Despite the overwhelmingly negative coverage of his administration, President Donald Trump's approval rating is as high or higher than half of the previous six presidents at this point in their first terms. You won't believe who scored better.
Trump has been enjoying a rare string of good news. The economy is humming and the jobless rate just hit a 49-year low. Trump won an intense battle over Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court. He secured a replacement for Nafta. His poll numbers are edging up. And Republican prospects in the midterm elections appear to have improved.
But according to the Gallup Poll, Trump's approval rating as of his 632nd day in office was 44%.
Is that good or bad? That depends on the context. Trump has never polled well. Gallup had his approval rating at 45% the day he took office.
The mainstream press focused intensely on Trump's initial rating, which was well below those of any president since Gallup first started tracking this in 1945.
Even Gerald Ford's approval rating 90 weeks into his accidental presidency was 71%.
But the press lost interest in such comparisons as time went by.
Perhaps one reason is that, by this point in their first terms, approval ratings for most presidents had declined. Sometimes sharply.
As a matter of fact, Trump's approval rating is now higher than, or tied with, three of the past six presidents at this point in their first terms.
He's currently tied with Obama (at 44%), and above both Clinton (41%) and Reagan (42%).
Obama's approval rating on day one was 67%, but steadily declined as his economic policies failed to re-energize the economy, despite the massive stimulus, while he forced through the highly unpopular ObamaCare.
Clinton's eroded after he broke his promise on tax hikes.
At this point in Reagan's first term, the economy was in a painful recession, and unemployment was above 10%.
Needless to say, each went on to win re-election handily.
But look at who scored higher than Trump: George W. Bush (67%), George H.W. Bush (56%), and Jimmy Carter (49%). W. was coming off his sky-high approval rating in the wake of 9/11, which peaked at 90%. He ended his second term at 34% approval. George H.W. had just started building up troops in preparation for liberating Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm. Carter had recently signed the Camp David Accords.
What does all this mean?
First, it means that anyone who thinks Trump's low approval ratings today are a problem for his re-election prospects is mistaken. There's no correlation. Three presidents with ratings as low or lower than Trump's served two terms. Two with much higher approval ratings at this point ended up as one-term losers.
But there's a broader point here.
Democrats and the press keep describing Trump as a hugely divisive figure. But the polls show that his approval is starting to line up with previous presidents.
What's more, Trump's low numbers are almost entirely because Democrats are universally opposed to him.
To see this effect, look at the IBD/TIPP polls from the same month in the Trump and Obama administrations.
In October 2010, Obama had an approval rating of 42%. Trump's approval in the October 2018 IBD/TIPP poll is 40%.
Naturally, Democrats gave Obama a sky-high approval ratings, as do Republicans for Trump.
Among independents, there's almost no difference — Trump's approval is 33%, Obama's was 34%.
But there's a huge gap in how Democrats and Republicans viewed their political opponents.
At this point in Obama's presidency, 10% of Republicans approved of the job Obama was doing. And that was after his massive failed stimulus, his signing of ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank, and other policies highly antagonistic to Republicans.
Trump, on the other hand, gets approval from a mere 5% of Democrats. That's where it's been throughout Trump's presidency.
Republicans, in other words, were more forgiving of Obama than Democrats have been of Trump.
So, who's being divisive here? Trump and the GOP? Or the Democrats who will hate Trump no matter what he does?
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