, as I have noted from time, we see some remarkable stability here. His approval has always been sub-50% and its high water mark was in April of this year at 45.8% (his Covid-19 bump during that extremely brief period where it seemed to some that maybe, just maybe he might exert an iota of leadership). His previous high was 45.5% just as he was inaugurated.

The overall range has been 36.5% to 45.8%, but eyeballing the average would suggest the low 40s.

Indeed, if one just looks at the last month it looks like a dramatic turn, but in looking at the overall trend, I think we are just seeing regression to the mean. The aberration was the brief uptick to almost 46% and the move to the lower 40s is just back to “normal.”

So we see here general stability of partisan position in the aggregate, as I have argued, but some shifts at the margins (keeping mind that most shifts that look dramatic on the graph are still single-digit moves).

The main thing to keep in mind, however, is that the ultimate choice in November is still going to be R v. D and no matter how bad Trump is, many Republican voters will convince themselves that the Democratic option is still worse.

Hooray for binary choices in the polarized times.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. 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

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    If Trump wins in November, that means he’s free to do whatever he likes, for the next four years, with little to no restraint. Whatever. He. Likes. Those who now regard Trump as appalling, but the lesser of two evils, might want to give some consideration to that.

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  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    Detroit News has a poll out this AM showing Joe doubling his lead in Michigan. Also the NYT had this today. While mostly source free it could indicate that some repugs will not vote for Biden, but will vote other, rather than Tiny.

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  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Yep, Biden by 12 in Michigan.

    There is zero good news for Trump in any recent polling, not at the national level, not in state polls. If the election were held today Biden would get something like 350 EVs. And Trump has no handle on Biden, he can’t find a way to attack him. Trump is a pig wallowing in hate, corruption and incompetence and Biden is a decent human being.

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  4. JohnMcC says:

    @CSK: Why do you qualify your concerns about Mr Trump having the freedom to do whatever he wants by adding “for the next four years”? Do you know something the rest of us don’t? Are you certain that after 8 years he’d feel like stepping down?

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  5. JohnMcC says:

    Speaking of stable polling numbers: This morning on the TeeVee they were showing national polling about the recent police violence and demonstrations. The percentage that had greater concern about the demonstrations/riots than about the official violence? 27%.

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  6. gVOR08 says:

    Partisanship cuts both ways. We sometimes express less than positive views of Trump voters and predict disaster if Trump is reelected. But they reciprocate. The Teavangelicals believe that Biden will take their guns and bus in gay black thugs to rape their daughters so they can be forced to have abortions. And the country club Republicans think Biden will raise their taxes, which is worse than raping their daughters. Don’t count on a lot of R crossovers.

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  7. senyordave says:

    @JohnMcC: While I do agree that there is a significant chance that if he wins he would not step down in four years, I think the chances of him being in a position to stay from a physical standpoint are very small. He can barely complete a coherent thought, he doesn’t seem to walk very well. We have a friend who is a neurologist, and he says he has patients with full blown dementia who can articulate thoughts better than Trump.

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  8. CSK says:

    @JohnMcC:
    I’m being optimistic. Even if he refuses to leave in January 2025 (if he gets that far), I’m hopeful that the military will haul him out of the WH. Or that he’ll be booted out of office before that when the 25th Amendment is invoked.

    Look, for all his bluster, Trump is basically a profound coward. When he’s menaced by someone stronger, or a bigger bully, he backs down.

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  9. senyordave says:

    @gVOR08: And the country club Republicans think Biden will raise their taxes, which is worse than raping their daughters.
    You mean worse than a person of color raping their daughters.
    I actually think that it is in the realm of possibility that Biden could win over some country club Republicans. The people he can’t win over are the ones who like Trump for his style, his sticking it to the liberals.

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  10. CSK says:

    @senyordave:
    If Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, Colin Powell, and Charlie Baker are country club Republicans, Trump’s already lost them.

    Of course, Cult45 despises Romney, Bush, Powell, and Baker. Trump just called Powell “an overrated stiff,” and the culties are baying their agreement.

