I might be writing this same post again a week from now. That’s because these Gallup numbers were gathered between April 17-30, before the blockbuster new jobs report came out. They may have caught Trump midway through an upward trend.
Forty-six percent approval is no great shakes for most presidents but it’s rare air for Trump, and this isn’t the only poll lately that’s placed him that high. Harris/Harvard also has him at 46 while his perennial favorite, Rasmussen, has him at 50. He’s at 44.0 percent approval in RCP’s poll of polls, which is creeping up towards his best mark since March 2017.
The secret to the approval surge that Gallup is seeing? Why, Democrats.
Republican approval is up a bit, independent approval is middling, but Democratic approval is at its highest point since April 2017 — coincidentally, the month before Trump fired James Comey and Mueller was appointed as special counsel on Russiagate. The post-Mueller “no collusion” polling has been uneven for Trump overall but this one from Gallup is Exhibit A if you’re looking for evidence that being cleared on conspiracy has done something meaningful to his approval. It may have lifted the cloud over him for a small but not insignificant number of Democratic voters. Which way do those voters go next year now if the economy’s still humming?
Overall Trump stands at 46/50 in Gallup’s polling, the narrowest gap since his first week in office. But that’s not the biggest news. Go play around with Gallup’s job-approval widget for presidents past and present and compare Trump on Day 830 of his presidency with other recent presidents at around the same point in their terms. Both Bushes make for a tough comparison because each was coming off a major military incursion in Iraq, pushing their numbers sky high. Instead let’s measure Trump against the two most consequential ideologues for their parties of the last 40 years. Results:
Trump is the light green line, Obama the dark green line, Reagan the gray line. At the end of April in the third year of their presidencies, the comparison stands at 46/43/43, respectively. Trump’s actually ahead of two two-term presidents at this point — although there are caveats. First, Reagan’s numbers had been hurt by the recession of 1982. At this moment in his presidency he was on a long climb out of that hole. Second, the end of April 2011 was just before Obama announced the killing of Osama Bin Laden, which briefly sent him back up past 50 percent. This comparison wouldn’t work in Trump’s favor a week from now. And third, Reagan and Obama had each enjoyed majority approval earlier in their presidency (and each would go on to do so again). Trump never has.
Could he get to 50 percent by Election Day? Part of me thinks no, that his Trumpier qualities will always push his ceiling back down to 43 percent even if the jobs numbers continue to impress, even with Mueller in his rear-view mirror. But another part thinks that it’d be really easy for him to reduce the public’s exposure to those Trumpier qualities, which would probably mean higher approval. If he surprised everyone by suddenly scaling his tweeting way back and focusing on the economy in his public statements, why couldn’t he hit 48 percent or better? He won the big Mueller fight. If you had to bet on his approval rating getting worse or better in the near future, who wouldn’t bet on “better”? Exit question via NBC: It’s the Resistance, not the right, that’s more excited to vote next fall, no? Exit answer: No.