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Analysis | Trump’s approval hits a low of 36 per cent — but that’s not the bad news

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 28/03/2017 Philip Bump

Editor's note: The opinions in this article are the author's, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

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Since you can’t spell “schadenfreude” without “shade,” Trump-haters on social media are gloating about the latest daily polling released from Gallup. Last week, they were celebrating Trump’s reaching 37 percent, a low for his presidency that was already lower than the lowest Obama ever got. After Trump recovered somewhat, another plunge: Gallup now estimates he’s at 36 percent.

When that 37 percent figure came out, we urged caution, because we are boring scolds. But also because we pointed out that these daily figures (which are actually running three-day averages) were volatile and because of whom Gallup polls. We suggested, instead, that you consider the weekly average from Gallup, which gives a better sense of the long-term trend.

And that is actually the new bad news for Trump. Sure, he’s now seen a daily low that suggests he’s pretty unpopular. But last week he hit a new low as well of 39 percent — after all the volatility is smoothed out. That’s lower than Obama ever saw during any single week.

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What’s more, we pointed out last week that the results of approval polling varied depending on whether you were looking at likely voters. Gallup, which compiles approval ratings of all Americans, consistently had lower approval ratings than other pollsters because Trump’s base of support tends to be more likely to vote (to Hillary Clinton’s eternal consternation).

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The running average compiled by Huffington Post Pollster, though, shows Trump slipping lower among multiple pollsters. If we compare Gallup’s results with those from the two pollsters with whom he’s consistently performed the best — Rasmussen Reports (which polls likely voters) and Politico-Morning Consult (which uses registered voters) — even the numbers from those two pollsters have declined. His most recent rating from Rasmussen compiled by Pollster is the same as the high registered by Gallup. The trend, though, is that Gallup polls (all Americans) have had low, flat approval, and Rasmussen/Politico have seen higher-but-dropping approval.

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By looking at weekly numbers, we can also get a better sense of who’s souring on Trump. Below, the week-by-week approval ratings from a number of demographic groups, including Republicans and four groups that saw the biggest approval declines.

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A drop of five percentage points among Republicans isn’t ideal, but it’s not that huge a deal. A drop of nine points among independents, though, is a loss of more than one-fifth of Trump’s support from that group over the last two months. That’s a brutal decline that may start to make Republicans nervous about how he could affect their electoral prospects over the long-term. Among those who identify as independents ideologically (as opposed to their partisan identification), the drop was 11 points, a loss of nearly a third of all support from that group since January 20.

Other groups saw less-steep but still-important drops, like those Republicans. White voters have dropped under 50 percent support as has support from regular churchgoers. Those without a college degree — a bastion of Trump support — have dropped from 48 percent to 42 percent.

That’s the actual bad news for Trump, not a momentary fluctuation in a volatile poll number. Approval ratings don’t mean a thing except in terms of the extent to which Trump can demonstrate desire to do what he wants in the White House. Trump’s claim to a mandate was already historically weak, given the extent to which he lost the popular vote. But since then, his support has eroded, among the regular-voting constituencies at the core of Republican politics and among the independents needed to shore up any party’s electoral position.

If Trump’s goal is to encourage Republicans to stand with him in the wake of the health-care disaster, it’s the weekly poll from Gallup and the trend from Rasmussen and Politico that will be most likely to discourage them from doing so.

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