President Trump's approval rating hit 38% in the latest IBD/TIPP poll after what pundits routinely described as a terrible month for the president. While still low, that represents a six-point gain over the previous month.
Regionally, Trump's gains were strongest in the South, where his approval jumped 13 points to 48%. He firmed up support among Republicans as well, with an 8-point increase to 79%. He gained 14 points among those with a high school education, 10 points among conservatives, 7 points with white men, and 4 points among those living in rural parts of the country.
What's more, Trump gained 12% in the proprietary IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership Index, which reached 40.2, regaining the ground he lost in the previous month. The Index is based on presidential favorability, job approval and leadership poll results. The highest Trump has scored on this index was 49.2 in his first month in office. By way of comparison, President Obama's Leadership Index averaged 46.9 in his second term.
Trump's gains come despite the overwhelmingly negative coverage of his response to the Charlottesville, Va., violence on Aug. 12, and at least partially reflect the public's assessment of Trump's and his administration's response to the devastating impact of Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall on Aug. 25. The poll also reflects the impact of improving economic numbers.
"A number of factors have contributed to the recent rise in President Trump's approval rating," said Raghavan Mayur, President of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which conducts the monthly IBD/TIPP poll. "First, Americans are encouraged by recent positive developments in the economy, such as second-quarter GDP growth hitting 3.0% and strong job numbers. Most Americans see Trump's performance in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in a positive light and the media's constant coverage of the Russia investigation has somewhat abated."
"On the international front," Mayur said. "the administration's recently unveiled plan to boost troop levels in Afghanistan has received majority support. Also, many Americans are impressed by Trump's strong leadership regarding the North Korea situation."
The nationwide poll was conducted from Aug. 23 to Aug. 31 and includes responses from 905 adults, giving it a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.
The IBD/TIPP Poll also found that nearly two thirds of Americans (62%) do not want statues commemorating figures of the Confederacy to be taken down.
While this sentiment was strongest in the South, where 68% want the statues to remain, it was also strong in the Northeast, where 63% say the statues should remain. In the Midwest and West, 57% say the statues should remain for cultural and historical reasons.
Only among Democrats was there a majority in favor of removing the statues. But even there, it was slim, with 53% saying the statues should be taken down. Among blacks surveyed, 50% say the statues should be removed while 40% say they should remain.
However, a large majority — 70% — say that race relations have worsened under Trump. Just 18% say they've improved. It's worth noting that Obama fared poorly on this score as well. In a 2016 IBD/TIPP Poll, 18% said race relations had improved under Obama, while 46% said they'd worsened and 35% said they'd stayed the same. And in the last IBD/TIPP Poll of Obama's presidency, just 43% rated his presidency a success when it came to race relations.
Only a third of the public is confident that Trump will be able to heal the divisions in the country, while 65% aren't confident. Among Republicans, however, 72% express confidence in his ability to bring the country together.
On the other hand, a majority (55%) agree with Trump's statement that "the media is the source of the divisions in the country today." Not surprisingly, Republicans are overwhelmingly on Trump's side, with 61% saying they "strongly agree" and another 24% saying they "agree somewhat. But so do 55% of independents. Among Democrats, just 28% agreed. (The poll did not mention that Trump was the source of the statement.)
When it comes to gridlock in Washington, Trump escapes the blame — just 23% say he's at fault — but Congress doesn't. Two-thirds say Congress is responsible for the inability of Washington to get anything done. Even among Democrats, most (54%) blame Congress, while just over a third (37%) blame Trump.
The poll also gauged the public's view on two foreign policy hot spots — North Korea and Afghanistan.
Nearly two-thirds (65%) doubt that Trump will be able to persuade North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program, with a third saying they're confident he can. Republicans are alone in expressing confidence about Trump's ability to get this done — with 62% saying this.
The public is split on the U.S. taking a pre-emptive strike against North Korea in response to its aggressive nuclear weapons program — with 49% supporting it and 47% opposed. Americans also are split on whether the U.S. can rely on China to help end North Korea's nuclear program — 45% say we can, while 49% say we can't.
On Afghanistan, 51% back Trump's strategy for sending additional troops to Afghanistan for the purposes of training Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism operations, with 41% opposed. Nearly half of independents (49%) back Trump, but just 31% of Democrats do. Among Republicans, 80% support Trump's strategy.
Nevertheless, the public clearly doesn't want the U.S. to abandon Afghanistan. Fully 71% agree with the statement that "full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan would leave a vacuum that would allow terrorist groups like ISIS to expand." Just 24% of the public disagrees. Two-thirds of both Democrats and independents agree with this statement.
Methodology: The September IBD/TIPP Poll was conducted Aug. 23-Aug. 31. It includes responses from 905 people nationwide, who were asked questions by live interviewers on cell or landline phones. The poll's margin of error is +/-3.4 percentage points.
The IBD/TIPP Poll has been credited as being the most accurate poll in the past four presidential elections, and was one of only two that correctly predicted the outcome of the November elections.
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