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  11. Stormy Dragon says:

    As I’ve been saying repeatedly: the key to winning for Democrats in November is not getting Republicans to switch side, but inspiring the people who stayed home in 2016 to go vote.

    Trump did not get a huge influx of new voters in 2016. In fact he had one of the worst Republican performances of the modern era. He won not because a bunch of people switched to Republican, but because a lot of Democrats stayed home.

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  12. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @gVOR08:

    Don’t count on a lot of R crossovers.

    I don’t wish for them to crossover. Just to be demoralized and disgusted enough by Trump to decide not to vote in November. Just not to show up. That would be OK.

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  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon: @Liberal Capitalist:
    I agree with you both. If 1% more Dems show up, and 1% fewer Trumpies do, it’s all over.

    This is fun.

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  14. gVOR08 says:

    @senyordave: Politics, like economics, happens at the margins. Biden may get enough “suburban” and “country club” Republican crossovers to matter. Remembering that a 5% margin would be called a landslide by modern standards. But I would expect well north of 90% of white country club men who voted for Trump will again. Women, however, may be a different story. It’s worth going after those few votes, but not in any way that lessens enthusiasm by Ds.

    Coming back to a puzzlement I’ve mentioned before, I keep seeing stories that Trump has lost X% of seniors and Y% of women and yesterday dropped 23% with Catholics. And yet the chart in the OP just wiggles around a percent or three. What?

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  15. Gustopher says:

    Steven L. Taylor’s post:

    The main thing to keep in mind, however, is that the ultimate choice in November is still going to be R v. D and no matter how bad Trump is, many Republican voters will convince themselves that the Democratic option is still worse.

    @senyordave:

    The people he can’t win over are the ones who like Trump for his style, his sticking it to the liberals.

    At the risk of restarting the partisan wars, I would ask Dr. Taylor this: we’ve all seen the people senyordave is referencing — hateful people dominated by spite, who love them some Trump in a way that no one loved George W. Bush. How do these factor into the bog-standard Republicans-will-vote-for-Republicans-and-Democrat’s-will-vote-for-Democrats models? Are they just considered Republicans, so it’s all good (for the models)? Are there far fewer of them than we think?

    Because we are seeing something different here. Even George H. W. Bush didn’t love George W. Bush the way these people love their Donald J. Trump.

    It seems like the general partisanship divisions are hiding and enabling something else. A swiftly advancing authoritarianism and an acceptance of it on the right, so long as the jackbooted thugs have their boots (or knees) are on someone else’s neck.

    Your posts of late have been largely split between the “Hooray for binary choices in the polarized times” and “Is Trump actually a fascist or does he just have fascist tendencies?” You have the background to begin to answer this: What does a democracy slipping into fascism look like, how does partisanship factor in, and how does America compare to that?

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  16. senyordave says:

    @gVOR08: When they talk about subgroups you are looking at cells of data that can alarmingly small. I used to work for Nielsen and before that Arbitron (radio listener measurement), and have a pretty good understanding of how surveys are designed, and many of the basic principles are the same. One major difference that makes political surveys different and more difficult is that in addition to getting demographic representation you need to add in political affiliation. So if the country is 35% Dem, 32% Rep, and 33% Ind, your sample should reflect that split. If you start with a sample size of 1,084, by the time you get down to Republican Catholic males we may be talking about 35 people. Also, people lie about political affiliation much more than demographic information.
    National polls are generally pretty useless, because we don’t have popular vote for president. If you have a 1,084 sample size, the Wisconsin portion should be about 19. Pretty easy for individual states to be off. The one advantage they have is often they do tend to correctly sample populations based on landline and cell phone splits. The most useful polls are state polls where they include cell phone only households, but most of those are done by the campaigns because they are very expensive. I used to do financial analysis and my specialty was estimating survey costs, but I have never done political survey costs. I would not be surprised if a high level state survey costs upwards of $50k.
    If you do see the results of a survey see if they have a link to the crosstabs. The crosstabs would have the results at a much finer level of detail.

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  17. Lounsbury says:

    @CSK:
    This is indeed hopeful to see, although the most important thing is the state level as one learned painfully in 2016.

