As the first year of the Donald Trump presidency nears its end, most national polling puts his approval rating in the mid- to high-30s, which is roughly where it’s been since the summer. The latest national report from the Pew Research Center found that the Republican president has actually reached a new low, with his support dropping to just 32%.
To put that in context, among other presidents from this generation, Bill Clinton had the lowest approval rating at the end of his first year, and his support stood at 48% at this point in 1993. Trump is 16 points below that level, which is just embarrassing. The president wanted to make history, and he has, though probably not in the way he had in mind.
But going through the results, I was especially interested in the shifts in attitudes among traditional Trump supporters.
Currently, 76% of Republicans and Republican leaners approve of Trump’s job performance, compared with 84% who did so in February. […]
In addition, Trump’s job rating has declined among several groups that gave him relatively high ratings in February, including older adults (38% of those 50 and older approve today, compared with 47% who did so in February) and whites (41% now, 49% then), as well as white evangelical Protestants (61% now, 78% then).
Even among white voters without college degrees, arguably the heart of Trump’s base, his support has slipped 10 points, dropping from 56% at the start of the year to 46% now.
Looking through every demographic constituency – age, race, religion, education level – is there any group of Americans with whom Trump’s support has gone up this year?
No. There are none. In fact, other than Republicans and white evangelical Protestants, Trump doesn’t even reach 50% with any American constituency.
Over the summer, as his support dropped, the president said his approval rating is “not bad.” At the risk of stating the obvious, Trump’s numbers are, in fact, astonishingly bad.
It’s just not clear that reality has broken through the president’s bubble. The Washington Post reported last week that, behind the scenes, Trump has manufactured an alternate reality in which he has many accomplishments; the Russia scandal is nearly finished; the “Access Hollywood” recording is illegitimate; all independent polling is “fake.”
And while this is unsettling for a variety of reasons, as we discussed several weeks ago, it’s also emblematic of a president who doesn’t see any incentive to change.
Presidential support often waxes and wanes based on factors a White House can’t necessarily control, but in general, when the economy is healthy and the public is largely satisfied with the status quo, a president can expect to have a higher approval rating. When conditions worsen, the public often blames the man in the Oval Office. It’s just part of the job.
It’s also what makes Trump’s woeful public support so striking: the nation has low unemployment and healthy economic growth, but the American mainstream is rejecting the president in surprisingly strong numbers anyway. This is even starting to affect his standing with his most loyal backers.
Common sense suggests a political leader and his team, faced with this data, would start considering some kind of course correction. After all, there’s quantitative evidence that most Americans just aren’t buying what this president is selling.
Trump, however, believes his latest polling is “fantastic,” which means he doesn’t see any reason to even try to change.
Update: To help prove my point, as I was writing this, the president used his Twitter account to promote a highly dubious outlier poll, which still showed most Americans disapproving of his job performance.