One of the questions being asked by pollsters about President Trump is whether he will ever be able to achieve a 50 percent job approval rating.
A recent headline in an online analysis by The New York Times this week asks this question: “Can Trump Break a 50 Percent Approval Rating?”
“More than nine in 10 voters nationwide are concerned” about the spread of the coronavirus, according to a Fox News poll released this week. “And roughly that share of all Americans consider it a major threat to the economy,” according to a recent Pew poll,” The Times reported on March 27.
Democrats, too, “feel this way almost unanimously, and Republicans overwhelmingly agree. That bipartisan consensus applied to people’s impression of their state governments, which have received broadly positive marks in various polls,” writes Giovanni Russonello.
“But as usual, it dries up wherever President Trump is concerned,” he adds.
“As he responds to the pandemic, Mr. Trump has seen a small uptick in his approval rating, which hit record highs in surveys released this week by Gallup (49 percent), Fox (48 percent), Monmouth University (46 percent) and Pew (45 percent),” The Times article reports.
“Still, his approval rating remains stubbornly lodged below 50 percent across the board. That’s a barrier Mr. Trump has not been able to breach in most credible polls throughout his term, with Americans on both sides generally steadfast in their feelings about him.”
Indeed, Mr. Trump “gets slightly better ratings for his handling of the coronavirus outbreak than for his job performance over all — but even on this, his approval is stuck around the 50-yard line. Three-quarters of Democratic voters give his response to the crisis negative marks, according to the Fox poll, while 86 percent of Republican voters say the opposite.”
Others have managed to break the 50 percent average job approval score over their presidencies.
Ronald Reagan averaged a 52.8 percent job approval rating over the course of his presidency. George H.W. Bush’s average was 60.9 percent. Bill Clinton, despite his sex scandal, averaged 55.1 percent.
The Gallup Poll, one of the nation’s most respected polling organizations, pointedly noted Mr. Trump’s problem in a headline over its latest poll that said “President Trump’s Job Approval Rating Up to 49 percent.”
“Trump may be enjoying a small rally in public support as the nation faces the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gallup said. “Forty-nine percent of U.S. adults, up from 44 percent earlier this month, approve of the job Trump is doing as president.”
“Trump also had 49 percent job approval ratings — the best of his presidency — in late January and early February around the time of the Senate impeachment trial that resulted in his acquittal,” Gallup said.
Historically, past presidents, from Franklin Roosevelt to George W. Bush, have seen their job approval rise by at least 10 points, when our nation has been faced with a serious threat.
“Bush’s 35-point increase after 9/11 is the most notable rally effect on record,” Gallup points out. But now says that “Significant rally effects appear to be a relic of the past as political polarization in presidential approval ratings has reached new levels.”
“Presidential approval ratings today are characterized by consistent, exceedingly low approval ratings from opponents of the president’s party. As a result, neither Barack Obama nor Trump saw rally effects as big as those of their predecessors, because their usual opponents were reluctant to approve of them regardless of what was happening in the country,” Gallup told its clients.
Nevertheless, Mr. Trump has recently declared that he has a 50 percent job approval, a boast the Associated Press maintains “may not fully comport with reality.”
The reason, AP says, is the poll was conducted by the Rasmussen polling group, which “stands alone among frequent pollsters in finding such a high rating for Trump, and its findings are often seen as less reliable because of the automated calling method it uses.”
“It’s against federal law to have computers dial cell phones, so a big chunk of U.S. adults who don’t have landline phones — many of them young people — cannot be reached using the survey’s phone interview,” according to the AP.
So Mr. Trump’s job approval rating remains at 49 percent.
• Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.
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