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Daily Data Point: Two Views on Trump’s Approval Ratings
by David Byler
Does President Trump’s approval rating have a ceiling? What about a floor?
Trump’s first three months in office have been eventful (see: strikes in Syria, executive actions, the failed push to pass the American Health Care Act, the successful appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and much more), but the polls haven’t shifted much. Since mid-February, his approval rating mostly hovered around 44 percent, briefly dropped to 40 percent and has risen to 42 percent. His disapproval rating has gone from roughly 50 percent up to about 53 percent then back down to 50 percent.
So does Trump’s approval rating have a low ceiling or high floor? It’s possible. Polling and political science have shown that our politics are increasingly polarized. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where (barring especially favorable or unfavorable circumstances) the vast majority of Trump voters would stick with him and Democrats would continually register strong disapproval of his actions. In that case, Trump’s net approval rating would bounce around within a relatively small range.
Alternatively, polling suggests that Trump might have a high ceiling and low floor. A February CBS/YouGov poll showed that only 22 percent of Americans supported Trump unconditionally, and only 35 percent disapproved of him unconditionally. Half of Trump’s supporters (22 percent) said that he has to deliver what they want to keep their support, and 21 percent of those surveyed disapprove of him but would reconsider if he performed well.
In other words, 43 percent of adults claimed that Trump could lose or gain their support. That would make for a high ceiling and a low floor.
It’s too early to know which of these views reflects reality. But together they show that we don’t know exactly where the floor and ceiling of Trump’s approval might be.