President Donald Trump's job approval rating fell to 39% in the September IBD/TIPP Poll, matching February's reading for the lowest in a year. The erosion in the Trump approval rating comes as Americans registered greater disapproval of the escalating China trade war. The public still gives Trump's handling of the economy positive marks, but somewhat less so.

Trump Job Approval In Summer Swoon On Economy, China Trade War

Trump's job approval dipped from 40% in August and 43% at the start of July.

In the September IBD/TIPP Poll, Trump's net approval rating on his handling of the economy shrank to +7 points (46% approve; 39% disapprove). That's down from +10 points in August (46%-36%) and +15 points in July (48%-33%).

Over the same time, views of Trump's handling of trade with China have gone from neutral to increasingly negative. Trump's net approval went from flat in July (42%-42%) to -4 points in August (40% approval; 44% disapproval) to -10 points in September (39%-49%).

Americans Say No More China Tariffs

There's surely more downside risk to Trump's rating in the near term. In the September IBD/TIPP Poll, just 14% of respondents backed an escalation of Trump tariffs in the China trade war. Another 36% said Trump should remove all tariffs, even if there's no China trade deal in coming months, while 39% favored keeping existing tariffs in place.

Yet Trump just pulled the trigger on more tariffs effective Sept. 1. The 15% tariffs that took effect on Sunday will hit about $110 billion in imports from China. It amounts to Trump's broadest hit yet to consumer goods. Tariffs will hit footwear, apparel and electronics, including TVs, the Apple (AAPL) Watch and Apple AirPods.

On Oct. 1, Trump is set to hike tariffs on an earlier $300 billion worth of Chinese imports to 30% from 25%. In mid-December, Trump is due to slap 15% tariffs on some holiday-related items, including the Apple iPhone, laptops and toys.

The September IBD/TIPP Poll reflected 903 responses collected from Aug. 22-30 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.3%.

Presidential Leadership Index Rises

Despite the overall negative direction of Trump's polling, the IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership Index edged up seven-tenths of a point to 43.4. The Presidential Leadership Index is a composite of three subindexes measuring the president's job approval, favorability and leadership strength. The latter two subindexes got a modest bounce. Since Trump took office, the index has risen as high as 49.2, during his first month in office. Trump's low came in August 2017, when it fell to 35.9.

Trump remained under water in polling of head-to-head general election matchups against potential 2020 election opponents. Trump trails Joe Biden by 12 points, Bernie Sanders by 4 points and Elizabeth Warren by 3 points. But the former vice president looks vulnerable, with Warren surging to within 4 points of Biden in the IBD/TIPP Poll.

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