How Has The Ukraine Scandal Affected Trump’s Approval Rating?

Shortly after news broke that President Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate a political rival, support for his impeachment increased sharply, according to our impeachment polling tracker. But the ramifications of the Ukraine scandal (and the resulting impeachment inquiry) for Trump’s reelection prospects are murkier.

If the effect of the Ukraine scandal is that people who already disliked Trump simply dislike him more, Trump’s reelection chances may not be hurt that much. As you can see in recent polls, much of the increased support for impeachment so far has come from Democrats, few of whom were probably planning to vote for Trump anyway.

So one other data point to keep an eye on is Trump’s approval rating — if the scandal is turning any supporters into opponents (or at least skeptics), it will show up there. It’s still early, so public opinion is still subject to a lot of change, but now that the scandal has had almost two weeks to unfold, we may be starting to see just that:

Then again, that movement could simply be noise or reversion to the mean.

As of Sept. 24 — the day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally announced an impeachment inquiry — Trump’s approval rating sat at an unusually high 43.1 percent. But today, his approval rating sits at 41.3 percent.1 That’s a nearly 2-point drop in a little over a week, suggesting that the Ukraine scandal may be giving Trump supporters second thoughts about the president. Two points isn’t a ton of movement, but as my colleague Geoffrey Skelley has written, Trump’s approval rating is incredibly stable, so even a shift of 1 or 2 points can be notable.

On the other hand, this also just brings Trump’s approval rating back to about where it was earlier in September. In fact, Trump’s 43.1 percent approval rating on Sept. 24 was his highest mark all year,2 and it’s possible that the uptick that got Trump there was just noise. If you look only at high-quality polls3 of Trump’s approval rating before and after news of the Ukraine scandal broke,4 there’s actually been little change in Trump’s popularity (if anything, it has ticked slightly up).

Trump’s approval rating hasn’t changed in high-quality polls

Change in Trump’s approval rating from before news snowballed of a whistleblower complaint involving President Trump, according to pollsters with FiveThirtyEight pollster ratings of at least an A-

Trump Approval Rating
Pollster Before Sept. 20 After Sept. 20 Change
Quinnipiac University* 38% 41% +3
Monmouth University 40 41 +1
Marist College 41 44 +3

* Quinnipiac also conducted a poll while the Ukraine scandal was still unfolding, from Sept. 19 to Sept. 23. Trump’s approval rating was 40 percent in that poll.

Source: Polls

Another possibility is that the Ukraine scandal reversed a mini polling comeback that Trump was enjoying in mid-September, and these high-quality polls missed it simply due to timing. The bottom line is, a lot of things could be happening here, and we should wait for more data.

In summary, here in the early days of the Ukraine/impeachment drama, Trump’s popularity has stayed within the narrow range it has inhabited since February (41.0-43.1 percent for his approval rating, 52.3-54.3 percent for his disapproval rating). In other words, the Ukraine scandal still hasn’t eaten into Trump’s true base of support.

But that doesn’t mean that his low approval rating won’t be a problem for him in 2020. There is a nontrivial difference between a 43 percent approval rating and a 41 percent approval rating, and at 41 percent or lower (if it continues to trend downward), it’ll be that much harder for him to win 46 percent of the popular vote like he did in 2016 (let alone improve on that performance). It’s too early to draw any conclusions for sure, but how Trump’s approval ratings change in the coming weeks will be among the most important consequences of this story.


How Views On Impeachment Have Changed In Just One Week


Trump Keeps Doubling Down On The Same Failed Strategy

President Trump will declare a national emergency and seek money to build a border wall, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday, moments before the U.S. Senate passed a compromise spending bill that didn’t include wall funding.

If Trump follows through on the emergency declaration, he’ll be doing something that large majorities of Americans oppose — and he’ll be doing it at right as his job approval ratings had begun to rebound following the partial government shutdown in December and January.

