America had warmed to Trump’s North Korea strategy before the Vietnam summit

In the chart above, you can see the trends in Trump’s approval and disapproval ratings on North Korea based on the results of surveys from different pollsters since Quinnipiac University asked the question in April 2017.1 The worst time for Trump, from a public opinion perspective, was in the fall of 2017 — after Trump and Kim engaged in a volley of insults and incendiary statements, including a threat by Trump to “totally destroy” North Korea during a speech at the United Nations. Trump’s rhetoric began to soften in January of 2018, ahead of his first meeting with Kim, in Singapore, in June of that year — and as you can see in the chart, Trump’s numbers improved during that time period. Since the summit, public opinion on Trump’s handling of North Korea doesn’t seem to have changed much — but we found only two polls on this question since the beginning of 2019, and we don’t know yet whether the failure to reach a deal in Vietnam will sour Americans on Trump’s policies.

While Trump’s change in tone from threatening to unleash “fire and fury” on the North to declarations of “love” for Kim may have helped boost Trump’s approach in the eyes of the public, the lack of missile and nuclear testing on the peninsula likely also played a role.