Trend: Trump's Job Approval is Clearly Surging. Why?

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Posted: Oct 18, 2018 2:05 PM
Trend: Trump's Job Approval is Clearly Surging.  Why?

Fox News is out with a new national poll, and it contains a few morsels that each political party will enjoy.  In terms of toplines, Democrats hold a seven-point advantage on the generic Congressional ballot -- unchanged from the last survey in this series.  That number points to a blue tinted year, but not necessarily an overwhelming wave.  But cutting in the other direction is a clear uptick in the president's overall approval rating:


That (47/51) split (47/52 among likelies) isn't spectacular by any stretch, but it's a net gain of four points and it's pretty strong compared to Trump's typical baseline.  Also, if he's sitting in the mid-to-high 40's nationally, he's definitely above water in some of the red states that are playing host to critical Senate races this cycle.  Some analysts are wondering whether the Fox number is an outlier, but the last four entries in the RCP average have Trump at 45 percent or better, with his average ticking up to a hair over 44 percent.  Roughly a month ago, he was drifting perilously close to dropping out of the 40's altogether.  Looking at Gallup's tracker, an upward trend is undeniable: Trump is currently seven points underwater in the latest data set.  Their previous four polls, starting in early September and pushing into October, had the president at (-18), then (-16), then (-11), then (-10).  That's a net gain of 11 points in one month.  What might explain Trump's improved image?  For one answer, let's again consult the Fox News poll:


Things are improving, and nobody can seriously dismiss that reality.  The latest: 


Meahwhile, Fox's survey finds public sentiment over Justice Kavanaugh's confirmation divided right down the middle, but the ugly fight that preceded that outcome (I discussed this subject with Sen. Mitch McConnell on the radio last night) indisputably roused Republican voters' passion and increased their engagement:


One more note: Perhaps Democrats' strongest asset this year is widespread concern over healthcare.  It's a top issue on voters' minds, on which Republicans trail by double digits.  Yes, Democrats lied us into an unpopular Obamacare law that utterly failed on its core promise of affordability, but Republicans' replacement effort was an unprepared mess that fell short of succeeding, frightening voters into supporting a law they'd long opposed.  But with more Democrats embracing a government-run scheme to replace Obamacare, Peter Suderman notes that the existing system's improved image comes in spite of -- of because of -- Republican changes to the law:

Surveys that ask about standalone support for pre-existing conditions show that they are popular, but polls that ask respondents to consider the costs of those rules show the opposite. Yes, Obamacare has become more popular under Trump...but the rise in popularity has occurred as Republicans have made a series of changes to the program that Democrats charged amounted to a policy of coordinated sabotage—cutting promotional funding, allowing for cheaper insurance subject to fewer regulations, ending a line of insurance subsidies a court had ruled illegal, and zeroing out the individual mandate penalty. Yet the charge of "sabotage" has become harder to sustain as the results of GOP changes have become clear.

Under Trump, enrollment in Obamacare's insurance exchanges has fallen only slightly, the overall uninsured rate has stayed basically the same, and after years of steady hikes, health care premiums have leveled off or even fallen in some states, while insurers who fled the exchanges are returning. Yes, it's early, and all of this could change. But what this offers right now is a potential explanation for why the health law's popularity has increased. What the polling suggests, then, is that the public prefers the version of Obamacare we have now, with stable rates and insurer participation, along with access to a wider variety of plans. The popular version of Obamacare is the one remodeled, but not repealed, by Republicans. But that, of course, is an argument that neither party is willing to make

Neither party's healthcare rhetoric is coherent at the moment.  Democrats insist that Obamacare is working!  But it was sabotaged!  And now we need single-payer!  But we can't take anyone's healthcare arrangements away (even though single-payer would do that to 156 million people)!  Republicans, meanwhile, are arguing against single-payer by quasi-embracing Obamacare 2.0.  But are still committed to repeal!  But can't comment on what would come next!  I'll leave you with a little-noticed skirmish in which Senate Democrats attempted to repeal one of the GOP's succeeding changes to Obamacare, and failed:

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By the way, how would these eye-popping single-payer tax increases poll?  Also: It is a coincidence that during the latter part of this upward trajectory, Trump has been on an unprecedented media blitz?