Trump approval at (almost) six-months

Donald Trump’s approval trend has remained well below previous newly elected presidents through mid-July. Trump has consistently remained within about 2 points of 40 percent approval since the beginning of his second month in office, with a current trend estimate of 38,9%.

Bill Clinton also suffered low approval ratings for part of his early months, though not as consistently low as Trump’s have been. In July Clinton’s approval-disapproval readings were 45-48 7/9-11/93 and 42-49 7/19-21/93. His 6 month low was 37-49 6/5-6/93. This was also his all time low for his entire presidency.

Gerald Ford, though not an elected president and hence not included in the chart above, also fell off in approval near the end of his first six-months with readings of 38-43 1/31-2/3/75 and 39-45 2/28-3/3/75. His six month low was 37-39 1/10-13/75, also his all time low.

The chart below shows when each president reached his all time low approval reading. Clinton and Ford both hit 37% in the first six months, but never returned to those lows. Trump hit 35-59 in one Gallup poll so far, 3/26-28/17, but has not broken that low since.

While no other president has been as consistently low as Trump in the first half year, seven post-war presidents have equaled or exceeded his low mark at some point in their terms. Given his start, there is ample historical evidence that approval can fall into the 20s at some point.

The data used here are from Gallup polls, which have maintained a consistent wording of the approval question and have the longest historical time series. Polls by other pollsters may differ from these records based on the Gallup data. The Trump and Obama data are based on Gallup’s daily (3-day rolling sample) polling of presidential approval.

Data for all post-war presidents around July or 6 months into term.

Ike 69-15 7/4-9/53
Ike 73-13 7/25-30/53

JFK 72-14 6/23-28/61
JFK 75-12 7/27-8/1/61

LBJ 74-12 6/4-9/64
LBJ 74-14 6/11-16/64

RMN 58-22 7/10-15/69
RMN 63-21 7/24-29/69

GRF 38-43 1/31-2/3/75
GRF 39-45 2/28-3/3/75
** GRF 6 month low 37-39 1/10-13/75

JEC 62-22 7/8-11/77
JEC 67-17 7/22-25/77

RR 60-29 7/17-20/81
RR 56-30 7/24-27/81

GHWB 67-18 7/6-9/89
GHWB 69-19 8/10-13/89

WJC 45-48 7/9-11/93
WJC 42-49 7/19-21/93
** WJC 6 month low 37-49 6/5-6/93

GWB 57-35 7/10-11/01
GWB 56-33 7/19-22/01

BHO 60-33 7/15-17/09
BHO 55-41 7/17-19/09

Gallup Daily
DJT 40-55 7/9-11/17
DJT 38-56 7/13-15/17

Gallup Weekly
DJT 38-57 7/3-9/09
DJT 39-56 7/10-16/09


Survey Mode, Population and the Party ID Distribution

It is widely understood that the population sampled, whether adults, registered or likely voters, has some effect on the distribution of partisanship. But mode differences among live interview, automated phone and internet data collection also shift the distributions. Pew polls are shown as a high quality live interview reference compared to all live interview polls.


The most prominent effect is on the size of independents. Both automated phone and internet modes produce substantially smaller estimates of Independents than do live interview phone polls (which include cell phone strata.)

Independents are on average 34.8% of live phone samples but 28.0% and 27.6% of automated phone and internet samples respectively.  This is in line with what we might expect to find if the smaller response rate to automated polls and the “volunteer” samples of internet polls are correlated with political interest and likely with partisan intensity.

Where the independents go in the different modes varies a bit. Republicans are substantially more numerous in automated samples (33.8% vs 26.7% in live phone) but not so in internet samples (25.8%).  Meanwhile Democrats are more common in both automated phone (38.1% vs 34.0% for live phone) and (more modestly) for internet (35.1%).

One might suspect that mode and population sampled are highly correlated and that this accounts for some of the differences. Happily, there is enough variation in population within mode to estimate the effects of both mode and population.


The estimates below are from a linear regression of the partisan make up of each sample on mode and population with a polynomial in time to capture trend effects (not shown.)

The data are from HuffPost/Pollster’s collection of 982 polls that reported their partisan make up between September 3, 2008 and April 27, 2014. (Two “mixed mode” polls were deleted. No account has been taken of changing methodologies, such as reported blending of automated phone with internet samples, the detailed timing of which is not available.)

Estimated effects are given below. All are statistically significant except the Rep/Internet coefficient.



While both partisan camps gain when we move away from the live interview mode, there is a modest pro-Republican advantage with larger gains. Independents shrink in each case.

While partisan bias is an obvious potential concern, the higher involvement and less independent nature of automated modes may also have more subtle effects, from over stating turnout and candidate awareness to possibly reducing the apparent impact of dynamic factors as more partisan samples are less likely to be moved by events or advertising.

A final note is to compare the distribution of each partisan category between the Pew polls alone and all live interview polls. The considerably greater spread of the distribution for all live polls is a vivid example of house and question wording effects. The very wide spread of the independent distribution in particular is notable. We may assume there is a clear distribution of partisanship (as in the trends below) but the spread around these trends is quite large. Certainty as to the sizes of each partisan camp is illusory. Central tendency should not ignore spread.