Indeed, the act of declaring a national emergency to build a wall is even more unpopular than the wall itself — and the wall isn’t popular. Polls as tracked by PollingReport.com show an average of 32 percent of Americans in favor of the declaration and 65 percent opposed. Even in an era where many of Trump’s top priorities poll only in the low-to-mid-40s, that’s an especially large split, with roughly twice as many voters opposed as in favor.

Voters strongly oppose a national emergency over the wall

Polls conducted during and since the partial government shutdown on whether Trump should declare a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border

Pollster Dates Approve/ Support/ Should Disapprove/ Oppose/ Should not
CNN/SSRS Jan. 30-Feb. 2 31% 66%
Quinnipiac University Jan. 25-28 31 66
Monmouth University Jan. 25-27 34 64
Quinnipiac University Jan. 9-13 32 65
ABC News/Washington Post Jan. 8-11 31 66
Average 32 65

Source: POLLINGREPORT.COM

The emergency plan could potentially become somewhat more popular if Trump tries to rally his base behind it, but it’s an issue that causes a fair amount of divisiveness even among Republican lawmakers.

And the strategy suggests that Trump didn’t learn any lessons from the shutdown. His approval rating, which was 42.2 percent on the day the shutdown began, bottomed out at 39.3 just as the shutdown was ending. It has since mostly recovered to 41.5 percent, however. Despite Trump’s having capitulated to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in agreeing to reopen the government for three weeks, the sky didn’t fall and the base stuck with Trump.

The mechanics of this are fairly straightforward. Trump indeed has a loyal1 base. That base is so loyal, however, that very little about what Trump does seems to affect their views or him. Here is Trump’s approval rating by party according to Gallup since the midterm elections, for example. Among Republicans, Trump’s approval rating was steady at roughly 88 percent before, during and after the shutdown. Among Democrats, it was also largely unchanged.2 Among independents, however, his approval rating plunged from about 39 percent just before the shutdown to 31 and 32 percent in two polls conducted in the midst of it, before recovering to 38 percent once the shutdown was over.

Trump’s base remained loyal during the shutdown

Trump’s job approval rating, by party, before and after the government shutdown

Trump’s Approval Rating Among
Dates Republicans Independents Democrats
Feb. 1-10 89% 38% 5%
Jan. 21-27 88 32 5
Jan. 2-10, 2019 88 31 6
Dec. 17-22 89 39 8
Dec. 10-16 86 37 7
Dec. 3-9 89 38 7
Nov. 26-Dec. 2 89 39 6
Nov. 19-25 86 34 9
Nov. 12-18, 2018 90 37 6

Polls in the shaded rows were conducted mostly or entirely during the government shutdown.

Source: Gallup

Again, nothing here is rocket science. It’s Electoral Politics 101. Trump does unpopular stuff, and he becomes more unpopular. The erosion mostly comes from independents because Republicans are highly loyal to him and Democrats are already almost uniformly opposed.

But Trump will need those independents to win re-election. He needed them to become president in the first place. Trump won independents by 4 points, 46 percent to 42 percent for Hillary Clinton, in 2016. Had they gone for Clinton by 4 points instead, she would have won the national popular vote by 4 or 5 points, and won Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and possibly Arizona.

Or things could get a lot worse than that for Trump, and he could lose independents by a wider margin. In the 2018 midterms, Republicans lost independents by 12 percentage points, contributing to a 40-seat loss in the House. The key facet about the midterms is that turnout was very high, including among the Republican base. But it was also high among the Democratic base, and Republicans badly lost independents. The base alone isn’t enough to win national elections, especially for Republicans, since fewer voters identify as Republicans than as Democrats.

There’s just not a lot more to say about this. If Trump didn’t learn he needs to reach beyond his base from either the midterms or from the shutdown, he probably won’t figure it out in time for 2020.

