GOP Realigns Behind Trump As Approval Falls To Record Low

A new poll found that approval for the Republican Party has hit a record low. The survey of 1,053 adults conducted last week found that only 29 percent had a favorable view of the Republican Party. This is the lowest that the GOP has ever polled since the question was first asked in 1992 and is 13 points lower than the party’s approval six months ago.

The poll, conducted for CNN by SSRS, an independent polling company, showed that Democrats had an 11-point advantage over Republicans at 41 percent. President Donald Trump polled slightly more popular than his party at 33 percent.

Congressional leaders shared the low approval ratings on a bipartisan basis. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had the lowest approval at 20 percent while Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) was highest at 32 percent. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had approval ratings of 29 and 28 percent respectively.

The poll seems to underscore a shift in control of the Republican Party. President Trump is more popular with Republicans than the party’s congressional leaders. Seventy-nine percent of Republicans think President Trump is leading the country in the right direction compared to 40 percent who believe that of Republican leaders in Congress. Fifty-two percent of Democrats believed their party is moving the country in the right direction.

The previous low point for Republicans was in October 2013 after the government shutdown. That month, Republican approval dropped to 30 percent in two polls.

The precipitous drop in GOP approval does not necessarily portend a disaster at the polls in 2018. In many cases, voters view their own congressman more positively than the party or Congress as a whole. In November 2014, less than a year after the last low point in polling, Republicans benefitted from the problems with the rollout of Obamacare to win majorities in both houses of Congress.

By a margin of 44 – 38 percent, respondents said that their representative deserves re-election. At the same time, they favored the Democrat candidate over the Republican by 50- 41 percent.

As the parties move into the midterm elections, the bottom line is that 59 percent of voters are angry at both parties. Seventy-one percent say that the government in Washington does not represent their views. Across the board, a plurality voters say that the parties need to cooperate with President Trump.

With voters angry at both parties as well as the president, the results of the midterms is not a foregone conclusion. With the president and the Democrats more popular than congressional Republicans, it seems likely that the big loser next year will be traditional conservative Republicans.

A Year of Democrat Attacks On Trump Has Been Ineffective

For the past year, Democrats have unloaded on Donald Trump with both barrels. The attacks against Mr. Trump have been withering and unrelenting. The problem for Democrats is that they have not been particularly effective.

Sure, President Trump’s approval rating has a double-digit deficit, but his numbers seem to have bottomed out in the mid-30s. The Real Clear Politics average found that Trump’s average approval was at its lowest in August at 37 percent. This was 20 points less than his disapproval rate. Since then, Trump’s numbers have improved only slightly to 39 percent, still a 16-point net disapproval rate.

The problem for Democrats is that Trump’s approval has always been low and a year of attacks has not markedly changed his numbers. This may be partly due to the large number of different tactics used by the Democrats, none of which has been a homerun. Trump has been charged with not keeping his promises, with having problems with his temperament, with lying and even with colluding with Russia and supporting white supremacists, but none of the attacks seems to be a silver bullet.

There has been speculation since 2015 that Trump’s antics would cost him support among Republicans. So far that has not happened. The Washington Examiner reported last month that two polls showed Republican support for Trump was still at 75 percent. Trump’s Republican support may be eroded by the failure to repeal Obamacare and enact tax reform, a rumored amnesty for DACA participants, not building the wall, or his recent pivots to Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), but few Republicans would be likely to back a Democrat alternative.

To secure a victory in the midterms and 2020, Democrats need to offer independent voters something other than “Not Trump” and it is here that they are falling flat. Politico reports that the traditional Democrat platform planks don’t excite many voters outside the Democrat base. Voters worry that free college tuition proposals will still cost them money. Obamacare has gained majority approval and the idea of government health care for all is gaining popularity, but it still generates suspicion and is very divisive.

Democrats are learning the same lesson that the Republicans were faced with during the Obama era. Opposition to an unpopular president will only get you so far. An agenda that convinces people that you can make their lives better is needed to seal the deal.

It is on this point that one Democrat line of attack seems to show promise. Politico notes that a recent DCCC poll showed that Democrats lead President Trump by 17 points on the question of who “fights for people like me.” Last February, Trump and the Democrats each received 50 percent on the question. The change may be the result of Democrat charges that many Trump policies, such as financial deregulation, tax reform, and opposing Obamacare, are intended to benefit the rich at the expense of everyone else.

In the end, upcoming elections are likely to be referendums on President Trump’s job performance and the economy. If undecided voters feel that the country – and their own lives and careers – are going well, then they may decide to reward Trump and the Republicans despite their misgivings.

“He is the president,” Matt Canter, a focus group analyst told Politico. “The assessment that voters will make is, is he a good one or not? While Democrats like me have come to conclusions on that question, most of the voters who will decide future elections have not.”

Poll: GOP Is Now The Party of Trump

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President Trump is drawing criticism from all sides these days. His erratic behavior, frequent tweeting and personal attacks against Attorney General Jeff Sessions have drawn criticism from even staunch Trump supporters. A new poll shows that one group is still standing by the president: Republican voters.

