Democracy Dies in Darkness

The Fix | Analysis

Donald Trump: An embattled president ... without a battle

By Aaron Blake

March 30, 2017 at 9:48 AM

Trump's approval rating. (Gallup)

President Trump is not the first president to see his approval rating drop to 35 percent, as it did in Gallup's most recent tracking poll.

But he is the first president on record to go that low without it owing to one of three things: war, Watergate or economic strife.

Gallup noted Monday that most post-World War II presidents had indeed sunk as low as Trump at one point or another. Ronald Reagan and Lyndon B. Johnson bottomed out at 35 percent (where Trump is already), George H.W. Bush at 29 percent, Jimmy Carter at 28 percent, George W. Bush at 25 percent, Richard Nixon at 24 percent and Harry Truman at 22 percent.

So I wondered, what prompted each of these presidents to plummet to their Trumpian lows? The answers show what an entirely different situation Trump is in.

A brief recap of what preceded their drops to 35 and below:

George W. Bush (April 2006)

George H.W. Bush (July 1992)

Ronald Reagan (January 1983)

Jimmy Carter (May 1979)

Richard Nixon (August 1973)

Lyndon B. Johnson (August 1968)


Harry Truman (September 1946)

Trump is the exception to this list in many ways. The economy is relatively strong and getting stronger, there is no big war looming, and while Democrats say his administration is already in the midst of a Watergate-esque scandal, we have yet to see anything close to the smoking guns we saw when Nixon's popularity plummeted in the early 1970s.

For the first time since World War II, we have an embattled president without a battle.

Aaron Blake is senior political reporter for The Fix.

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