Polls Collide: What is President Trump's Approval Rating, Anyway?

Posted: Feb 17, 2017 1:15 PM

During his memorably hostile press conference yesterday, President Trump spiked the football on the media. Despite their best efforts to harm his presidency, Trump said, he's still amassed a strong 55 percent approval rating among American voters.  "A new Rasmussen poll, in fact — because the people get it — much of the media doesn’t get it. They actually get it, but they don’t write it. Let’s put it that way. But a new Rasmussen poll just came out just a very short while ago, and it has our approval rating at 55 percent and going up," he boasted.  Sure enough, the latest Rasmussen survey measures his job approval at that level.  In fact, Rasmussen has tracked that number at north of 50 percent throughout the entire first month of Trump's presidency.  That is one data point, but it's been a clear outlier in recent weeks.  Democrats may be tempted to dismiss Rasmussen's findings entirely, but they should be reminded that the polling outfit nailed the 2016 election's final popular vote margin, at Hillary (+2).  Nevertheless, virtually every other poll shows Trump currently underwater.  But how far underwater?  Skimming through Lefty twitter and watching evening newscasts last evening, most Trump detractors -- including almost the entire press -- are focusing on one of two surveys: Gallup or Pew Research.  It's not hard to see why:

Pew actually has Trump dipping into the 30's already, with Gallup not far behind. A disaster, right? Definitely, but only if you ignore other polling. Trump has already highlighted the Rasmussen data, but Fox News' respected bipartisan polling firm also finds Trump's approval slightly right-side-up. Quite a departure from the first batch, no?

The most promising stat for the White House from Fox's numbers is that by a 20-point spread, Americans believe the US economy will be stronger one year from now than it is today. If that proves true, Trump will be in pretty solid political shape. A recent Morning Consult/Politico national poll gave Trump a positive (49/45) score.  Finally, there are two other surveys that land somewhere in between the positive and negative poles mentioned above:

YouGov also finds a significant dip in the percentage of Americans who believe the country is headed in the wrong direction (though pessimism still dominates), while Reuters measures majority support for the president's handling of jobs and the economy.  Two final points: First, the numbers that will matter most next fall are Trump's approval ratings in swing Congressional districts and states with key Senate races.  On the latter front, the GOP will have a heavy advantage in terms of political turn.  On the former, there's this little nugget reported by David Drucker based on a new survey conducted by a coalition of Republican pollsters:

Democrats led Republicans on the generic Congressional ballot 45 percent to 41 percent, a metric that will bear increased watching as the 2018 midterm elections approach. However, in seats being targeted by Democrats and Republicans at this stage, the GOP held the advantage, 46 percent to 43 percent.

If you're interested in how Trump is faring nationally, the numbers are all over the map. Your best bet is to check the RCP average (45/50), which ended up predicting the final margin in November within one point. But if you're interested in how the 2018 elections will turn out, it's way to early to know anything significant -- but keep an eye on Trump's standing in the contested Senate states and House districts.

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