An interesting leftover from yesterday, which drew a rare presidential rebuttal to a specific poll. The ABC/WaPo survey that dropped Sunday morning was gruesome for Trump, so much so that he felt obliged to spin it for fans:
The ABC/Washington Post Poll, even though almost 40% is not bad at this time, was just about the most inaccurate poll around election time!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2017
Three white lies in the span of one sentence there. One: “Almost 40%” is a charitable way to describe the actual number, 36 percent. Two: That really is very bad for six months into his term, the lowest number recorded for any president at this point dating back to Truman although within three points of Gerald Ford’s mark in 1975 and within single digits of Bill Clinton’s(!) in 1993. Three: It’s not remotely true that ABC/WaPo was the most inaccurate poll last year. The opposite is closer to the truth. Their final tracking poll before the election had it 47/43 in the four-way race and 49/46 in the two-way race. The actual result of the popular vote was 48/46. And it’s not unusual for ABC/WaPo to be that close to hitting the mark. Their poll, somewhat famously, has a history of eerily accurate forecasts of presidential election results.
But never mind that. A 36/58 approval rating, as ABC/WaPo has it, is bad news in a national election but the United States doesn’t hold national elections, as Hillary Clinton would remind you. We hold state and district elections. If you want to know how well the GOP’s likely to do next year in the midterms, it makes sense to look at the polling at the state and district level. Trump’s doing abysmally in blue districts, but blue districts were lost causes to begin with. The question is how he’s doing in red and purple districts. Answer: A lot better than he’s doing nationally. From NBC:
President Donald Trump’s job approval rating in the American counties that fueled his 2016 victory stands at 50 percent, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of these “Trump counties.”
Fifty percent of adults in these counties — consisting of Republicans, Democrats and independents — approve of the president’s job performance (including 29 percent who strongly approve), while 46 percent disapprove (including 35 percent who do so strongly).
He’s above water in the counties that count. Good news, no? Read the fine print, though, and you’ll see that he’s lost ground even in these Trump-friendly enclaves. NBC divided them into two groups, the “surge” counties which Romney won in 2012 but which went even more strongly for Trump last fall and the “flip” counties which went for Obama in 2012 before switching to Trump in 2016. Last year Trump won the “surge” counties 65/31 versus 53/45 for Romney four years earlier. He won the “flip” counties 58/39 compared to a slim 52/47 margin for Obama in 2012. Right now, though, his job approval in the surge counties is down to 56/40 and his approval in the flip counties is underwater at 44/51 — lower than Romney’s share there four years ago. Meanwhile, there are 23 House districts won by a Republican last year where voters split their ballot and backed Hillary Clinton for president. Those 23 are the most vulnerable Republicans in the country; if Trump is struggling in the “flip” counties, odds are he’s having even bigger problems in the 23 Hillary districts. Democrats need to flip only 24 House seats next fall to retake the majority.
What’s driving the slide in his approval? Gallup gave us a hint last week. Here’s a new result out today comparing Trump to his two most recent predecessors on the issues and in matters of character. The share of his own party, the opposition party, and independents who agree with him on the issues is right in line with the shares for Obama and Bush. The share who say he has “the personality and leadership qualities a president should have” is … not. Note the independent numbers in particular:
His share of indies who approve is basically half of Bush’s. The silver lining there, I guess, is that it’s within Trump’s power to solve this problem: He doesn’t need any help from Congress to stop tweeting, lay off the insult-comic shtick, and generally act more presidential. But there’s also no reason to think he’s inclined to do that. He is who he is. Until he or his party loses an election, he’s not going to believe that there’s anything to be gained by him changing his approach.
Incidentally, if you’re inclined not to believe the ABC/WaPo results because the sample is “distorted,” have a look at the latest poll from Rasmussen. Ras has been the single rosiest poll on Trump since the inauguration, earning sporadic highlights on the Drudge Report because it would show Trump at 50 percent approval or thereabouts while most other pollsters had him in the low 40s. Lately, though, even Rasmussen’s picking up a downturn: Trump’s at 43/57 in their latest survey of likely voters. Hopefully some resolution on health care will help iron out that blip, but the trend ain’t good.