If you’ve been poking around on particular parts of the Internet, you may have seen tweets like this.
That tweet, from Political Wire’s Taegan Goddard, shows a graph of the daily approval ratings tabulated by Gallup. Over the past two weeks, President Trump’s approval rating has dropped slightly — but his disapproval rating has risen significantly. The implication is clear: Trump’s behavior as president has driven away even more people from his base of support.
There’s just one problem with that argument, especially when it’s coming from the left: Barack Obama’s first few weeks as president were even worse.
If we compare the first stretch of Trump’s presidency with that of Obama’s (thank you, Internet Archive), you can see that the net change in each rating from Jan. 23 on is about the same for each. (Net change meaning we’re taking the value on Jan. 23 and subtracting it from subsequent days.) Trump’s approval rating dipped by about the same number of percentage points as Obama’s; his disapproval ratings increased by about the same amount.
The problem for Trump, as we’ve pointed out, is not that his ratings slipped further — it’s that they were so low in the first place.
That’s clear when we plot how Trump is doing vs. how Obama did. Obama was viewed positively, on net. Trump is viewed negatively — and came into office with lower approval ratings than anyone on record in Gallup polling.
Why is Trump viewed so much worse? Largely because Democrats view him far more negatively now than Republicans viewed Obama at this point in 2009. Obama’s numbers from Republicans slid steadily over his first year in office, though, and eventually settled in near 10 percent for the next seven years.
What that difference in initial popularity means is that as a percentage of the total, Obama’s disapproval rating rose much faster than Trump’s. After all, Trump went from 45 percent to 52 percent. Obama went from 12 percent to 22 percent — nearly double.
If we look at the net job approval — the percent viewing the president positively minus those viewing him negatively — Trump had a nine-point dip. Obama, over the same period, had his net approval drop by 14 points.
One moral here is the same one we should always take away from polling: Day-to-day fluctuations can be misleading. But another is also important. History can be informative, if you choose to look.