He finally found an issue that could move his approval numbers and went all-in on it. Congrats, I guess?
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows that 43% of Likely U.S. Voters approve of President Trump’s job performance. Fifty-five percent (55%) disapprove.
The latest figures include 32% who Strongly Approve of the job Trump is doing and 46% who Strongly Disapprove. This gives him a Presidential Approval Index rating of -14.
A 43/55 rating is right in line with most other pollsters over the past year but it’s not in line with Rasmussen’s own data. Invariably they find stronger support for Trump than the rest of the field does, sometimes even placing him at or above 50 percent. Maybe that’s because they poll only likely voters, maybe it’s because of a pro-Trump “house effect.” Either way, if you find POTUS tweeting happily about a new survey, odds are good that it came from Rasmussen. But not today. The last time he touched -14 in net approval in a Ras poll was last July. The last time he sank as low as 43 percent overall approval was January 30, 2018.
He’s reached some rare air in the RCP poll of polls, too. Here are the trends line from the past year. The last time he saw 55 percent disapproval was March 2018:
The last time he matched today’s net approval rating of -13.6 was March 10th of last year.
Lotta possible responses here, starting with “Who cares?” I’m inclined towards that one myself. We’re about as far away from the next election as can be. A million and one events, starting with the Mueller report, will intervene before Trump and the GOP face voters again. The shutdown will end soon-ish and will be forgotten by most people within a week, or a day, or possibly an hour if POTUS is feeling especially frisky on Twitter about some new preoccupation. I do wonder, though, if the working-class whites who have drifted away from him lately over the shutdown will completely return to the fold after this is over or if the memory will linger, at least enough to make them take a hard look at his opponent next year. Many of those people voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, remember, before flipping to Trump. They’re not opposed to voting Democratic in principle. If they conclude that Twitter hijinks are fine and trade wars are fine and possible obstruction of justice is fine but playing chicken with their access to federal benefits isn’t so fine, then I don’t know. They may decide that they don’t want to risk going through this again.
Another potential response: “If the shutdown’s hurting Trump, isn’t it hurting Democrats too?” Quite possibly, yep. The WSJ reports that freshmen Dems who just wiped out the GOP in purple districts are getting nervous.
Some newly elected Democrats are increasingly frustrated that they are taking complaints from angry constituents without having a mapped-out plan to end the partial shutdown—which became the longest in modern history over the weekend. Many believe they were elected to Congress to try to end its dysfunction and had hoped to be reaching a bipartisan compromise over border security to reopen the government…
Centrist Democrats huddled with Republicans on Thursday night to try to find a compromise to pitch to leadership. So far, none of lawmakers’ efforts to cut a deal have managed to end the impasse with the White House…
While few support the border wall, some are concerned the tone of the negotiations hasn’t conveyed their willingness to reach an agreement to tighten border security.
They’ve been “flooded with phone calls from angry federal employees and others affected by the shutdown, asking when it will end,” the Journal reports. It’s easy to lay blame for a major event on the president, harder to divvy it among 435 representatives, so presumably this’ll be long forgotten by local voters when each of these Dems is back on the ballot. But Pelosi’s always been an unpopular figure and her “no negotiation” stance here may be making her more unpopular in swing districts. The GOP ran against her this past fall and didn’t get anywhere with it. Her leadership on the shutdown may be a more potent issue in 2020, to the Democrats’ misfortune.
To believe that, though, you’d need to believe that the 2020 election will be something other than a referendum on the president, which is almost impossible to imagine. Which voter is going into the booth next year, concluding that it’s time to oust Trump, but also sufficiently pissed off at Pelosi for refusing to budge on the nearly two-year-old shutdown that they’ll split their ballot and vote Republican in their local House race? Democrats will sink or swim at all levels based on the country’s feeling about POTUS, not Pelosi.
One more possible response: “Didn’t the wall used to be popular? Why is Trump’s approval sinking when he’s fighting for it?” It’s true, the wall used to be popular, notes Emily Ekins today at the Federalist. Click through and look at the graphs in her post and you’ll see that support for it declined sharply circa … 2015, when Trump began running for president and embraced it. Ekins offers various explanations for why that might be, starting with the fact that the wall has come to symbolize a particular view of immigration writ large and America’s place in the world. If you dislike nationalism (or at least Trump’s version of it), if you oppose new restrictions to legal immigration (which the White House supports), you might end up hating the wall even though supporting it wouldn’t strictly contradict your opinions on either of those other things. And of course, notes Ekins, some of the anti-wall sentiment is being driven by anti-Trump sentiment entirely apart from immigration. If you hate him for whatever reason, you might oppose the wall out of pure spite.
Either way, by making the wall his signature issue, he may have turned the electorate against it irretrievably. Popularity does matter sometimes.