The new poll by Rasmussen found that Republicans support Trump over Republican members of Congress by a margin of almost three to one. When asked whether their views more closely relate to the president or congressional Republicans, 33 percent aligned with President Trump compared to 12 percent who support the congressional Republican caucus.

The finding comes amid polling that shows that most Americans disapprove of President Trump by double-digit margins. An analysis of past presidential polling by FiveThirtyEight found that Trump is more unpopular than almost any president since the dawn of modern polling in 1945. The sole competitor is Gerald Ford, whose popularity plummeted after he pardoned Richard Nixon, who resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

Overall, likely voters remain sharply divided. The poll found that a total of 45 percent of respondents identified with Republicans, either in Congress or the White House, while 44 percent identified with Democrats. This is well within the three percent margin of error for the poll. Twelve percent were undecided on which party they favored.

The findings support past polls that indicated that, in spite of his missteps and lack of accomplishment, President Trump’s base is holding firm. Even though he is hemorrhaging support among moderates and independents, he remains popular among members of the Republican Party, more popular, in fact, than longtime members of the GOP.

The polling presents the disturbing picture of a party divided against itself. The evenly divided electorate means that Republicans must unite to fend off Democrat challenges in 2018, but as the president becomes even more polarizing, party unity is likely to become even more elusive. Rumors that Trump may back primary challenges to Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) may further deepen the schism.

It remains to be seen whether Trump’s behavior can go far enough to alienate the Republican base. For now at least, the Grand Old Party is effectively the Party of Trump.

Trump Approval Is 21 Points Below Average

President Trump has had problems with his approval rating ever since entering the race for president. After almost a month in office, the situation remains unchanged. In fact, Trump’s approval rating at this point in his administration is lower than that of any other president of the modern era.

Gallup’s daily tracking of the presidential approval rating found that Trump is currently at 40 percent approval. This puts Trump 21 points below the average for presidents since polling began in the Eisenhower era. He is 11 points below the lowest previous mid-February rating, Bill Clinton in 1993 at 51 points. Jimmy Carter had the highest one-month approval at 71 percent.

President Trump is the first president since Eisenhower to start with approval below 50 percent and has already moved further into negative territory. As he was inaugurated, Trump had 45 percent approval, five points above his current level. On average, presidents have gained one percentage point by mid-February, but Presidents Eisenhower, Obama and Clinton also saw their ratings decline. At seven points, President Clinton had the largest decline.

So far, only Bill Clinton has fallen below 40 percent approval in his first year. Trump stands one point away from the dubious distinction of being the second to do so.

Trump’s approval is concentrated within the Republican Party. Eighty-seven percent of Republicans approve of the president while only 35 percent of independents and eight percent of Democrats approve.

At less than a month into his presidency, Trump has plenty of time to win over the American public, but this may require a change of style. Such a change is something that Trump seems very unlikely to do. His approval may also benefit if his policies lead to a dramatic improvement in the economy.

Although it is still much too early to make predictions, the president’s prospects for re-election seem dim unless he can appeal to a broader range of voters. Or unless the Democrats nominate another historically unpopular and incompetent candidate.



Why Polls Diverge On Trump’s Immigration Ban

There has been much celebrating in Republican circles over the recent poll results showing that slim majorities approve of President Trump’s Executive Orders including the controversial temporary immigration ban. One poll doesn’t represent the full picture, however, and other recent polls show that the waters of public opinion are sufficiently muddy to keep either side from claiming the support of a majority of the public.

The most recent poll, from Morning Consult/Politico, shows public opinion in favor of all of Trump’s Executive Orders. The immigration ban ranks as one of the most popular with 55 percent approval to 38 percent disapproval.

Interestingly, one day earlier, Politico headlined an article about another poll “Majority of U.S. voters oppose Trump immigration actions.” The Politico piece detailed a Quinnipiac poll that showed that voters disapproved of the immigration ban. Quinnipiac broke the Executive Order into parts and found that voters opposed the 90-day ban on immigrants from the seven listed nations by 51 to 46 percent. They also opposed the 120-day suspension of the refugee program by 60-37 percent and the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees by 70-26 percent.

CNN released a poll last week that also showed that public opinion was not on President Trump’s side. The CNN/ORC poll found that 53 percent opposed the travel ban while 47 percent were in favor.

All three polls also give an approval rating for President Trump. Morning Consult puts the president’s approval highest at 47 percent. Quinnipiac rates him lowest at 42 percent. CNN/ORC is in the middle at 44 percent.

So who is right when polls report different results? The tendency for many people is to simply pick the result that we like best, use it reinforce our preconceived ideas about what the rest of the country thinks and move on. President Trump, who recently tweeted that “any negative polls are fake news,” is a prime example of this mentality.

Some indicators of accuracy can be found by looking at the nuts and bolts of the polls. Often, a link to the actual poll can be found in news articles. If not, a web search can sometimes turn up the raw data that is available to journalists. I have linked directly to the raw polling data for the three polls discussed above.

The first indication of accuracy is who was polled. “Likely voters” are the most prized sort of sample group in polls. These are considered to be people engaged and informed enough to vote and who plan to do so. “Registered voters” are next best thing. These are people who probably have some awareness of current events and who have probably voted at some time in the past. From there, poll results get less accurate as we go to “adults” and “Americans.” These samples don’t necessarily screen for the ability to vote or interest in doing so.

