Misleading Media: Trump's Approval Rating Declined Much Less Compared To Past Presidents

A new report by NPR using Gallup and other official polls explains that Donald Trump's approval rating has not actually shifted much compared to his predecessors. Also, when compared to past presidents, his disapproval rating is actually much lower.

Although multiple news reports use the polls to make headlines about Trump's low approval rating, the data from the NPR report paints a different picture. It shows that Trump's approval rating has not actually changed much since he took office after the surprising results of the 2016 presidential election.

At this time, many people were shocked and unhappy to see the Republican Party take the White House. Many people did not believe that Trump could win and were deeply unhappy with the results of the election.

The Gallup data suggests that it is mostly these same unhappy people that keep Trump's approval rating low.

Trump approval low among Democrats.
Trump protesters refuse to budge. [Image by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

The amount of people who approve or disapprove of Trump has not changed by any significant amount, especially when compared to past presidents. Despite reports that people regret voting for Trump, the data shows that the shift in Trump's rating is minor.

The polls measure both the president's approval rating and the president's disapproval rating. The polls measure the percentage of people who say that they approve of the president, and also the percentage who say they disapprove.

Early on in a presidency, many people tend to answer that they don't know. They need more time to get to know the president and see what he does, saying that they don't have an opinion at this time. As the president is in office longer, more people have stronger opinions about what he is doing.

Trump began his presidency with a historically low rating. When Trump took office, 53 percent said they disapproved of the job he was doing, and 44 percent of people said they approved. This is notable because it means that very few people opted to reserve judgement. Although Trump had not made any decisions, people already had an opinion on him.

Currently, Trump's disapproval rating is at 54 percent. It has grown by 1 percent. His approval rating is at 40 percent. So, his approval rating did fall. And about twice as many people aren't sure what to think as when Trump took office in January.

The NPR report points out that Trump was very unpopular with people who did not vote for him, writing, "there is only so low you can go."

Trump approval high.
Trump's supporters still approve of him. [Image by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images]

However, they go on to put the data in a historical context. Compared to past presidents, Trump's low approval rating hardly seems newsworthy. In fact, the data reveals that practically nothing has changed since November.

The first noteworthy takeaway is that Trump's approval rating dropped by the same percentage as Obama's. They both dropped by 5 points.

Compared to Bill Clinton, Trump and Obama's approval rating drop is nothing. Clinton dropped 21 points in his first four months as president.

The report points out that a lot of this has to do with the president meeting expectations. People knew what they were getting with Trump and Obama, so there is not much shift.

Trump's disapproval rating might come as a surprise to those reading mainstream media reports. His rating is much better compared to past presidents. Trump's disapproval rating climbed by 9 points. This is half that of Obama, whose disapproval rating climbed 18 points. George Bush gained 10 disapproval points, but Clinton's disapproval climbed the most at 29 points.

The report explains how disapproval for the president consistently goes up after he takes office. Independent voters are often unhappy no matter what the president does, passionate supporters feel unhappy that the president hasn't yet done everything they want him to do, and dissenting voters were never happy with the president in the first place. Therefore, all presidents had a higher disapproval rating than they did when they first took office.

Compared to past Presidents, Trump's rating has barely shifted. While his low approval rating might be newsworthy, the idea that Trump's numbers are rapidly dropping is false.

A pollster explained that the really interesting data shows how polarizing Trump is. He points out that among Democrats, Trump has just an 8 percent approval rating. Trump's "low" approval rating is actually due to partisanship. Democrats and Republicans feel so differently about Trump, and that is what his low approval ratings actually reveal. In the past, Democrats and Republicans saw each other as "admirable foes," but now they see each other as "an existential threat."

"It's more tribal than anything else."
This is why Trump's numbers look so low and also why they barely shift. With just 8 percent of Democrats approving of him, Trump's approval rating can never climb very high. And as long as Democrats and Republicans see each other as enemies, people will be unlikely to change their previously held opinion of the president.

[Featured Image by Tom Pennington/Getty Images]