Category Archives: Donald Trump

Trump’s Approval Rating Is Incredibly Steady. Is That Weird Or The New Normal?

If there’s one thing that’s been consistent about President Trump’s time in office, it’s his approval rating. Sure, it has moved around a bit — his average approval has hovered between 36 percent and 45 percent, a fluctuation of 9 points, over practically the entire course of his presidency, according to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker. But that’s a really narrow band, especially compared to previous presidents, and it has meant that his median approval rating is low — only President Harry Truman had a lower median rating. Trump’s approval rating has the least variation of any post-World War II president. Granted, Trump hasn’t yet served a full term, but changes in his approval rating have been remarkably small.
The chart below plots every presidential approval poll we have, highlighting each president’s median approval rating and the range in which the middle 50 percent of their approval ratings fell during their time in office.17 The lighter bars out to the sides represent the range of ratings covered by the 25 percent of polls that were lower than this middle group and the 25 percent that were higher. And as you can see, half of Trump’s approval polls fall within a tight window of about 5 points, between 39 percent and 44 percent. The only other president to rival that narrow range is Obama, whose approval rating fell between 45 and 50 percent in about half of all polls. But Obama had a wider overall range of approval ratings, which helped him achieve a higher median approval rating in part because, like most other presidents, Obama had what is called a “honeymoon period” — a stretch of high approval ratings early in his presidency. Trump, on the other hand, seems to have had no honeymoon period to speak of — he’s been below 45 percent in FiveThirtyEight’s average since the first week of his presidency, and the highest approval rating he’s had in our tracker was 48 percent on Jan. 25, 2017, just five days after his inauguration. The highest approval rating he’s had in an individual poll is 59 percent, which is the lowest top mark for any modern president.

Now, Trump has only been in office for a little over two years, and most of the presidents in our data set served for between four and eight years. Since spending more time in office means a president has higher odds of serving during an event that could dramatically affect his approval ratings — economic instability or an unpopular military operation that could send opinion sharply downward, for example, or the end of a war or the aftermath of a terrorist attack, which could cause approval to spike — it’s certainly still possible that something will happen before Trump leaves office that could break his approval rating out of this narrow band. Nonetheless, it is striking that the past two presidents are the ones with the least variation in their approval ratings, even though Trump is only halfway through his first term.
So what explains this lack of movement in recent presidents’ approval ratings?
For starters, Trump is arguably the most polarizing president ever — in his second year in office, an average of 87 percent of Republicans approved of the president while just 8 percent of Democrats did, the widest such gap that Gallup has ever found. But this kind of partisan split was almost as wide under Obama, though not until his final year in office.
As Democrats and Republicans move farther apart politically, the specifics of a president’s job performance may become secondary considerations for voters in forming an opinion of how he’s doing. “People are more likely to judge candidates and policies solely on the basis of their party,” said Christopher Federico, a professor of political psychology at the University of Minnesota. “If everything boils down to party, then there’s less room for other stuff that a president might be held responsible for — like a bad economy or increased casualties in a foreign military engagement — to move that president’s approval around.”
This means despite near-constant headlines proclaiming “chaos” in the White House, Trump has seen little swing in his approval rating. Events just don’t seem to move a president’s approval rating as much as they once did. Rachel Bitecofer, a professor of political science at Christopher Newport University, told me that for past presidents, newsworthy events were linked to notable fluctuations in presidential approval. “When you look at Nixon, something will happen and people will be like, ‘Woo, Nixon!’ Then Watergate happens and there are huge swings in opinion.” Whereas for Trump, Bitecofer said, “there’s almost no response in the public opinion data.” This has also meant that Trump’s support among Republicans has remained consistently strong throughout his presidency, almost always staying above 80 percent approval in Gallup’s data. Tellingly, GOP members of Congress have rarely broken with the president, and typically only over foreign policy concerns.
But it’s also possible that these steady numbers are not as much about partisan polarization as we think. It could have everything to do with personality. Lara Brown, the director of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, said that the small movement we see in Trump and Obama’s approval ratings “may be the ultimate expression of the personalization of the presidency.” That is, loyalty to the president rather than loyalty to the party could be driving the intensely polarized views of the latest presidents. As an example, Brown pointed to the fact that Democrats and Republicans stuck with their presidential standard bearers despite the president’s party suffering major midterm losses in 2010, 2014 and 2018. Personality-driven politics might make sense in an era where parties are increasingly weak, meaning they don’t exert the same amount of clout over candidates as they once did. Trump is a great example of this, as he had a mixed political history and wasn’t a textbook conservative before he ran for the 2016 Republican nomination and won.
We may yet see big swings in Trump’s approval — we can’t say when the next seismic economic or foreign policy event might occur. But so far, at least, Trump is exhibiting an even greater degree of stasis than Obama did when it comes to job approval. Given how deeply divided American politics is and how polarizing Trump is, don’t be surprised if his ratings remain steady regardless of what’s going on around him.
From ABC News:

