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.