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Trump’s unprecedented lack of approval from the American public


Gallup has been tracking presidential approval since the Truman administration. Trump is exactly two-thirds of the way through his term. Here’s how his high point in the Gallup poll stacks up with those of his predecessors:

Truman: 82%

Eisenhower: 76%

Kennedy: 79%

Johnson: 76%

Nixon: 67%

Ford: 71%

Carter: 72%

Reagan: 68%

Bush I: 89%

Clinton: 73%

Bush II: 88%

Obama: 66%

Trump: 46%

Obviously Trump is a massive outlier in this respect, but he is in another as well. Total spread between a president’s highest and lowest approval rating:

Truman: -60

Eisenhower: -28

Kennedy: -23

Johnson: -42

Nixon: -43

Ford: -34

Carter: -44

Reagan: -33

Bush I: -60

Clinton: -36

Bush II: -64

Obama: -26

Trump: -10

Now of course to a significant extent this second form of outlying is an artifact of a statistical floor effect: if your approval rating is never higher than 46%, you simply can’t have a very big spread between your highest and lowest numbers. But not completely: Note that even as a percentage of the difference between high and low numbers, Trump has a much smaller spread than any previous president.

Trump’s approval rating, in other words, is a testament to a level of unwavering polarization of public opinion that has no parallel in modern presidential history. It’s also a testament to a radical failure of democratic norms: it’s highly probable that Trump will spend his entire presidency without ever gaining the approval of even half of the population, even for the briefest of statistical moments.

It should be impossible for someone with this profile to be re-elected, but it should have been impossible for him to be elected in the first place: every previous president began his first term with at least a 60% approval rating , i.e., 30% higher than Trump’s highest approval rating at any point during his, as he would put it, “reign.”

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