Why Trump Blinked

President Trump blinked. The 35-day partial government shutdown appears to be ending.
From the start of the shutdown, congressional Democrats said they would not negotiate regarding Trump’s proposal for a border wall until the government reopened. Trump said he would not agree to legislation opening the government unless it included money for the border wall. That standoff lasted until Friday. Congress is expected to pass a bill that funds the government through Feb. 15 and does not include wall money, and Trump said that he would sign it in a Rose Garden address.
Why did Trump back down? Well, for all of the reasons we’ve been talking about for weeks. Polls consistently showed that the public was largely blaming the president, more than congressional Democrats, for the shutdown. That “blame Trump” view had recently gained more traction:

Moreover, Trump’s approval ratings were declining amid the impasse:

The public response had clear effects in Congress. Congressional Republicans had been unified behind the president in the early stages of the shutdown, but cracks started to emerge as it dragged on. In public, this was demonstrated on Thursday by six Senate Republicans voting for legislation put forward by Senate Democrats that would fund the government without money for the wall. And, in private, disagreement with the president’s strategy extended beyond those six. A meeting between Senate Republicans and Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday reportedly turned into a venting session, with some senators scolding Pence for the White House’s strategy. Among the critics was Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has the power to bring forward legislation, whether Trump likes it or not.
We don’t know much about the private discussions between McConnell and the White House, but it’s possible that Trump folded in part because McConnell suggested Senate Republicans would likely move forward soon with legislation funding the government without paying for the wall — with or without the president’s support. Although Trump, in a Rose Garden speech on Friday, acted as if it were his decision to end the shutdown, the decision to fold may not truly have been Trump’s to make, and the speech may have been McConnell allowing the president to save face and concede before the Republicans in the Senate fully broke with him.

To be clear, it’s not certain that Trump has lost the broader fight over the wall. It’s hard to see congressional Democrats offering much funding for it, but maybe they will agree to some kind of compromise that includes a few billion dollars. (I wouldn’t bet on this, as liberal Democratic opposition to the wall seems to be hardening.) Or, as he suggested on Friday, Trump could declare a national emergency and reallocate funds from other parts of the government to finance a wall. Such a move will almost certainly draw legal challenges. But Trump might win in the courts, as he (eventually) did on his executive order banning travel from certain countries into the United States.
For now, however, we’re back to where we were when the shutdown began. Trump and Congress have three weeks to figure out a solution. In public, at least, all sides are staking out the same positions they held when the shutdown started. Trump will likely need a different strategy going forward. The one he employed over the last month — shutting down the government (which is unpopular) to get the wall (which is unpopular) — could not keep his party united forever.
In short, it was another example that Trump is not immune to broader political dynamics, despite his surprising win in 2016. The health care policy legislation he was pushing for much of 2017 was deeply unpopular — and it failed. He had high disapproval ratings going into the 2018 midterms — and his party lost a ton of House seats. And now, he pushed a shutdown strategy that seemed doomed to fail — and it did.

Americans Increasingly Blame Trump For The Government Shutdown

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.
Poll(s) of the week
The longest government shutdown in U.S. history has passed the one-month mark, and the latest polls show that the share of Americans who blame President Trump for it has grown during that time — although congressional Democrats aren’t escaping unscathed either. Meanwhile, an end to the dispute over whether to fund Trump’s proposed border wall seems nowhere in sight.
Since the partial shutdown began on Dec. 22, several pollsters — specifically, Fox News, Ipsos, Marist, Morning Consult and YouGov — have been asking Americans who is most to blame for the current stalemate: Trump, Democrats in Congress, or Republicans in Congress.8 And, on average, more Americans are blaming Trump. There has been an increase of about 5 points in the percentage of respondents who say the president is responsible since the first polls were taken in December just after the start of the shutdown.
But there is some evidence that congressional Democrats are also shouldering more of the blame. There was an average increase of about 2 percentage points in the share of the electorate that blames congressional Democrats for the shutdown. Meanwhile, the percentage who blame congressional Republicans has decreased by about 3 points.

People who say they are politically independent in particular are turning against Trump. On average, there was a 7-point increase in the share of independents who blame Trump. YouGov, for example, found in its most recent poll that 50 percent of independents blame Trump the most for the shutdown. That’s up 12 points from the first time the pollster asked about the shutdown and blame, in a survey conducted Dec. 23-25. For comparison, between those two surveys, the share of Republicans who blame Trump increased only 2 points, while the share of Democrats who do rose 3 points.