Almost Half Of Voters Are Dead Set Against Voting For Trump

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

With the 2020 election cycle revving into full gear, pollsters are asking voters whether they plan to vote for President Trump. In a Washington Post/ABC News survey, respondents were asked if they would definitely vote for the president, consider voting for him or definitely not vote for him — and 56 percent said they would definitely not vote for him. Morning Consult posed a slightly different form of this question, asking voters if they’d definitely or probably vote for Trump, or if they’d definitely or probably vote for someone else. Eight percent said they would probably vote for someone else, but 47 percent said they would definitely vote for someone else. In total, that’s 55 percent of respondents who seemed unlikely to vote for Trump.

All told, this isn’t that different from the number of Americans who were planning not to back then-President Barack Obama in the early stages of his re-election bid: 51 percent said they “definitely” or “probably” would not vote for the incumbent, according to one poll conducted at a similar point in the 2012 cycle. But there is a key difference: The share of voters who said they would “definitely” oppose Trump is much higher than it ever was for Obama. In fact, the average share of voters who said they would “definitely” oppose Trump is roughly 10 points higher than it was for Obama more than 600 days out from the election, which is where we are now.7

Now, the share of Americans who said they definitely wouldn’t vote for Obama did increase as the election got closer, but it only it only hit 40 percent or higher in two polls in our data set, which runs through about 250 days before the election.8 With Trump, on the other hand, close to 50 percent of Americans have already said they definitely wouldn’t vote for him even though we’re still more than 600 days away from the election. Yes, the combined percentage of Americans who said they definitely wouldn’t and probably wouldn’t vote for Obama cracked 50 percent on several occasions — though Obama won 51 percent of the popular vote in 2012, so he probably changed at least a few minds before Election Day — but the percentage who said they definitely wouldn’t vote for Obama was never higher than 42 percent in a single poll, whereas Trump’s number is currently about 48 percent, based on an average of the three most recent polls. Trump also has about half as many voters in the more persuadable “probably” camp, which suggests he has less wiggle room than Obama did.

With combined opposition in the mid-50s, including more voters seemingly dead set against him than felt the same about Obama, Trump may have a lower ceiling of potential support than Obama did in 2012. Trump only narrowly won in 2016 while losing the popular vote, so once again he may have little room for error.

Other polling nuggets

  • The partial government shutdown that started Dec. 22 came to an end last week after Trump agreed to sign a bill funding the government for three weeks without the money he had requested for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. But while Trump is still hoping that Congress will fund his proposal, another shutdown remains unpopular. According to a Politico/Morning Consult poll, only 31 percent of voters said they would “strongly” or “somewhat” support another government shutdown over the wall funding. Fifty-nine percent of voters said they were “strongly” or “somewhat” opposed.
  • If Trump and congressional Democrats fail to come to a border security agreement in the next couple of weeks, 48 percent of Americans said in a Monmouth University poll that the parties should agree to fund the government through the end of the year without a deal. Twenty percent said they should shut down the government until a deal is reached, and 26 percent said they should extend the temporary funding and keep negotiating. Asked about the idea of Trump’s declaring a national emergency to build the wall, 64 percent of respondents said they disapproved, while 34 percent said they approved.
  • An AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs research poll found that 63 percent of Americans disapprove of how Trump has handled U.S. foreign policy while 35 percent approve. The poll also found that Americans were split on Trump’s decision to remove 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria — 39 percent of respondents said they approved, while 35 percent said they disapproved.
  • When asked about what types of issues would make them more or less likely to support a candidate in the 2020 presidential election, 57 percent of Democrats told Politico/Morning Consult said they would be “much more likely” or “somewhat more likely” to support a candidate who backs “Medicare-for-all” (“where all Americans would get their health insurance from the government”) over improving the Affordable Care Act.
  • In that same Politico/Morning Consult poll, Democrats were split on whether they supported more immigrants coming to the U.S. — 31 percent of respondents said they would be “much” or “somewhat” less likely to support a candidate with this stance, while another 31 percent said they would be “much” or “somewhat” more likely to support such a candidate. Meanwhile, only 25 percent of Democratic voters said they would be “much” or “somewhat” more likely to back a candidate who supported abolishing the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
  • The Glengariff Group tested some hypothetical 2020 presidential matchups in Michigan, which Trump carried by just 0.2 points in 2016. The poll found potential Democratic nominees with more support than Trump: Joe Biden (53 percent to 40 percent), Kamala Harris (47 percent to 42 percent), Bernie Sanders (52 percent to 41 percent) and Elizabeth Warren (46 percent to 43 percent).
  • A Quinnipiac University poll found that 70 percent of voters believe transgender people should be allowed to serve in the military and that 22 percent were opposed. Among Republicans, that divide was 40 percent to 50 percent; among Democrats, it was 94 percent to 3 percent. Trump has sought to ban transgender people from serving, although the policy remains hung up in the courts.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 39.5 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 55.9 percent disapprove (for a net approval rating of -16.4 points). That’s essentially the same as a week ago, when 39.5 percent of Americans approved of the president and 55.8 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -16.3 points). Trump’s net approval rating has dropped significantly from a month ago, when it was -11.9 (approval rating of 41.5 percent, disapproval rating of 53.4 percent).

