It's Still Not Below 40 Percent

When Looking at Trump Approval Numbers, Don't Dismiss the Importance of 40%

Publisher’s Riff

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The first glance of President Trump’s approval numbers in key battleground states will have the casual observer think that he’s in serious political trouble. That might seem logical: Why wouldn’t he be in trouble? Especially after going through all of this, right? Dylan Scott in Vox wonders

New polling of his state-by-state approval ratings suggests the president is unpopular in some of the most important battleground states for 2020, an ill omen if the trends hold until Election Day 2020. Trump has been unpopular since his first day in office. The question now is whether he’s so unpopular that it overrides his advantage as an incumbent and a pretty strong US economy. The new state polls from Morning Consult don’t bode well for him.

Here are the numbers, currently, in those key battleground states Scott and other conventional observers are pointing to:

  • New Hampshire: 39 percent approval, 58 percent disapproval

  • Wisconsin: 42 percent approval, 55 percent disapproval

  • Michigan: 42 percent approval, 54 percent disapproval

  • Iowa: 42 percent approval, 54 percent disapproval

  • Arizona: 45 percent approval, 51 percent disapproval

  • Pennsylvania 45 percent approval, 52 percent disapproval

  • Ohio: 46 percent approval, 50 percent disapproval

  • North Carolina: 46 percent approval, 50 percent disapproval

  • Florida: 48 percent approval, 48 percent disapproval

  • Indiana: 49 percent approval, 46 percent disapproval

Scott calls it “a grim picture.” But, when looked at a little more closely, Trump’s ability to weather tough political winds never hovers too far away from 40 percent. We find that Trump’s average approval among these 10 states is at 44.4 percent. And, for the most part, Trump’s approval has never really dipped below 40 percent - in fact, only 2 out of 10 of these states (New Hampshire, 38 percent in September 2017 and Michigan, 39 percent in August 2017) have ever seen his approvals fall below 40 percent … and just barely when it did.

This 40 percent threshold is important to note. It’s our belief that Trump is not really threatened in any real existential way until he drops below 40 percent. Let’s take a look at the approval rate trend line for those 10 states above:

As we can see, Trump’s approval rating is fairly steady in the 40s. Despite his massive political and legal troubles, the 40s are steady for him: as the B|E Note’s Weekly Polling Assessment shows, he hasn’t budged much below 42 percent average weekly approval.

Keep in mind, Trump’s average support rating just days prior to the 2016 election was 45 percent on average - even as conventional wisdom assumed Hillary Clinton would win …

And he was nearly 44 percent support on average even with third party candidates in the mix

Pre-2016 election tracking polls also show him with 43 percent average support against Clinton