Lowest Presidential Approval Ratings: Trump Beats Past Presidents To The Bottom

The respected Gallup poll published its latest Donald Trump approval rating Friday, showing that Trump is setting new records for the lowest presidential approval ratings since Gallup began taking the survey in 1945, in the early days of the administration of President Harry S. Truman.

The newest Gallup survey — a “tracking” poll which averages daily results from the last three days — places Trump at a stunningly low 38 percent approval rating just four weeks into his term, a point at which most presidents are experiencing not their lowest approval ratings, but some of their highest.

After about four weeks of his first term in 2009, Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama was cruising along with a 62 percent approval rating, almost twice as high as Trump’s at a similar point. Even Truman, who still holds the record for lowest single-day approval rating in the Gallup poll, held a whopping 87 percent approval rating 54 days after he was elevated into the presidential seat following the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The 54-day mark is the earliest point for which Gallup has data on Truman’s job approval.

But by day 2,499 of Truman’s presidency, February 13, 1952 — the height of United States involvement in the Korean War — Truman set an all-time Gallup poll record low with an approval rating of just 22 percent.

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President Harry S. Truman (l) and General Dwight Eisenhower, Truman’s successor as president. While Truman set a record for the lowest approval rating, Eisenhower was popular throughout his two terms. [Image by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

But even Truman needed more than 500 days of his tenure as president, more than 1.3 years, to post a Gallup approval rating as low as 38 percent — a dubious accomplishment that Trump has pulled off less than one full month into his term.

In fact, Trump is trailing the average presidential approval rating for all past presidents by more than 20 percentage points for this early stage of his term, according to Gallup.

Obama never dipped below 40 percent in the Gallup approval rating poll in the entire eight years he held the office. He hit his low of 40 percent on October 8, 2011 — day 992 of his time in office, 2.7 years in.

President George W. Bush needed 2,807 days — 7.7 years, nearly the end of his eight years in office — to bottom out at 27 percent. Even though Bush, like Trump, was elected president by winning the Electoral College while losing the popular vote, his early days as president saw him riding a wave of public approval.

After one month of his term, Bush’s approval rating sat at 62 percent.

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President George W. Bush was midway through his second term before he hit the approval rating low where Donald Trump is now. [Image by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images]

Even President Richard Nixon, first elected in 1968, needed until July 8, 1973 to sink as low as Trump’s 38 percent Gallup approval rating. For Nixon, that was during the Watergate scandal and a standoff between the president and Congress, with Nixon refusing to turn over documents crucial to the congressional investigations of the scandal, claiming “executive privilege.”


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President Lyndon Johnson, who took office immediately upon the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, took until September 18, 1967 to drop as low as 38 percent approval. By that point, it had become clear to the American public that U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War — a war that Johnson had dramatically escalated — was becoming a quagmire with little hope of a clear victory.

A week later, Johnson delivered a major speech about Vietnam in which he warned that if the United States failed to keep fighting the war, that the conflict could escalate into World War 3.

On Thursday, the Pew Research Center released a poll showing Trump with a 39 percent approval rating. But on the same day, Rasmussen — a pollster with a history of showing favorable poll results for Republicans — gave Trump a 55 percent approval rating.

[Featured Image by Andrew Harnik/AP Images]