Keeping in mind that Gallup tends to always grade President Trump a bit better than some other national surveys, this news will still likely brighten the President’s mood on Friday morning. Their latest approval survey shows that Trump’s overall approval rating has his head above water at 49/47, tying the highest rating of his presidency and almost exactly matching the public’s approval of how he’s handling the novel coronavirus pandemic. But while it represents a significant bump in overall approval ratings, it’s a ten-point dip in his handling of the epidemic.
Given the dominance of the coronavirus situation in Americans’ minds, it is not surprising that the president’s overall job approval rating nearly matches his approval rating on COVID-19.
Gallup’s April 14-28 poll finds Trump’s overall job approval at 49%, the same as in a March 13-22 poll but higher than his reading of 43% in an April 1-14 survey. To the extent that these variations are not a function of sampling error, they could be tied to Americans’ changing outlook on the coronavirus situation in general and Americans’ increasingly evaluating Trump on the COVID issue alone.
The poll was conducted as the number of new daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S. declined from its peak on April 5. The large majority of interviews were completed before the backlash over Trump’s remarks questioning whether injecting household disinfectant into people with the virus could be an effective treatment.
Digging into the crosstabs, there are signs that Trump is slowly winning over some portions of the public who aren’t part of his diehard base. The number who “strongly approve” is at 33%, a mark he hasn’t seen since this time last year. But his “moderately approve” number has climbed up to 16%. That group represents more of the persuadable voters who aren’t tied to Trump at the hip but are willing to give him a chance.
Conversely, the “moderately disapprove” figure remains at 11%, the same as it was last summer. But the “strongly disapprove” figure has dropped from 44 last June to 36% this month. That “strongly disapprove” figure is a surprise because it had been fairly steady over the past two years and I’d assumed it represented the hardcore liberals who wouldn’t have a nice thing to say about Trump if he suddenly demonstrated the ability to raise the dead and walk across the reflecting pool out on the mall.
The President is still having trouble winning back the women’s vote, however. He still does well among men (53/44) but that number flips on its head among the ladies (44/51). He’s also holding fairly steady on the racial front, with white voters supporting him 58/40, but non-white voters still come up considerably short at 31/61.
Given how much media coverage is focused on the pandemic pretty much 24/7, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that the President’s general approval rating is now marching in lockstep with how the public perceives his ability to guide us through this crisis. And give the timing of this healthcare disaster, it will likely be the only significant driving factor in how the President fares in November. If the nation is back up and running by September or October with the economy climbing back up toward something resembling the old normal, I’d expect the majority of voters to decide that he handled things well enough to give him a second term. But if we’re still in freefall and pandemic deaths still dominate the news, 2020 will likely turn out to be another change election and Trump could be in trouble.
Unfortunately for Donald Trump, some of the biggest deciding factors will remain entirely beyond his control. Will an effective vaccine be created and widely available? Or, failing that, a functional antiviral drug to save people with the worst symptoms? The President is already channeling plenty of money and resources into efforts to solve the vaccine riddle, but beyond that, there’s nothing he can do. The medical community will either find one or they won’t, and it’s far from guaranteed. The same goes for antiviral drugs. And even if both efforts are successful, if they don’t arrive before the end of the year, they may well be too late to save Donald Trump’s presidency.