What explains the bump in Trump’s approval ratings?

Other American politicians are seeing huge increases in their popularity as well. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been addressing one of the nation’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks with regular, nationally televised briefings of his own, has experienced a huge surge in support, according to Siena College polling. In February, only 44 percent of registered New York voters viewed Cuomo favorably, while 50 percent viewed him unfavorably. But last week, 71 percent (!) said they had a favorable opinion of Cuomo, and just 23 percent said their opinion was unfavorable.

One possible explanation for Trump’s relatively small popularity boost is that he’s been criticized for not taking the pandemic seriously, especially in the early going — which could also be the reason for his good-but-still-below-average approval ratings on the coronavirus specifically. Another (related) explanation is our old friend partisan polarization. Throughout his presidency, Trump’s approval rating has proven extremely difficult to dislodge from its usual 39-to-44-percent range; put simply, Americans know Donald Trump, and they’ve made up their minds about him. And because he already enjoys virtually the maximum possible support among Republicans, he would have to make headway among Democrats and independents to further increase his approval rating. But Democrats’ antipathy toward Trump is well documented, and genuine, persuadable independent voters make up only a small share of the population. “My guess is that Trump could get a limited rally if he were to act truly presidential and nonpartisan,” Murray concluded. “It seems unlikely, though, that he will get the large rally that accompanied the start of the Gulf War or the attacks on 9/11.”