A pres­i­den­tial plum­met

In a few months, Arkansans shift views on Trump

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - Brenda Blagg Brenda Blagg is a free­lance colum­nist and long­time jour­nal­ist in North­west Arkansas. Email her at bren­da­jblagg@gmail.com.

Re­cently re­leased polling in Arkansas shows Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump start­ing to lose fa­vor with an elec­torate that gave him a huge win last Novem­ber.

The pres­i­dent’s job ap­proval rat­ing, while still at the 50 per­cent fa­vor­able mark, has been drop­ping dur­ing his first months in of­fice.

Arkansas gave Trump stout sup­port — al­most 61 per­cent of the vote — in his 2016 gen­eral elec­tion race against for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Con­se­quently, Arkansas has been one of those places ex­pected to re­main a bas­tion of sup­port for Trump.

Post-elec­tion polling sug­gests some­thing else is hap­pen­ing here.

The num­bers come from statewide polling by Talk Busi­ness & Pol­i­tics and Hen­drix Col­lege. The most re­cent sur­vey was done on July 20 among 511 Arkansas vot­ers.

Keep in mind that, with that size sam­ple, the most re­cent poll has a mar­gin of er­ror of +/- 4.3 per­cent.

Nev­er­the­less, the num­bers sug­gest chang­ing per­spec­tives in Arkansas on this pres­i­dency, es­pe­cially when com­pared with ear­lier re­sults from these same poll­sters. (The ear­lier polls were of sim­i­larly sized sam­ples with sim­i­lar mar­gins of er­ror.)

Dif­fer­ent sets of re­spon­dents were asked in Fe­bru­ary and in April and again ear­lier this month if they ap­prove or dis­ap­prove of the job the pres­i­dent is do­ing.

The Fe­bru­ary num­bers showed Trump with 60 per­cent job ap­proval, com­pared to a 35 per­cent dis­ap­proval rat­ing. His ap­proval al­most matched his win in the 2016 elec­tion.

In April, the poll mar­gin shifted to 53 per­cent ap­proval and 39 per­cent dis­ap­proval, still re­spectable but drop­ping.

Now come the July num­bers — 50 per­cent ap­proval and 47 per­cent dis­ap­proval.

Break those most re­cent num­bers down fur­ther and Arkansans re­ally do ap­pear to be se­ri­ously di­vided on the ques­tion of Trump’s job per­for­mance.

It isn’t what might have been ex­pected from Arkansas so early in this new ad­min­is­tra­tion.

While 39 per­cent of the re­spon­dents “strongly ap­prove” of the job Trump is do­ing, 40 per­cent “strongly dis­ap­prove.”

Those who “some­what ap­prove,” at 11 per­cent, tip the over­all ap­proval num­bers in the pres­i­dent’s fa­vor. Just 7 per­cent “some­what dis­ap­prove.”

Not at all sur­pris­ing is the tiny 3 per­cent with “no opin­ion” on how the pres­i­dent is do­ing.

Jay Barth, the Hen­drix Col­lege po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor who helped craft the poll, pointed out in his anal­y­sis of re­sults that only about one in five Arkansans “have any mixed feel­ings about what is still a very new pres­i­dent.” They ei­ther like what he’s do­ing, or they don’t.

An­other thought from Barth worth not­ing is his con­clu­sion that this state, which didn’t re­ally show a gen­der gap dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign, is show­ing one now.

In this re­cent poll, as many women (49 per­cent) strongly dis­ap­prove of Pres­i­dent Trump’s per­for­mance as men who strongly ap­prove (also 49 per­cent).

There’s more to come from the polling, which is be­ing re­leased a lit­tle bit at a time this week. But one in­ter­est­ing tid­bit is al­ready out there.

The July poll re­spon­dents sub­stan­tially dis­ap­prove of the pres­i­dent’s ac­tiv­ity on Twit­ter, which has been Trump’s av­enue of choice to com­mu­ni­cate with Amer­i­cans.

A full 56 per­cent of poll re­spon­dents dis­ap­prove of the prac­tice while 23 per­cent ap­prove and 21 per­cent claim no opin­ion.

Again, women were more dis­ap­prov­ing of the pres­i­dent’s Twit­ter habit than men. Women dis­ap­proved by 63 per­cent, com­pared to 19 per­cent of women who ap­prove the prac­tice. Among men, 48 per­cent dis­ap­prove and 28 per­cent ap­prove.

These re­sults are just six months into Trump’s con­tro­ver­sial pres­i­dency, mired as it is in con­gres­sional and De­part­ment of Jus­tice in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

The shift­ing per­spec­tive from within the state’s elec­torate at least sug­gests peo­ple in Arkansas are pay­ing at­ten­tion to the drama be­ing played out on the na­tional stage.

That’s good. None of us can af­ford to do any less.

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