Trump’s unpopularity isn’t new. It’s his normal state.


The average poll puts Trump’s approval and disapproval rating in about the same position as the New York Times poll.
What’s the point: There’s been a lot of ink spilled about how Trump’s position has deteriorated significantly over the last few months. Indeed, his net approval rating (approve – disapprove) is down about 10 points since late March. He’s at his low point of the year, and there’s certainly a case to be made that his ratings will revert to a long-term average.

Yet for Trump to truly make a comeback in the 2020 election against former Vice President Joe Biden, he can’t just be his average self. He has to do much better than normal.

He’s averaged just a 42.5% approval rating among voters for his entire presidency. Trump’s disapproval rating during that same span has been about 53%, which makes for a net approval rating of -10.5 points.

There’s very little chance Trump’s going to win reelection if his net approval rating is in the negative double-digits. We know that in basically every poll this year that Trump’s winning about 90% or more of those who approve of his job performance, while Biden is taking about 90% or more of voters who disapprove of Trump.
Trump’s net approval in the 2018 exit poll was -9 points — a touch better than his longterm average. The Republican Party lost the House popular vote by 9 points. They also suffered a net 40-seat loss in the House.

The idea that Trump will somehow get his net approval rating into positive territory seems like a long shot. His net approval rating has only been positive for 1% of his entire administration and all those days were at the beginning of it (i.e. his honeymoon period).

In fact, Trump’s net approval rating hasn’t gotten above -4 points since the middle of March 2017. That’s about 1,200 days ago. Even when he benefited from a rally around the flag effect at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, his highest net approval rating was -4 points.

Would a -4 point net approval rating be good enough for Trump to win another term? It’d be far from a guarantee. A -4 net approval rating for Trump wasn’t good enough to pull into the national polling lead against Biden in late March to early April period. No aggregate of polls I’m aware of got Trump within closer than a little more than 3 points of Biden.

Now, such a close race in the national polls would at least give Trump a fighter’s chance. There could be a polling error that allows Trump to win the popular vote. More likely, he could pull off the popular vote/electoral college split, as he did against Hillary Clinton.
But keep in mind what we’re talking about here. Trump would need the country to rally behind him like they only have once in the last three years. And it would have to take place as the coronavirus picture is getting worse in many places.

That’s asking a lot.


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