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Tuesday, January 09, 2018


The Trump anomoly

by digby

It's a real sign of his weakness as a president and a politician that he is so unpopular despite the fact that he's riding the crest of a booming economy. Nate Cohn analyzed the phenomenon for the New York Times:

The stock market has surged. Unemployment is at 4.1 percent. ISIS has largely been vanquished from Iraq and Syria.

But despite it all, Donald J. Trump’s approval ratings are mired in the upper 30s. No president has had worse ratings at this stage of his term since modern polling began more than three-quarters of a century ago.

A substantial number of people are also leaving the GOP (or not ideifying as Republicans or Republican leaners anyway) which seems odd when the party has total control of government at a time of growing prosperity:

Setting aside the question of how much credit first-year presidents deserve for a strong economy — they have less influence than you might think — President Trump’s ratings should be much better. A 4.1 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in 17 years, is more typically associated with a 60-plus-percent approval rating for a first-term president.

Lyndon Johnson is the only other first-term president in the era of modern polling with an approval rating under 50 percent while the jobless rate was below 5 percent. But this came after he’d already been president for about four years (having first finished out John F. Kennedy’s term) and as the Vietnam War began to drag down his presidency.

Mr. Trump started in a far worse position than other incoming presidents. His initial approval rating was in the low-to-mid 40s, while most presidents enter with an approval rating over 60 percent. It was fair to speculate that his approval ratings would gradually rise with the benefit of a strong economy. Perhaps he would even benefit from low expectations, as many suspected he did during the presidential campaign.

But by now the economy would have been expected to lift his approval rating into the 50s, based on an analysis of presidential approval and economic data going back to 1950. This is despite the tendency for presidents’ approval ratings to decline during their time in office. If the economy were to overcome Mr. Trump’s unpopularity and send his approval ratings up, you would think we would have started to see signs of it.

It is certainly possible that the economy — or other good news — will still lift his ratings. But it seems just as likely that Mr. Trump will continue to feel the burden of his time in office. On average, a first-term president’s approval rating drops by about a point per quarter after controlling for inflation and unemployment (and controlling for the large bump George W. Bush received after the Sept. 11 attacks).

He goes on to point out that analysts are still very reluctant to make any claims about Trump because these "fundamentals" are so good that they are doubting the numbers or wondering if national polling doesn't give a skewed picture. I guess they just can't believe that people wouldn't like a president when the country only has 4.1% unemployment.


Mr. Trump is now the president, and elections tend to be referendums on the party in power. A president’s approval rating is typically a very strong predictor of the results of presidential elections and even a helpful one in congressional elections.

Since 1950, no party has held the House through a midterm election when the president’s approval rating is less than 40 percent. The Republican Party’s considerable structural advantages in the House would at least give them a shot to survive this time, but the growing Democratic advantage on the generic congressional ballot and the G.O.P.’s weak showings in this year’s special congressional elections suggest that the president’s approval rating is weighing on the party in exactly the way one would expect.

And while Mr. Trump’s upset victory in 2016 — defying the pre-election polls that showed Hillary Clinton leading in key battleground states — has given him the sheen of invincibility, his victory was not impressive by most standards.

Fundamental-based models — without taking candidates into account — tended to show that the party out of power was a clear if narrow favorite to win in 2016: The pace of economic growth and President Obama’s approval rating were positives for the Democrats, but that wasn’t enough for the party to be favored because of the burden of seeking the presidency for a third consecutive term.

Mr. Trump had the added advantage of facing Mrs. Clinton, who was under F.B.I. investigation for most of the campaign and ended with the worst unfavorability ratings of any candidate who won a major party nomination other than Mr. Trump, according to Gallup.

Yet in the end, Mr. Trump lost the popular vote by two percentage points, with 46 percent of the vote. It was the second-worst showing since 1948 for the candidate of the party out of power against a party seeking at least a third straight presidential term (after Michael Dukakis in 1988). It was not necessarily a show of strength.

None of this is to say that Mr. Trump’s approval ratings can’t or won’t rise. But at some point, he’ll probably need them to.

Yes, he will need them too.

What this shows is that most Americans are not driven only by money. Most of them care about common decency, the future of the planet, their kids educations, nuclear war stuff like that.

I have had a number of people tell me the same thing both online and in person since Trump got elected: "I don't feel safe anymore."

Safety and security isn't just about paying the bills or even keeping the "bad guys" at bay. It's about stability and believing in the future. That's what we don't have with this misfit presidency and that's why people don't approve of him even though the economy is healthy.