Alternate headline: “Presidential tweet focuses country’s attention on ABC/WaPo poll showing Trump’s job approval sliding.”
It made me laugh to think of lawyers threatening a pollster. With what? Bad Sampling in the First Degree?
There’s one true thing in those two tweets: ABC did briefly have Trump falling 12 points behind Hillary in October 2016 — from October 20 to 23, to be exact. Other pollsters saw Clinton’s lead balloon around the same time, though. The AP had her up 13, Suffolk had her up 10, and so on. That’s not because of data-rigging or FAKE NEWS!, it’s because Trump was getting battered at the time by fallout from the “Access Hollywood” tape and the women coming forward to accuse him of various forms of sexual misconduct. Not long after, though, Comey released his letter to Congress announcing that he was reopening the Emailgate probe. And late deciders began weighing whether to sign up for another four years of Clintonism or to try to something different in a big way. The very next ABC poll taken, from October 21-24, found Hillary’s lead slipping to eight points. The ABC/WaPo poll conducted from October 23-26 found it shrinking to five points. The next tracker, from October 27-30, after the Comey letter was issued, had it down to one.
The final poll they published before Election Day put the race at 49/46 for Hillary. That turned out to be the closest match of any major pollster with the national popular vote, which went 48/46. Which was no surprise: Contra Trump, ABC/WaPo actually has a sterling record of polling in presidential contests.
But we needn’t dwell on this. Anyone who doesn’t understand yet that Trump cries “fake!” at any news that’s bad for him to try to convince people not to believe it isn’t going to be swayed at this point. Besides, I can understand why today’s ABC/WaPo poll is especially irritating to him. It’s not the job approval number in it, which is bad at 38 percent (down six points from June) but nothing he hasn’t seen before. The ominous numbers are the ones associated with the economy, particularly the trade war with China.
While a 56 percent majority of Americans rate the economy as “excellent” or “good,” that figure is down from 65 percent in November. A separate question finds 6 in 10 say that a recession is either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” in the next year. That fear compares with 69 percent who said a recession was likely in fall 2007, shortly before the recession began later that year…
The Post-ABC poll finds 43 percent of Americans say Trump’s trade and economic policies have increased the chance of a recession in the next year, more than double the 16 percent who say his policies have decreased the likelihood of a recession. Another 34 percent say Trump’s policies have not made a difference…
But sizable shares of Trump’s core supporters say they are worried about price increases because of tariffs, including 55 percent of whites without college degrees, 54 percent of people living in rural areas and 45 percent of white evangelical Protestants. Concern rises to about 6 in 10 political independents and people living in the suburbs, two key swing voting groups.
His approval rating on the economy was in majority territory in June at 51 percent. Now it’s at 46/47.
If we do end up in a recession, POTUS will use every rhetorical weapon available to him to shift the blame. It’s Jerome Powell’s fault for not lowering interest rates; it’s manufacturers’ fault for not moving their businesses out of China quickly enough; it’s Democrats’ fault for not agreeing to a payroll tax cut to stimulate the economy; it’s China’s fault for stubbornly resisting American pressure to end its intellectual-property banditry and play fair economically. Those arguments will work for fans but I don’t know if they’ll work for swing voters. A separate poll taken late last month showed most Americans will blame Trump if the economy goes south:
The Harvard CAPS/Harris poll of 2,531 registered voters at the end of August found that 57 percent would blame Trump more than the Federal Reserve or anyone else should America enter recession by the end of the year.
Moreover, 62 percent said they were somewhat or very concerned that there will be a recession in the next six months amid the China trade war, a global economic slowdown, and the waning impact of federal stimulus from early on in the Trump administration…
The Harvard CAPS/Harris poll found that 63 percent believe the tariffs are hurting the U.S. more than China. Moreover, 74 percent said U.S. consumers, not China, pay the cost of the tariffs.
The good news for him is that Americans do see the point of this war. Fifty percent approved of his tariffs on China despite the economic pain and fully 80 percent thought it was better to reckon with China’s chicanery now than to keep postponing it. That’d be an interesting electoral pitch if Trump tried it — “I know it’s tough right now but it’ll be tougher if we let China keep stealing. And unless you elect me to a second term, the next president will let them off the hook.” I don’t think he’d try that message, though; it’s too close to accepting responsibility for a negative development, something to which his ego is deathly allergic. He’ll try a combo of insisting that things really aren’t so bad and, to the extent that they are, it’s someone else’s fault.
One other ABC/WaPo detail via Charlie Sykes: Trump’s approval is at 30/64 among women, abysmal numbers that are way off his pace of 41 percent of the female vote in 2016. Obviously he’ll do better than 30 percent next November as some right-leaning women decide he’s the lesser of two evils, but you can see why I thought yesterday that a third-party run by a woman candidate could be dangerous to him. If a Carly Fiorina type pulled more women voters from him than from the Democrat, it could cost him a second term. Fiorina says it won’t be her, though, luckily for POTUS.
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