Newhouse sent along a chart that compares four previous wave elections: 1994, 2006, 2010 and 2014. In all cases, the percentage of people who, at the time of the election, said the country was heading in the right direction was just below 30. By his measure, it’s currently 39 percent. “Can you have a wave election if ‘right direction’ is 38 or 40 percent?” he said. “Is that possible?”
Trump’s current approval rating, while better than it was, is still in a danger zone, given history. Presidents with approval ratings below 50 percent often have seen their parties suffer sizable losses in midterm elections.
But Newhouse thinks Trump’s approval rating might be undervalued. “It ought to be 10 points or eight points higher,” he said. “There’s no precedent for a president since 1980 of having approval six to seven points above ‘right direction.’ None.”
He said that a review of numbers dating back to the 1980s showed that the correlation between presidential approval and the percentage of people who say the country is going in the right direction has long been relatively fixed, with presidential approval about 13 to 16 percentage points higher than the right-direction number.