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Well one could say the good news for him is that his polling numbers have not collapsed, which in a less rigidly divided environment would be certain.

    Or maybe an environment where there was not a proto-fascist racialist reactionary sub-party core supporting him.

    @gVOR08:
    You do not need a lot of cross-overs you merely need around 3-5% swing in the right state geographies, which is quite feasible with these numbers. And when one sees Country Club types like Romney and Bush the Younger (as well as the military officer classes) (as @CSK: notes) making open statements contre, well there you are writing off a significant opening for no reason.

    Of course this means that childish name calling like calling all Republicans (@Sleeping Dog: ) “rethugs” should be avoided (well it should be avoided generally as it is about as useful as the Conservatives calling Democrats libtards or demorats (if I have kept up on the idiotic partisan name calling))

    @JohnMcC: If one leaves aside partisan chicken littlism, there’s really no particular reason to think Trump would want to stay in office beyond one more term – he’s first of all fundamentally lazy and by end of 2nd term will be so old that he’s rather unlikely to be terribly motivated, and as likely to have convinced himself of his own invulnerability and popularity…

    The institutional damage however would be very deep for the USA by that point.

    In any case as @Michael Reynolds: any combination of some switching and some staying home in the 5% range (or even higher) would be an electoral disaster for Trumpism if it occurs in the right States (where centrists / moderates could generate a 2018 result)

    Nothing says this is impossible.

    What’s of course impossible is converting the Trumpist base, but that’s not the actual need nor objective.

  18. @Gustopher:

    What does a democracy slipping into fascism look like, how does partisanship factor in, and how does America compare to that?

    Simple answer for the moment: the problem is that giving people binary choices makes it more likely that they will let partisan blinders let them look past serious problems with their side. This is part of the point I have been trying to make. It excuses nothing but also explains a lot.

    A point I meant to make in the post: Trump is up for re-election if he were in his second term, I would expect his numbers to crater because Rs would no longer have to talk themselves into voting for him.

    I will try and come back to that.

    I will note, as others have, that his national re-election polling numbers are bad, especially for a sitting president. (And that’s good news).

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  19. Scott F. says:

    @gVOR08:

    We sometimes express less than positive views of Trump voters and predict disaster if Trump is reelected. But they reciprocate. The Teavangelicals believe that Biden will take their guns and bus in gay black thugs to rape their daughters so they can be forced to have abortions.

    I’m confident you’re not trying to “both sides” this, but “reciprocate” can’t be the right word for this situation. “Less than positive views of Trump voters” and predictions of “disaster if Trump is reelected” are both founded in some level of fact. Leftist partisans have the evidence of the last 3 ½ years of Trump’s performance in office and documented behavior from Trump rallies to support these expectations. The rightist partisans have expectations based on fever dreams.

    I completely accept Dr. Taylor’s premise of the “ general stability of partisan position in the aggregate,” but the flights of fancy and mental gymnastics required for the country club Republican voter and especially the mainline Republican politician to stay loyal to Trump strike me as new phenomena. Partisans across the spectrum have complained for decades that the media doesn’t fairly represent their values and worldview, but “fake news” and “alternative facts” are new constructs that take this thinking to a whole other level. I’ve got to figure that the incessant effort it must take to hold true to such obvious falsehoods has to take some kind of psychic toll on even the most craven sentient Republican.

    For certain, I’m not counting on many R crossovers. But, I can’t see how a lot of Rs will have their heart in it this election and these folks would find relief in being done with Trump. They’ll regroup and seek out a standard bearer who can be as ruthless and authoritarian as Trump, just less bat-sh*t insane.

  20. Scott F. says:

    @Lounsbury:

    What’s of course impossible is converting the Trumpist base, but that’s not the actual need nor objective.

    While I agree converting the Trumpkins is beyond reach, there is an actual need to repudiate them and that needs to be an objective, if not in the immediate term of the 2020 elections, then at least very soon in political time. The status quo ante which existed prior to the Trump era is not sustainable in a multi-cultural and diverse democracy. The systemic racism and sexism, vast wealth inequality and military-industrial power imbalance all pre-dated Trump and none of it polls well.