 

Trump Is Only Popular In Rural Areas

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

The 2018 midterm election confirmed America’s urban-rural divide; Democrats excelled in cities, Republicans dominated in the country and the suburbs were the tiebreaker that handed Democrats the House. Will the 2020 election play out the same way? This week, we got two polls of President Trump’s approval rating that suggest it might.

First, a Selzer & Co. (one of our favorite pollsters) national poll conducted Nov. 24-27 for Grinnell College found that Trump had a 43 percent approval rating and a 45 percent disapproval rating among all adults. However, his support isn’t distributed equally across different types of communities. He’s enormously popular among residents of rural areas, with a 61 percent approval rating and a 26 percent disapproval rating. In small towns, that breakdown is 44 percent approve vs. 42 percent disapprove. But in suburban areas, only 41 percent of residents approve of the job that Trump is doing as president, while 50 percent disapprove. Trump’s approval rating is lowest among urbanites — 31 percent approve of him while 59 percent disapprove.

We saw similar geographic trends in an Investor’s Business Daily/TIPP poll that was conducted from Nov. 26 to Dec. 2. Trump again got the highest marks from residents of rural areas — a 62 percent approval rating and a 35 percent disapproval rating. And yet again, his standing took a nosedive among suburbanites and urbanites. In suburban areas, Trump’s approval rating was 32 percent, and his disapproval rating was 60 percent. In urban areas, his approval rating was 27 percent, and his disapproval rating was 67 percent. (The IBD/TIPP poll didn’t include “small town” as an option for respondents.) Overall, Trump’s approval/disapproval spread was much lower in the IBD/TIPP poll (39 percent approve, 55 percent disapprove) than it was in the Selzer poll, which explains why the IBD/TIPP poll is worse for Trump in all three geographic categories as well.

Here are the results of the polls side by side:

Trump is more popular in rural areas

Presidential net approval rating among adults by density type

Category Selzer Poll IBD/TIPP Poll
Urban -28 -40
Suburban -9 -28
Small town* +2
Rural +35 +27
Overall -2 -16

* The Investor’s Business Daily/TIPP poll did not include a breakdown for “small town.”

Sources: Selzer & Co., Grinnell College, Investor’s Business Daily

 

This is perhaps stating the obvious, but Trump would do well to improve his standing among suburban and urban voters before 2020. Less than 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural areas. Granted, not all rural voters will cast their ballot for the president, nor will all urban and suburban voters back whoever is the Democratic nominee. But elections are winner-take-all contests waged within discrete geographic areas — states or districts. According to the Congressional Density Index from CityLab, a news website covering urban issues, just 70 congressional districts are “pure rural,” and an additional 114 are a “rural-suburban mix.” CityLab is still in the process of making similar assessments for states, but David Montgomery, a journalist for CityLab, told FiveThirtyEight that 11 states could be classified as mostly rural, while an additional 17 could be classified as a mix of rural areas and suburbs. The former are worth a combined 53 electoral votes, while the latter are worth a combined 138; 270 are needed to win a presidential election.

