Donald Trump's very weird polling problem

There's an old political cliche that goes like this: Presidents get too much credit when the economy is going well --...

Posted: Aug 1, 2018 12:53 AM
Updated: Aug 1, 2018 12:53 AM

There's an old political cliche that goes like this: Presidents get too much credit when the economy is going well -- and too much blame when it's going poorly.

That cliche begets this political reality: When the economy is good and/or people believe the economy is good, a president is usually popular. And when the economy is weak (or perceived to be weak), a president is almost always struggling in the polls.

Which is why Donald Trump's current situation is super weird.

All current polling suggests that people not only feel good about the economy but give Trump credit for its success. In an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll released last week, 50% of Americans approved of the job Trump was doing with the economy while only 34% disapproved. Those numbers on the economy were far better than how people said Trump was handling immigration (41% approve/51% disapprove) or the US relationship with Russia (26% approve/51% disapprove).

And yet, in that same NBC-WSJ poll, just 45% approved of Trump's performance as President overall while 52% disapproved.

That disconnect isn't a fluke. In the Real Clear Politics aggregate of polls, 50.4% approve of Trump's handling of the economy while 42.3% disapprove. The RCP average of Trump's overall job performance produces this: 43.3% approve, 52.9% disapprove.

Just how anomalous are high economic approval ratings -- and positive jobs numbers like 4.1% economic growth in the 2nd quarter of 2018 -- with middling overall job approval numbers, historically speaking?

The short answer is VERY.

Here's the long answer -- via CNN's Harry Enten -- who compared presidential job approval with approval of a president's handling of the economy at around the same time in their terms as Trump is now:

The only two presidents with significantly higher approval ratings on the economy as compared to their overall approval were Trump now and Bill Clinton in July 1998. The Clinton result is easily explained: He was in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. So people liked how the economy was doing (and gave him credit for it) but were less willing to say they approved of him as heartily. The Trump example is less simple to understand.

My working theory is that voters don't like Trump personally but do like the state of the economy. So they are willing to give Trump credit for the economy specifically but when it comes to his overall job approval their feelings are much more determined by their feelings about Trump, the person. That's a trend that was apparent as far back as the 2016 election. Sixty-four percent of the electorate said that Trump was neither "honest" nor "trustworthy" but 1 in every 5 of those people voted for him, according to exit polling. Fully 63% said Trump didn't have the temperament to be president but, despite that, one in five in that bloc voted for him.

Regardless of the "why" of Trump's economy/overall approval disparity, it's clear that if he could simply disappear -- like, literally just stay in the White House and never tweet -- his overall approval numbers would likely improve. People seem to be reacting negatively to the full package of Trump, which crowds out their positive reaction to the job he is doing on the economy. If, he could take the focus off his tweets, the Russia investigation and the like -- and steer all of his rhetorical firepower onto the state of the economy, he and the Republican Party he leads would likely be in a much better place today.

Of course, that sort of message discipline isn't Trump. And if we've learned anything these last three years, it's that Trump is going to Trump. Always.

West Lafayette
Clear
29° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 24°
Kokomo
Overcast
30° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 20°
Rensselaer
Clear
23° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 23°
Fowler
Clear
23° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 23°
Williamsport
Clear
29° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 24°
Crawfordsville
Clear
22° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 22°
Frankfort
Scattered Clouds
30° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 22°
Delphi
Clear
26° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 19°
Monticello
Clear
26° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 19°
Logansport
Overcast
30° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 23°
Cold night, then drier, milder regime.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 338977

Reported Deaths: 5723
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion46131870
Lake29183469
Allen19572307
Elkhart18074236
St. Joseph17808239
Hamilton14364172
Vanderburgh10546128
Tippecanoe948130
Porter890690
Johnson7132171
Hendricks6820162
Vigo643592
Monroe572452
Madison5506124
Clark547678
Delaware5252104
LaPorte501997
Kosciusko484042
Howard382978
Bartholomew355165
Warrick350073
Wayne345886
Floyd338078
Marshall320446
Cass311531
Grant302550
Hancock294357
Noble274147
Boone267655
Henry266139
Dubois253732
Jackson242034
Dearborn241131
Morgan236543
Gibson207329
Shelby204159
Knox198021
DeKalb193435
Clinton192922
Lawrence191349
Wabash183922
Miami181417
Adams180023
Daviess167545
Fayette159834
Jasper159113
Montgomery158329
Steuben158116
Harrison155824
Ripley155721
LaGrange152232
Whitley149715
Huntington141810
White140323
Decatur140044
Putnam138129
Wells137030
Clay135125
Randolph134022
Jefferson133416
Posey130318
Scott119421
Greene112253
Sullivan106717
Jay106414
Jennings98714
Starke98025
Spencer9268
Fulton90119
Fountain8778
Perry87321
Washington8487
Franklin77027
Carroll75313
Orange73128
Vermillion6927
Owen6699
Parke6466
Tipton64027
Rush6078
Blackford59613
Newton59412
Pike54920
Pulaski45016
Benton3943
Martin3866
Brown3815
Crawford3251
Union3012
Switzerland2735
Warren2663
Ohio2457
Unassigned0267

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events