And lo, using data compiled by HuffPost Pollster, we see that Trump’s approval rating has indeed risen to where Obama’s was at the end of 2009. (See that little box at the far right.)
You will note, though, that this data includes only polls from Rasmussen Reports. That’s … important.
Why? Because Rasmussen Reports includes only likely voters in its polling, a group that tends to skew more heavily Republican, since Republicans tend to vote more regularly. Rasmussen’s results, therefore, are generally more friendly to Republican candidates — and Republican presidents.
Another metric to use when considering a poll number over time is an average of polls on that subject. When we say “another metric,” you should go ahead and read that as “a better metric,” since poll averages smooth out outlier polls that show unusually high support or opposition to a candidate. If we look at the RealClearPolitics average of Trump approval polls vs. Obama’s, we see a different picture. Trump is about 10 points behind where Obama was at this point in his first year.
What’s with the discrepancy? Again, Rasmussen’s results tend to favor Republicans — meaning that its polls have consistently shown better-than-average numbers for Trump and consistently showed worse-than-average numbers for Obama. We mean that literally; nearly every Rasmussen poll was lower than Obama’s average and higher than Trump’s.
So why is Trump celebrating these poll numbers? Honestly, it’s not clear. On Thursday evening, for example, Trump tweeted out the Rasmussen poll number (apparently before Fox News informed him it was similar to Obama’s).
Forty-six percent of likely voters approve of Trump’s performance as president — but 53 percent disapprove. More than half of likely voters don’t think Trump’s doing a good job, and that’s a group that tends to view him more favorably than the country on the whole.
Trump’s embrace of a not-that-good poll number isn’t a new development. It’s the eighth time he’s tweeted out an approval poll, and in none of those eight tweets was he above 50 percent approval. In the past month-and-a-half, he’s tweeted out three polls, two at 46 percent and one at 45 percent. Those polls did mostly share one trait in common, though: They were much higher than the RCP poll average.
Anyway, there’s a bit of additional context worth considering when looking at Trump’s tweet. In the poll that consistently gave Trump his best numbers and Obama his worst, Trump and Obama are now tied.
But you won’t hear the fake news tell you that.