Poll(s) of the week
In the wake of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, public opinion is souring quickly on President Trump as he enters the final days of his term. Not only do a majority of Americans blame him for the riot at the Capitol and favor removing him from office, but his job approval rating has fallen faster in recent days than at any point in his presidency.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s approval tracker,1 39.4 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 56.3 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -16.8 percentage points). On Jan. 6, the day of the Capitol attack, Trump’s net approval rating stood at -10.3 points, which means his net approval rating has fallen 6.5 points in just eight days.
It turns out that’s the biggest drop in Trump’s net approval that our tracker has ever recorded. To put this into perspective, there have been only two other times when Trump’s net approval rating fell by at least 5 points over an eight-day period: once in February 2017, after he issued executive orders to begin construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and to suspend the refugee program and prohibit entry for visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries,2 and then again in March 2017, after Republicans began their legislative efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.3 But the lack of sharp drops in Trump’s rating outside of these two episodes isn’t all that stunning, considering that both positive and negative opinions of him are largely baked in.
But now Trump’s tumbling approval rating suggests he is losing some support among his party base and swing voters (his approval rating among Democrats was already abysmal). Take Morning Consult/Politico’s latest survey, which found Trump’s net approval at +51 points among Republicans and -35 points among independents; these numbers might not sound that bad, especially among Republicans, but they were down 15 points among both Republicans and independents from mid-December. Quinnipiac University’s new poll also put Trump’s net approval among Republicans at +51, a decrease from +80 in early December, while independents fell to -37 from -15 in the same period. Additionally, a new survey from Marist College on behalf of PBS NewsHour found Trump at +56 among Republicans and -20 among independents, both down from +83 and -14, respectively, in Marist’s early December poll.
There’s also evidence of Trump’s image suffering in polling on impeachment and whether he should be removed from office. Back during Trump’s first impeachment in late 2019 and early 2020, net support for his removal never grew beyond +4. But now net support for removal stands at about +11, with about 53 percent of Americans supporting it and 42 percent opposing it. And while it’s still true that a majority of Republicans do not support Trump’s impeachment, the same pattern we observed in Trump’s approval rating (a dip among Republicans) is true here as well. The first time Trump was impeached, less than 10 percent of Republicans backed removing him from office, compared with 15 percent now. Among independents, the magnitude of the shift is similar, up from the low 40 percent range to 48 percent. And, once again, Democrats overwhelmingly back removal.
As Trump continues to falter, it’s worth noting just how atypical this trend is for a president in his last couple of months in office. Outgoing presidents often get at least a little bump in approval, regardless of whether they were popular or unpopular. For instance, President Barack Obama’s net approval rating rose from about +8 after the 2016 election to almost +20 when Trump took office, while President George W. Bush’s net approval rating rose from -43 in November 2008 to about -30 going into Obama’s inauguration in January 2009. Even President George H.W. Bush, the last incumbent president to lose reelection before Trump, saw his net approval go from -23 after the election to +18 by the time he left the White House. It’s hard to imagine such a huge shift in this more polarized era, but Trump’s net approval has definitely declined more than his predecessors’.
While commentators have often called Trump “Teflon Don” because few of his actions seem to stick and perceptibly alter public opinion, this has its limits. Inciting an attack on the American government is pretty damaging: It has caused a rapid decline in his approval rating, prompted more than half of Americans to support his removal from office, and even impelled 10 House Republicans to back his impeachment — the most members of a president’s party to ever do so.
Other polling bites
- Americans are understandably concerned about the direction of the country given last week’s news. To that point, Morning Consult found that 81 percent felt the country was on the wrong track, while just 19 percent thought the country was headed in the right direction. These figures mark the most bearish responses to this question in Morning Consult’s polling over Trump’s entire presidency.
- White identity and grievance politics played a major role in the attack on the Capitol, and 69 percent Americans said they view white supremacists as a very serious (52 percent) or somewhat serious (17 percent) problem, according to new polling from YouGov. Just 21 percent said they were not a very serious problem or not a problem at all. However, broken down by party, Republicans were much more equivocal, with 44 percent calling white supremacists a problem and 49 percent saying they aren’t. And despite the severity of last week’s events, these numbers — overall and by party — are mostly unchanged from those in an August 2019 YouGov survey.
- Gallup’s annual report on Americans’ ideological views found that more people identified as conservative and moderate than liberal in 2020, in keeping with findings from previous years. According to the pollster, 36 percent described themselves as conservative, 35 percent as moderate and 25 percent as liberal, numbers that were largely unchanged from 2019. Overall, Republicans were more likely to be ideologically similar, with 75 percent identifying as conservative, whereas Democrats were a bit more mixed, as only 51 percent identified as liberal.
- Americans continue to experience a lot of online harassment, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. Forty-one percent of U.S. adults said they’ve been attacked in some way, which was identical to Pew’s 2017 polling, but this time there was a reported increase in harassment across six specific types of abuse. Of the two less serious types, almost a third of Americans reported offensive name-calling and a quarter reported attempts at “purposeful embarrassment.” Among the four more serious types, about one in 10 reported some sort of stalking, sustained harassment or sexual harassment, while 14 percent said they’d received physical threats.
- As COVID-19 vaccination ramps up, Gallup’s latest polling found that 65 percent of Americans would agree to be vaccinated if they were offered an FDA-approved vaccine at no cost, compared with 35 percent who wouldn’t. However, there was a pretty big partisan split over taking the vaccine: 83 percent of Democrats agreed to be vaccinated while only 45 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of independents said the same. Since Gallup began polling on this question in July 2020, Democrats have been far more likely to say they’d accept a vaccination, save for a period in September 2020 when Democratic receptiveness fell sharply, possibly in response to Trump’s claims that a vaccine could be ready by Election Day.
- Trump’s incendiary use of social media led Twitter and other social media companies to suspend him from their platforms. Morning Consult polling found that 39 percent of Americans felt that approach was “exactly right,” while 33 percent felt it went too far and 28 percent felt it didn’t go far enough. There was a large partisan split over support for these moves, too, with 69 percent of Republicans saying the suspensions went too far, and 43 percent of Democrats saying they didn’t think they went far enough. And even though half of all respondents thought that Trump’s social media accounts should have been suspended earlier, only 15 percent of Republicans agreed compared with 77 percent of Democrats.