Polling data will also give the sample size. Obviously, a larger sample is better and generates a smaller margin of error.

Often, polls will describe how the poll was conducted as well. This could be in person, on the telephone or on the internet. The methodology can affect the results. Politico notes that Trump’s numbers are better in online surveys than in polls conducted by phone. If the poll is a straw poll conducted on the internet by anyone who can get to the website, it is worthless for determining true public opinion.

So how do the samples in our recent polls stack up? The Morning Consult poll was conducted online among 2,070 registered voters. This generated a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points. The Quinnipiac poll used landline and mobile phones to contact 1,155 voters. The smaller sample gives it a margin of error of 2.9 points. Finally, CNN/ORC interviewed 1,002 “adult Americans” by telephone. The margin of error on this poll is three points.

So all of the polls have pros and cons. The Morning Consult poll has the smallest margin of error, but the methodology may have inflated the pro-Trump score. Quinnipiac’s margin of error is larger, but telephone calls are more accurate, especially when mobile phones are included. CNN’s small size and sample that wasn’t restricted to voters is the least accurate.

Additionally, when examining polls, consider the way the question is asked. Is it asked in a misleading or biased way? Are there numerous possible answers or is it a binary choice? How many respondents chose “undecided” if that is an option?

Also consider the reputation of the pollster. Some polling firms are associated with a political party. For example, Public Policy Polling is a Democratic firm and their results may reflect a partisan bias. Rasmussen and Gallup are the gold standard of polling, but most polls that are associated with legitimate news sites are reasonably accurate. Morning Consult, Quinnipiac and CNN are all reputable pollsters.

It is worth noting that Rasmussen’s daily tracking poll shows Trump with 53 percent approval and 57 percent disapproval. Gallup, on the other hand, shows almost a mirror image with Trump’s approval at 43 percent and 52 percent disapproval.

So how should we interpret the varying results of polling on Trump’s Executive Orders? The best solution is to not put our eggs in one basket with any one poll. Consider each poll a snapshot of a landscape that is changing. The real answer is most likely somewhere near the average of the results.

Don’t just look at the raw numbers of the polls, especially if the differences are close, as there are. Instead, look for trends and the general direction of the movement of the numbers. Are things looking better for Trump, or worse? Is his margin increasing or narrowing? Discard outliers, polls that are dramatically different and isolated in their results, unless there is good reason to believe that trends are changing rapidly.

The most important takeaway on the current batch of polls is that the nation is split down the middle on the Executive Orders. Whether there is a slight majority in favor of President Trump’s actions or a slight majority against him, polling definitely shows that the president and the Republicans face opposition from a large segment of the electorate.

Trump Sets Record For Low Approval On Inauguration Day

There was much consternation over the weekend about how many people showed up for President Trump’s inauguration and whether more or fewer people saw him take the oath of office than previous presidents. The bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter. The number of people who make a pilgrimage to Washington has no bearing on how a president should govern. Aside from that, counting inauguration viewers is largely a subjective task.

There is a more objective way to determine a president’s popularity. It’s called polling and yesterday Gallup released a poll showing President Trump’s approval rating as compared to other presidents on their Inauguration Day. Unfortunately for Mr. Trump, the poll shows him to be the least popular newly inaugurated president of modern times.

The poll found that American adults were evenly split with 45 percent approving of Trump and 45 percent disapproving. The country was split along party lines. Mr. Trump had 90 percent approval among Republicans and 81 percent disapproval with Democrats. Forty percent of independents favored him with 44 percent disapproving.

Trump’s strongest demographics were non-Hispanic whites (56 percent approval) and the over-65 age group (53 percent). His strongest disapproval came from college graduates (57 percent) and 18-29-year-olds (54 percent).

The 45 percent approval rating makes Trump the least popular president at inauguration since the question was first asked as Dwight Eisenhower took office. The second worst inaugural approval was a tie between Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush. Both men took office with 51 percent approval, but had few who disapproved of them. Barack Obama took office on a high note of 68 percent approval.

The flip side of the poll is that Trump’s disapproval is also higher than past presidents. No other president comes close to Trump’s 45 percent disapproval on Inauguration Day. The second highest disapproval was for George W. Bush, another president who lost the popular vote. Bush had a 25 percent disapproval rating.

One bright spot for the Trump Administration is that rival pollster Rasmussen showed a somewhat better 55 percent approval rating for Mr. Trump on Monday. This poll showed an almost identical 44 percent disapproval.

The difference in approval may be because Rasmussen polls likely voters where Gallup asks adults. Rasmussen also doesn’t include “no opinion” as an answer. Ten percent of respondents in the Gallup poll chose this option.

Both polls show a starkly divided country. President Trump and the Republicans control the levers of power, but they would do well to remember that a large part of the country does not support them. If they charge ahead with divisive policies rather than building a consensus of public opinion, voters may quickly turn against them.

If you think this is unlikely, remember that it happened to President Obama and the Democrats very recently.