In Gallup polling conducted two weeks before Inauguration Day, President-elect Donald Trump continues to garner historically low approval for his transition performance, with 51% of Americans disapproving of how he is handling the presidential transition and 44% approving. Last month, the public was split on this question, with 48% approving and 48% disapproving.Trump's 48% transition approval rating in December was already the lowest for any presidential transition Gallup has measured, starting with Bill Clinton's in 1992-1993.
I put together the above chart to help drive the point home: by the standards of the last quarter-century, Trump is faring quite poorly during his post-election "honeymoon" phase. Ordinarily, once a campaign is over, most Americans generally extend support to the incoming leader. This year, as the public watches Trump's bizarre antics unfold during his transition period, the president-elect's 44% approval is actually a little lower than the 46% of electorate that voted for him.There's a school of thought that says polling results like these are irrelevant, at least for now, because the next election cycle is still nearly two years away. Trump's approval numbers will matter far more in October 2018 than in January 2017.And while that's true in terms of electoral consequences, let's not forget that Trump intends to push a series of radical and unpopular proposals in the coming months, which generally requires some semblance of political capital. The president-elect suggested this week he'll try to get his way by hitting the campaign trail and rallying the public behind his agenda.But while the laws of campaign political science took a hit last year, the laws of political incentives haven't changed much: members of Congress who are skeptical of the incoming president's ideas won't feel much pressure to go along with an unpopular and scandal-plagued leader. Trump has already hit the campaign trail -- before and after Election Day -- but his standing is nevertheless weaker than any of his modern predecessors.