None of this means that Trump lacks a path to electoral victory. It’s still early in the 2020 campaign; approval ratings may change, and a person’s feelings about the president aren’t the only determinant of his or her vote. But those numbers aren’t great for Republicans even if institutions like the Electoral College give disproportionate influence to rural areas. Without urban and suburban areas, they’ll find it difficult to cobble together a sustainable majority.

Other polling nuggets

  • A YouGov poll found that only 26 percent of Americans either “strongly” or “somewhat” approve of the way Trump is handling the fallout from the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. There was a sharp party divide in responses: 57 percent of Republicans approved, while only 6 percent of Democrats did.
  • 59 percent of Americans today either “strongly” or “somewhat” approve of the way George H.W. Bush handled his presidency, from 1989 to 1993, according to YouGov. That includes 53 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans. You can see for yourself how Bush’s approval rating changed over the course of his presidency using our presidential approval rating tracker.
  • A Gallup poll taken in France earlier this year, before the riots in December over increased living costs, found that President Emmanuel Macron’s job approval had declined by double digits among the three poorest of France’s five income groups but remained virtually unchanged among the two richest groups.
  • Americans still prefer to watch the news instead of reading or listening to it, according to a study by the Pew Research Center: 47 percent of respondents said they preferred to watch the news, 34 percent said they preferred to read the news, and 19 percent said they preferred listening to it. These habits remained mostly unchanged from 2016. Among those who would rather watch the news, 75 percent said they preferred doing so on the television, while 20 percent said they preferred to watch online.
  • A poll conducted by The Research Moms, a group of researchers at Edison Research, found that only 15 percent of moms said they split parenting responsibilities evenly with another parent. Forty-three percent said they handle the majority of the parenting responsibilities, and 41 percent said they handle all the parenting responsibilities. The Research Moms surveyed mothers in the U.S. age 18 to 64.
  • According to a Quinnipiac poll of New York City voters, 57 percent of New Yorkers approve of Amazon locating one of its new headquarters in Queens, while 26 percent disapprove. But when respondents were asked about the $3 billion in tax breaks that Amazon will get from the city and state government as part of its deal to relocate, support was roughly split, with 10 percent unsure.
  • Support for Amazon is even higher in Virginia, where a second headquarters is planned. A poll by Christopher Newport University asked registered voters in the state whether they approve or disapprove of the announcement that Virginia would provide $573 million in incentives for an Amazon headquarters; 68 percent said they approve of the announcement, while 30 percent said they disapprove.
  • The masses have spoken, determining that “Die Hard” is not a Christmas movie. That’s according to a Morning Consult/Hollywood Reporter poll, which found that only a quarter of American adults considered the Bruce Willis vehicle a Christmas movie; 62 percent said it was not, and 13 percent said they didn’t know or had no opinion on this important matter.
  • Armenians go to the polls Sunday to participate in snap parliamentary elections, the first since the “non-violent velvet revolution” protests in April and May that resulted in the resignation of Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan. An in-person survey of 1,100 voters conducted this week by an affiliate of the Gallup International Association in Armenia found that more than 69 percent of Armenians who plan to participate in elections said they would vote for the My Step alliance, led by current acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, followed by about 6 percent who said they would vote for the Prosperous Armenia Party. The Republican Party of Armenia, which had served as the ruling party, polled at less than 2 percent.

 

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 42.1 percent approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 52.3 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -10.2 points). At this time last week, 42.4 percent approved and 52.6 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -10.2 points). One month ago today, Trump had an approval rating of 41.8 percent and a disapproval rating of 52.8 percent, for a net approval rating of -11.0 points.