Trump’s approval rating has increased from 39% on October 1 -13 to 45% on Dec 2 – 15 and numerous commentators have mentioned this as a sign of Americans disapproval of impeachment. This is really hard to say, because other polls show a high percentage of Americans support the impeachment. Polls always contain noise and no commentator likes to say the polls are inconclusive, but that may be the truth. A 6% change over 3 months, is not particularly significant and I look at graphs to identify trends. Gallup tries to pick a random representative sample but surveys are always imperfect. The links provided below are the best ones I could find. Time will tell if there really is a trend as a result of the House actions yesterday.
The country is divided. Except for brief periods of extreme events, it has been this way for the past two decades. A breakdown of approval ratings, shows a rock solid support by Republicans (89%) and a similar lack of approval by Democrats (8%). This recent small uptick in approval ratings seem to be coming from independents, who show a 10% increase in approval ratings over the last 3 months, to 43%. approval.
The really striking feature of Trump’s approval ratings, as compared to the past 12 presidents from Truman to Obama, is how flat (little variability) his approval ratings have been to date. He never gets above 50% or below 35% in the polls. So, the variability as measured by Trump’s high to low is around 15%. Obama’s was 25%. George W. Bush ratings ranged from 90% to 25%, or an incredible 65%. Bush became extremely popular right after the 9/11 attack in 2001, and then his popularity began to slide as the US attacked Afghanistan and Iraq.
Without any extreme event, approval ratings often hit their high mark in about the first 100 days following inauguration of the first term. Obama had his highest approval ratings (62 to 67%) from January to May, 2000 in the honeymoon period. G. W. Bush had a similar honeymoon period of 57 to 62%, however this approval rating soared immediately after 9/11. Neither Clinton nor George H.W. Bush had their highest ratings during the honeymoon period of their first term, but both Reagan and Carter did. What sent George H.W. Bush’s ratings through the roof (89%) was the beginning of the Iraq war.
Nixon’s approval rating was generally quite high (above 50%) even though the perception is that he was an unpopular president due to the numerous anti-war rallies. He was re-elected in Nov 1972 in a landslide election, and definitely enjoyed high approval of 67% in the first week of the honeymoon period. The Watergate scandal galvanized public opinion in October 1973 with the battle for the tapes and the firing of the Special Prosecutor Cox, termed the “Saturday Night Massacre.” Nixon’s approval ratings sank to below 30% in October and never recovered in the next 10 months before his resignation.
Returning now to Trump’s flattish (trendless) ratings and coming events, In January, the Senate will acquit Trump of the two articles of impeachment. The headlines from the New York Times, Washington Post and all the print media that Trump hates so much , will have in big bold letters “The Senate Acquits Trump.” This should help fuel his rallies. Whether this translates into a boost in ratings, we shall see.
If Trump can sustain approval ratings above “the line” (50%) I will immediately concede that impeachment boosted his approval. Likewise, if the Gallup approval ratings fall in the usual range (35 to 45%), then the conclusion should be that impeachment had no discernible affect. Sinking below 35% is rare, but it could happen, particularly if the Democrat campaign intensifies.
A couple caveats: (1) It takes time to do polling, so the period to watch is 4 to 8 weeks after the acquittal and (2) I use Gallup polls for consistency. I’ve included a link for the 538 website, which compares many surveys, and gives each of them a score. Trump seems to do better by a couple of percentage points, when surveys include likely or registered voters. I would think these surveys are better indicators of results of the 2020 election.
A final caveat is that surveys only ask if one approves of the president’s performance. The 2020 election will give voters a chance to select which of presidential candidate they feel would best lead the country. Obviously, the big unknown is the registered voters who do not vote. Also, to win an election, you have to be get a majority of votes in the swing states (PA, FL, MI, AZ, etc), not necessarily be the most popular in the country.
(you can select various presidents, and their support from Republicans, Democrats and Independents)
Wikipedia – Presidential Approval Ratings (historical)
Wikipedia = Presidential Approval Rating (Trump)
(shows about an even split on those for and against impeachment.