Since the start of the shutdown, Trump has seen his approval rating decline by about 3 points and dip below 40 percent. While some polls indicate that the president might be losing support among parts of his base, Trump remains popular in his own party, pulling in approval numbers between 80 percent and 90 percent among Republicans.
But the political fallout from a government shutdown might be minimal in the long run — especially considering that we’re nearly two years out from the 2020 election. So there probably isn’t a huge political incentive for either side to budge just yet. Still, we have never had a shutdown last this long, so it’s unclear whether there will be lasting electoral consequences. In the short run, it seems likely that the president and House Democrats will continue to try to win the public’s support as they pressure one another to cave on funding the border wall and re-opening the government.
Other polling nuggets

60 percent of Americans say there are “plenty of jobs available in their community,” according to a Pew Research Center poll. That is the highest share of respondents with a positive view of job availability since Pew first asked the question nearly 20 years ago.
A Fox News poll found that 41 percent of Americans think House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is better at “Washington gamesmanship” than President Trump, while 35 percent think Trump is better at it. Meanwhile, a poll by CBS News found that 47 percent of Americans think Pelosi is better at handling shutdown negotiations than Trump, while 35 percent think Trump is.
46 percent of women in the U.S. say they are either “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with the way that women are treated in society, according to a Gallup poll. That’s the lowest number Gallup has recorded since they started asking the question in 2001.
A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that more than half of Americans said they either “strongly” or “somewhat” favor the idea of a single government health insurance plan for all Americans, often referred to as “Medicare-for-all.” Support for the proposal, however, hinged on how it was presented: 71 percent of respondents said they favored it when they were told that it would “guarantee health insurance as a right for all Americans,” but support dropped to 37 percent when respondents were told that it would “require most Americans to pay more in taxes.”
A Winthrop University survey of Americans in 11 Southern states9 found that 29 percent of respondents said they either “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement that “America must protect and preserve its white European heritage.” Fifty-four percent said they “disagree” or “strongly disagree.”
78 percent of Americans support encouraging highly skilled people to immigrate and work in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center. Even among those who said the country should allow fewer — or no — immigrants, 63 percent said they support encouraging highly skilled people to immigrate.
The people of El Salvador go to the polls on Feb. 3 to elect a new president. Opinion polls conducted in December show Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, with a lead of more than 20 points over his two biggest opponents: conservative businessman Carlos Calleja and former Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez of the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front party. Bukele has run as a political outsider under the banner of the Grand Alliance for National Unity party after being kicked out of the FMLN in 2017. The December polls indicate that Bukele might have a chance at breaking the 50 percent threshold he needs to win the election outright in the first round of voting.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 39.5 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 55.8 percent disapprove (for a net approval rating of -16.3 points). That’s a decline from a week ago, when 40.2 percent of Americans approved of the president and 55.0 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -14.8 points). Trump’s net approval rating has dropped significantly from a month ago, when it was -11.0 (approval rating of 41.9 percent, disapproval rating of 52.9 percent).


Trump Put Immigration Back In The Headlines. Will It Boost GOP Turnout?

