State of the Oval: Morning Consult/Politico poll puts Trump approval at 50%

While the media continues its near-hysterical coverage of the Trump administration, voters outside Washington DC and New York City have grown more sanguine with the White House. A new poll from Morning Consult and Politico puts Donald Trump’s job approval rating at 50%, and two-thirds say he has met or exceeded their expectations in his first month:

Voters seem to agree, regardless of how they feel about Trump’s priorities. A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows that 56 percent of 2,000 registered voters polled Feb. 24 through Feb. 26 say that Trump is staying true to his 2016 campaign message, and 66 percent say Trump has accomplished what was expected of him — or more. Overall, half of voters approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 45 percent disapprove.

“While Americans are divided on President Trump’s policy agenda, most say he is making headway on it,” said Morning Consult’s Co-Founder and Chief Research Officer Kyle Dropp. “An overwhelming majority of Trump’s supporters, and even many of his critics, see a president who is delivering on his promises.”

The disconnect between job approval and expectations is interesting. Normally, one might expect those to be within a few points of each other, or perhaps even showing job approval higher. Not so with Trump, which could represent a reversed dynamic from the previous administration. Barack Obama always polled better personally than professionally; even when his job approval numbers went underwater, his personal-qualities polling remained strong. People liked Obama personally even if they didn’t like his policies or have confidence in his performance.

Trump’s not nearly as likable, nor did he pretend to be. He ran, more or less, as the SOB we needed rather than the nice guy we wanted, with a unique ability to get things done. If that dynamic holds up, then 50% job approval could be as high as it gets — but the 66% expectations met or exceeded might be the more relevant number when it comes to winning a second term.

Democrats should be more worried about 2018, based on this polling. Not only is Trump not pulling down Republican numbers, the GOP is outclassing the Democrats by wide margins on voter trust on the economy (47/34), jobs (47/35), and immigration (45/36) — despite the general freak-out over the so-called “travel ban.” Democrats end up in a virtual tie with Republicans on health care, one of their former policy redoubts, 42/40.

The demos on Trump’s job-approval numbers are fairly predictable, with a couple of mild surprises. Despite the hyperbole over the wall on the southern border, Trump manages to nearly get even among Hispanics, 47/52. He’s also doing slightly better than one might expect among 18-29YOs (36/56), but gets a virtual tie among 30-44YOs (46/48) and wins majorities in all other age demos. Trump also gets a plurality among lower-income (under $50K) Americans, 48/45, and majorities in the other two income demos.

On expectations, Trump scores well almost across the board when combining “more” and “about as expected.” He wins majorities of both men (72%) and women (66%), all age groups, and even gets 55% of Democrats. Almost two-thirds (64%) Hispanics agree on expectations, while 47% of black Americans agree — and only 30% think he’s underperformed so far. One very interesting tidbit: Post-grad voters see Trump as more successful (74%) than the general population.

Trump will likely try to shift focus from process to policy tonight in his joint-session speech. He has an opportunity to sell himself once again as the big thinker who gets things done and keeps his promises. If Trump can keep selling that, and continue to deliver, then voters may not care whether they like him or not by the time 2020 rolls around.