How low can Trump go?

Pres­i­dent set­ting new records for poor pres­i­den­tial ap­proval rat­ings

The Progress-Index Weekend - - OBITUARIES - By Emily Swan­son The As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON — Don­ald Trump started as the most un­pop­u­lar new pres­i­dent in the his­tory of modern polling. Af­ter seven months, things have only got­ten worse.

Plung­ing into un­de­sir­ably un­char­tered ter­ri­tory, Trump is set­ting new records with his dis­mally low ap­proval rat­ings, in­clud­ing the low­est mark ever for a pres­i­dent in his first year. In fact, with four months left in the year, Trump has al­ready spent more time un­der 40 per­cent than any other first-year pres­i­dent.

At 34 per­cent, his cur­rent ap­proval rat­ing is worse than former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ever was.

Trump’s early de­scent in the polls de­fies some long­stand­ing pat­terns about how Amer­i­cans view their pres­i­dent.

Such plunges are of­ten tied to ex­ter­nal forces that the pres­i­dent only par­tially con­trols, such as a slug­gish econ­omy or an all-con­sum­ing in­ter­na­tional cri­sis. In Trump’s case, the econ­omy is hum­ming and the for­eign crises have been kept to a min­i­mum.

Amer­i­cans also tend to be op­ti­mistic about their new lead­ers, typ­i­cally cut­ting them some slack dur­ing their early days in of­fice. Not with Trump.

“Most pres­i­dents be­gin with a hon­ey­moon pe­riod and then go down from that, and Trump had no hon­ey­moon,” said Gallup ed­i­tor-in-chief Frank New­port.

It’s a jar­ring jux­ta­po­si­tion for the re­al­ity TV star-turned-pres­i­dent who spent months on the cam­paign trail ob­sess­ing about his poll num­bers and read­ing them to mas­sive rally crowds while vow­ing that he’d win so much as pres­i­dent that Amer­i­cans would get sick of it. Since he took of­fice, the poll num­ber recita­tions have stopped.

Trump is now viewed pos­i­tively by only 37 per­cent of Amer­i­cans, ac­cord­ing to Gallup’s most re­cent weekly es­ti­mate. (Obama’s low­est weekly av­er­age never fell be­low 40 per­cent.) It’s even lower — just 34 per­cent — in Gallup’s shorter, three-day av­er­age, which in­cludes more re­cent in­ter­views but can also in­volve more ran­dom vari­a­tion.

To be sure, ap­proval rat­ings can fluc­tu­ate — some­times dra­mat­i­cally. Some pres­i­dents have seen their pos­i­tive re­views dip be­low 40 per­cent, only to re­cover strongly. Bill Clin­ton, whose rat­ing fell to 37 per­cent in early June 1993 af­ter pol­icy stum­bles, quickly gained ground. Later that same month, he climbed to 46 per­cent, and ended his eight years en­joy­ing ap­proval from 66 per­cent of the na­tion.

Trump has de­fied the trends be­fore. But if his­tory is a guide, his num­bers don’t bode well. Low ap­proval rat­ings ham­per a pres­i­dent’s abil­ity to push an agenda through Con­gress and make it more likely the pres­i­dent’s party will lose seats in Con­gress in the midterm elec­tions.

Scott de Marchi, who teaches po­lit­i­cal science at Duke Uni­ver­sity, says his re­search sug­gests ap­proval rat­ings tend to af­fect whether a pres­i­dent can per­suade Con­gress to do his or her bid­ding. .

In a Wash­ing­ton PostABC News poll con­ducted Aug. 16-20, just 28 per­cent said they ap­prove of Trump’s re­sponse to Char­lottesville. But 37 per­cent said they ap­proved of the job Trump is do­ing over­all — al­most the ex­act same per­cent­age that ap­proved in the same poll a month ear­lier.


Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks in the Di­plo­matic Re­cep­tion Room of the White House in Wash­ing­ton.

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