    Scare-mongering about socialism and pressing hard on xenophobia have been effective means to pull the country to the right over the last 35 years, but the pendulum has swung about as far toward fascist authoritarianism as this country has ever seen and I suspect the beginnings of a swing back is upon us. The corporate culture in the US is already all in on diversity & inclusion, while globalism has a way of exposing the downsides of military adventurism and the upsides of social democratic governments. I don’t see how the Republican coalition of corporatists and nationalistic populists formed in the Nixon era is going to hold for too much longer.

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  21. Kurtz says:

    A binary choice begets binary thinking between the two options. A binary choice begets ambivalence within each option.

    The first statement explains aggregate voter behavior in general elections.

    The second statement explains varying turnouts between general election candidates in different elections.

    Neither completely explain everything, of course. The first is almost certainly more reliable than the second. But if I had a model for sportsbetting with the kind of predictive power shown by those two, I would be Alt. Biff Tannen minus the guns and goons.

    Well, minus the guns, because who doesn’t want some goons at their disposal?

  22. MarkedMan says:

    @Scott F.: One of the most famous stories in the Bible is an attempt to shoot down the fallacy of both-siderism: King Soloman and the two women who each claimed to be a baby’s mother. It’s sad that despite thousands of years of having that drummed into virtually everyone in the West and Africa, so many people fall into the trap that you had to put that caveat in.

    People on the left feel that Trump is out of control because he calls on governors to respond to peaceful protesters with guns and violence, and instructs agents to remove badges from their riot gear and assault people protesting calmly in front of a church. Because his administration locks children in cages and separates babies forever from their parents, keeping no records of who they belong to. Because he colluded with Russia and pardoned all his cronies legitimately convicted of crimes against the country.

    People on the right felt that Obama was out of control because he was secretly born in Kenya and double-secretly a Muslim. That he and Hillary deliberately had American soldiers killed in Benghazi because they hate this country. Because they participated in a child sex ring in the basement of a DC pizza parlor.

    You know, both sides.

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  23. Erik says:

    @CSK: this can’t be emphasized enough. And as I told my teenage daughter yesterday: prepare, because the worst is yet to come. If he is not re-elected he will also have nothing to lose, and the time between the election and Biden’s inauguration is likely to be the most horrifying yet as he gives free reign to every angry, vindictive, and destructive impulse he can muster. Which seems to be quite a bit.

    1
  24. CSK says:

    @Erik:
    And when he loses, he’s going to be very, very angry and very, very vindictive. His rage will be like nothing anyone around him has ever seen.

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  25. Scott F. says:

    @Erik: and @CSK:

    If he is not re-elected he will also have nothing to lose…

    … he’s going to be very, very angry and very, very vindictive…

    Trump may be too dense and obstinate to figure it out, but maybe Jared and Ivanka can help him see that he, and his family, will have a great deal to lose if he tries to burn it all down as he leaves.

    Once he is no longer protected by his office, all his financials will be pried open by the prosecutors prevented from getting into them now. All the cronies he’s pissed on during his term will be free to reveal the various corruptions and they’ll do it both to spite him and save their own skins. Barr won’t be able to protect him when they are both on the outs, besides Barr’s project isn’t Trump per se, but the imperial executive.

    There’s motive and means to reduce the whole Trump enterprise to nothing. His family will want to convince him to start the plea deals on November 4th.

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  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Lounsbury: I think it’s demonrats or demoncrats. Gotta have the “n” there; it’s the locus of the evil.

  27. James Joyner says:

    @Scott F.:

    I can’t see how a lot of Rs will have their heart in it this election and these folks would find relief in being done with Trump. They’ll regroup and seek out a standard bearer who can be as ruthless and authoritarian as Trump, just less bat-sh*t insane.

    Because, aside from team identity and the baggage of the Obama years, there’s a lot of mileage in “look what I’ve done with the judges” and the like. And Biden, who very much wants to run as a moderate, is going to be forced to carry the Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police banners that are going to be seen as radical to many Republicans who are disgusted by Trump.

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