Saturday 21 July 2018

The most unpopular president on record - but here's why Trump could win again in 2020

US President Donald Trump waves after addressing the annual March for Life rally from the White House Rose Garden in Washington. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump waves after addressing the annual March for Life rally from the White House Rose Garden in Washington. Photo: Reuters

Ashley Kirk

Donald Trump ends his first year as the most unpopular president on record.

He is the only US president since Harry Truman to have a negative net approval rating after 12 months in the White House - some 24 points below Barack Obama at the same time in his presidency.

The year since Mr Trump's inauguration has been packed with controversy and intrigue - during which there have been persistent allegations over Russian connections. He has fired the head of the FBI, launched tirades against the media, failed to push through healthcare reform and has escalated his rhetoric surrounding North Korea.

All of this led to a slump in approval ratings, with Mr Trump achieving a majority disapproval rating in a record of just eight days since his inauguration.

In the run-up to this year's US mid-term elections, this might be enough to worry him - particularly after Trump-backed Roy Moore faced a shock defeat in Republican-leaning Alabama last year.

But this overall unpopularity may not matter that much - after all, Mr Trump was unpopular when he was elected America's 45th president.

When we dig into the figures, few people seem to have really changed their minds about him - and this is how the president still stands a chance in 2020.

While there has been an overall drop in public opinion, the president's approval ratings have remained relatively stable since July, even experiencing a small uptick following his handling of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, and Hurricane Irma. The polarisation of America's politics is so extreme that his popularity among Democrats can't really drop any further, while Republicans seemingly refuse to desert him, no matter what he does.

Mr Trump's approval rating hasn't dropped much among those who voted for him

Back in January 2016, Mr Trump claimed that he could shoot somebody and not lose any votes. He seems to have largely been correct in this estimation, with his approval rating among those who voted for him last November standing at 90pc.

Among those who self-identify as being conservatives - although not necessarily Republicans - his approval rating is actually marginally higher than it was at the start of the year while, importantly, he is liked better by people who are registered to vote. His approval rating among registered voters hasn't dropped below 40pc all year.

Concern

This doesn't mean that there isn't cause for concern for Mr Trump among these ratings. Although his electoral college victory was significant, he lost the overall popular vote, and his election was secured by around 100,000 voters in key swing states.

It is therefore potentially significant that the demographic that has gone off Mr Trump most since the start of the year is of those who self-identify as being moderates.

Among these middle-ground voters - who make up 29pc of the population - Mr Trump's approval score slipped from a three-poll average of 40.5pc in January 2017 to 30.7pc this January.

Could he in again? Given that Mr Trump managed to win last year despite being unpopular among swathes of America, the impact of his waning popularity on his chances of a second term are not clear-cut.

Additionally, a US presidential election isn't conducted on a national level, so national polling is only of limited use when assessing his chances.

In a race for electoral college votes, a presidential election is essentially divided into 50 separate votes in each of America's states - a lesson Hillary Clinton bitterly learned as last year's results trickled out.

Consequently, we must look at state-level data to gain a full picture of how he is performing compared to this time last year, especially in the states that turned red in 2016.

Mr Trump had a positive net approval rating in 17 states during 2017, all of which he won in the 2016 presidential election.

Some 33 states had a negative net approval rating. This includes all six states that swung to him in the 2016 election. He had an average negative approval rating in each of these states in 2017. A negative net approval rate in these states may not bode too well for a potential 2020 run for the Republican president.

© Daily Telegraph London

Telegraph.co.uk

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