Trump Hits New Polling Low
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

I originally wrote “Trump Hits New Low” as this article’s title, but then realized that it was far too generic a headline. After all, Trump hits new lows all the time, in many shocking and unusual ways. A sitting president endorsing an accused child molester to sit in the U.S. Senate, for instance. So I clarified it, since this is a more qualitative thing ― Trump has indeed hit a new all-time low in the polls. As of this writing, his daily job approval average (as calculated by Real Clear Politics) is a dismal 37.3 percent. Trump’s job disapproval also hit a record high, to now stand at 57.9 percent. This is also (not surprisingly) the most he’s ever been underwater in the polls ― a negative gap of 20.6 points.

To briefly put these numbers in some historical perspective, during Barack Obama’s entire two terms in office, he only slipped below 40 percent for a single day. On December 13, 2013 ― when Obama was suffering from two simultaneous political blows (the government shutdown in October and the disastrous rollout of the new Obamacare website) ― Obama was only at 39.8 percent average job approval, while 55.9 percent of Americans disapproved of the way he was doing his job. That was Obama’s worst day ever, since for the entire other eight years of his presidency, he stayed above 40 percent approval. Trump is now two or more points worse than that, in both directions.

George W. Bush didn’t do so well, of course. But even Dubya stayed above 40 percent for his entire first term. It wasn’t until November of 2005 that Bush sank down to 38 percent approval. Bush continued to slide downwards, hitting bottom the month before Obama was elected in 2008, when he only had 25.3 percent job approval, and 69.3 percent disapproval. So things could indeed be worse for Trump. He’s still 12 whole points above Bush’s worst showing.

Trump’s job approval ratings, though low, have been rather consistent throughout the second half of 2017. Which means that his recent downward slide might just bounce back up again next week. This is the danger of paying too much attention to daily averages rather than concentrating on larger trends, of course.

Trump, during late spring and early summer, saw his job approval stay fairly steady, hovering right around 40 percent, while his disapproval stayed close to the 54-55 percent range. At the end of July (or the beginning of August, depending how you see it), Trump’s numbers took a hit, and since that point his approval numbers have stayed almost entirely within the 38-40 percent range. He has only broken out of this two-point spread three times since the end of July.

Right after Trump’s response to the Charlottesville violence, he dropped to his lowest point ever (before today) in the second week of August, bottoming out at 37.4 percent approval. But his numbers came back up within a week.

In late September, Trump managed a ten-day spike in approval, all the way up to 41.7 percent, in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey (Texas) and Irma (Florida). But this quickly dropped back below 40.0 percent, likely as a result of Trump’s inaction after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.

Since then, Trump only had one single day below 38.0 percent, on November 15, when he dropped to 37.9 percent (before climbing back up again the next day). Other than that, Trump has continued to stay within the 38-40 percent range.

Trump’s job disapproval numbers mostly mirrored this trend. In September, while Trump was briefly doing better, his disapproval dropped to a low of 52.4 percent. But in November, his disapproval hit an all-time high (until today) of 57.4 percent.

By early December, Trump had once again recovered somewhat. His approval was back up to 40.0 percent by the third of the month, but then his numbers seemed to fall off a sharp cliff, with a steep drop to today’s 37.3 percent. That’s a major loss ― down 2.7 points within a week.

The trend could get worse for Trump, obviously. But he could also bounce back (at least slightly), to the point where he’s not charting daily all-time lows. If the trend continues, it is tough to say precisely why public opinion is now breaking against Trump. Is it the fact that the more that people learn about the GOP tax plan, the more they hate it? Perhaps the #MeToo movement is causing American voters to rethink how they treated Trump’s accusers? Or is Trump’s support of Roy Moore (which was really only made official about a week ago) dragging him down? Will a Moore victory really help ― or actually hurt ― Trump’s standing with the public?

Why this is happening now, and whether it will continue or Trump will bounce back, is really anyone’s guess. It’s been an eventful time in Washington, but the same could be said for any period back to July, really. The whole fluctuation in the past few weeks could even be nothing more than the shifting way Real Clear Politics determines the window for which polls they include in each day’s rolling average (they have no clear rules, it seems, for how old a poll has to be before it drops off). Maybe Trump’s numbers were artificially high at the start of the month, or maybe they’re artificially low now ― either could be true, really.

Looking at individual polls, however, shows that Trump’s approval number may actually be artificially high right now. Today’s average contains eight different discrete polls, all from the past week’s time. Six of them agree that Trump is now somewhere in a range between 34 percent approval (Pew) and 37 percent (Reuters). The other two are outliers, with Rasmussen giving Trump 42 percent approval and the Economist/YouGov poll showing Trump at 43 percent. So two polls show an average of 42.5 percent, while the other six polls put it at 35.5 percent. That’s a rather large gap, obviously. What it means is if the two Republican-leaning polls start to reflect a true shift in public opinion (one that the other six polls are consistently showing), then Trump’s average job approval could easily drop below 37.0 percent (or even lower) in the next week. This is possible because both polls are always active, Rasmussen on a rolling-daily-average basis, while the Economist/YouGov reports weekly. So unlike other static polls, we won’t have to wait a month to see if they’ll change to reflect a new reality.

There’s a larger issue that bears attention as well ― is Trump actually dragging the whole Republican Party down? Party affiliation numbers show a definite trend in this direction. Last year at this time, 42 percent of people polled identified (either strongly or weakly) with the Republican Party. At the same time 44 percent of people (strongly or weakly) identified with the Democratic Party ― a pretty even split between the two. Now, however, Democrats have not changed their minds, as the same 44 percent of the public still self-identifies with the Democratic Party. But only 37 percent of people now say that they’re Republicans (or even “lean Republican”) anymore ― a drop of 5 points, leaving Democrats 7 points ahead. From an article on this trend:

“Democrats’ edge has expanded this year mainly because of a decline in Republican affiliation,” Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones wrote. “A year ago, 44% of Americans identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic, the same percentage as now. However, Republican identification and leaning is five points lower than it was a year ago.”

NBC’s Dante Chinni got a more detailed breakdown of the shift. Women are 5 points less likely to identify as Republicans relative to last November. White women are 7 points less likely to.

This tends to give some credence to the idea that #MeToo might have something to do with this shift, to say nothing of Roy Moore.

Whatever happens next, though, Donald Trump today hit a new all-time polling low of only 37.3 percent of the public approving of the job he’s doing, and a whopping all-time high of 57.9 percent who disapprove. Trump seems to be chasing an ever-shrinking base of support among his most fervent supporters. He certainly isn’t reaching out to anyone else at this point. But even this base seems to now be fraying. After staying largely within a 2-point range for most of the second half of the year, Trump’s numbers may settle in to a new and lower range. If this trend continues much further, Trump will reach the threshold where for every one person who thinks he’s doing a good job, there will be two people who don’t. He’s still got some distance to go to get there, but it’s looking more and more like a distinct possibility.

Chris Weigant blogs at

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Popular in the Community


What's Hot