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.
Poll(s) of the week
President Trump has fixated on immigration in the days leading up to next week’s midterm elections, perhaps in the hopes that it will drive Republicans to the polls. Since mid-October, he has made the thousands of Central American migrants who have said they are traveling to the U.S. to seek asylum a focal point of his tweets and public statements, most recently in a press conference Thursday. And earlier this week, he intensified his hardline immigration agenda, telling Axios that he wants to use an executive order to ban birthright citizenship. It’s difficult to know whether, or how much, stoking fears about illegal immigration will help Republicans turn out the vote, but a new poll from The Economist and YouGov gives us some clues as to why Trump might think it will.
For starters, there’s evidence that Trump’s rhetoric on the migrant caravan has resonated with his base. Republicans — especially Trump voters — were more likely than Democrats to have heard “a lot” about the caravan, and a majority of Republicans said the U.S. should “reject all of the immigrants in the caravan” (as opposed to accepting all of them or accepting only those who have a valid claim for asylum). Also, Trump’s dubious claim that the caravan contained “unknown Middle Easterners” (there have been no reports from intelligence agencies to suggest that this is true, and Trump later said he has no proof to support it) appears to have been widely believed by Republicans. Forty-seven percent said they thought that “some” of the people in the caravan were “Middle Eastern terrorists.” And 72 percent of Republicans said they “strongly approve” of Trump’s order to deploy thousands of troops to the border ahead of the caravan’s arrival.
Also in the YouGov poll, immigration was the most frequent response among Republicans when they were asked what the most important issue to them was; 20 percent chose it from a list of 15 issues (the economy ranked second, with 17 percent). Among independents, immigration came in second (13 percent said it was the most important issue to them) — which could be good news for Republicans looking to win among independents. (Among Democrats, immigration was tied for sixth place — their top answer was health care.)
So maybe Trump really is tapping into an issue that will motivate Republicans to vote. But much of his success will boil down to whether he is able to turn out voters in key swing states with close races. That said, a recent CBS News/YouGov poll of voters in Arizona, Florida and Indiana found that a vast majority of Republicans said immigration was “very important” to their vote for Congress this year. All three states have a competitive Senate race on the ballot. Several House races in Arizona and Florida are especially close, and Florida has a tight gubernatorial race as well.
What voters see as an important issue and what motivates them to vote can depend on the current news cycle, although the effects can fade. For instance, Republican enthusiasm about the midterm elections surged in October polls after Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s heated confirmation hearing. But there are some signs that the excitement has died down. In the most recent Economist/YouGov poll, Republicans’ enthusiasm to vote in the midterms dropped 3 points, compared with the previous week.
It’s still too soon to know what will happen in the polls in the wake of the pipe bombs that were mailed to prominent Democratic critics of Trump or in response to the anti-Semitic shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh that left 11 dead. So while it’s possible that immigration could drive Republicans to vote on Election Day and maybe even make a difference in some key races, it’s also entirely possible that enthusiasm around immigration issues could weaken in the coming days.
Other polling nuggets

A CNN poll conducted by SSRS of Arizona’s Senate race found that Democrat Kyrsten Sinema had lost ground to Republican Martha McSally but was still ahead by 4 percentage points. An NBC News/Marist College poll, meanwhile, found that Sinema had a 6-point lead. As of Thursday afternoon, FiveThirtyEight’s Classic forecast rated the race as a “toss-up” and gave Sinema a 3 in 5 chance of winning.
A poll of North Dakota voters by Trafalgar Group found Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp 9 points behind her Republican opponent, Kevin Cramer (including leaners). Heitkamp has lagged behind Kramer in the polls for a while, and Cramer’s odds of winning in our forecast have improved recently. As of Thursday afternoon, he had a 3 in 4 chance of winning.
The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn, scored a 5-point lead against Democrat Phil Bredesen in an NBC News/Marist poll.
In the Texas Senate race, Republican Ted Cruz maintains a strong streak with a 5-point lead over Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke in a Quinnipiac University poll.
A Marquette University Law School poll found Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, tied with Democrat Tony Evers — both received 47 percent in support. As of Thursday afternoon, our forecast rated the seat as a “toss-up.”
43 percent of Americans said the #MeToo movement had gone too far, according to an NPR-Ipsos poll. Americans were more divided along party lines than by gender: The gap between Democrats and Republicans was 54 points (75 percent of Republicans said the movement had gone too far, compared with 21 percent of Democrats), while the gap between men and women was 15 points (51 percent of men vs. 36 percent of women).
60 percent of Massachusetts voters said Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s claim of Native American ancestry is “not at all important” to their vote in a WBUR poll conducted by MassINC polling.
Last week, NBC canceled Megyn Kelly’s talk show after she asked on the air why it was inappropriate for white people to dress up in blackface for Halloween. In a poll that was conducted before and after the cancellation, Morning Consult found that 45 percent of Americans thought that punishment would be “too harsh.” Only a quarter of respondents thought canceling her show would be appropriate. However, 42 percent of black Americans said cancellation would be appropriate.
A majority of Americans expressed a lack of confidence in U.S. election security, according to a Pew Research Center poll. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say they’re confident that U.S. election systems are secure and less likely than Democrats to believe that Russia or other foreign governments will try to influence the midterm elections.

Trump approval

President Trump’s approval rating is 42.0 percent, according to our tracker. His disapproval rating is 53.2 percent. That makes for a net approval rating of -11.2 points — nearly 2 percentage points worse than last week’s rating of -9.4 points. One month ago, Trump’s net approval rating was -10.9 points (41.8 percent approved and 52.7 percent disapproved).
Generic ballot

Democrats have an 8.5-point lead over Republicans on the generic congressional ballot (50.3 percent to 41.8 percent), according to our tracker. Support hasn’t shifted much from a week ago, when Democrats were at 50.0 percent and Republicans were at 42.0 percent. One month ago, Democrats held about the same advantage, 49.4 percent to 41.0 percent.
Check out our 2018 House, Senate and governor forecasts and all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the midterms.