The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump picks a delicious cherry about the economy from an otherwise not-terrific poll

President Trump gives a thumbs up as he walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on Dec. 4. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

On Wednesday, Quinnipiac University released a new poll chock-full of bleak numbers for President Trump.

Only 36 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president. The two words most commonly offered to describe Trump’s first year were “disaster” and “chaotic.” More people said Trump’s first year in office was worse than expected than said that it was better. A majority of the country is pessimistic about the next few years of a Trump presidency. Majorities of the country think Trump is dishonest, a poor leader, doesn’t care about average Americans, is not levelheaded, doesn’t share their values and is not fit to serve as president. Two-thirds of the country think the economy is doing well.

So when Trump tweeted about the poll on Wednesday morning, guess which of those data points he isolated?

I mean, sure, the guy isn’t going to tweet “In new Quinnipiac poll, 66% of people think that I have damaged the United States’ reputation around the world” (another finding of the survey), especially since he was probably just parroting what he’d seen on “Fox and Friends.” But it’s still pretty brazen to pick out one of the few good numbers in a pretty abysmal poll and treat it as sacrosanct while ignoring everything else.

And while ignoring the context of that number.

Again, that is what the poll says. Two-thirds of the country thinks the nation’s economy is “good” or “excellent” and that is indeed high.

It has been driven upward not by people saying that the economy is “good” more frequently; 48 percent said that in this poll versus 51 percent saying it last March. Instead, it’s mostly that surge in people saying it’s excellent.

And who are those people? Mostly Republicans.

We saw a similar effect shortly after the election, when Gallup recorded a sudden upward shift in economic confidence. The reason? Republicans immediately flipped their position on the state of the economy after Nov. 8, 2016. The effect in Quinnipiac’s question about the state of the economy has been slower, but it’s still pretty partisan, with more than a third of Republicans declaring the economy to be excellent — and only 5 percent of Democrats agreeing.

Trump’s economic report card

Asked if Trump’s policies are helping or hurting the economy, a plurality of Americans said they’re helping. This, again, was driven by Republican enthusiasm, with more than 4 in 5 Republicans saying Trump was helping. And while 37 percent of the population overall agreed, 59 percent indicated that they thought Trump wasn’t having much effect — or was hurting it.

This gets to the heart of Trump’s tweet, the implication that the economy is doing great and he deserves the credit. The problem is, Quinnipiac asked about that, too. Who deserves the credit for the booming economy? Nearly half of Americans say it’s Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

That’s even the case for almost a quarter of Republicans, as well as half of independents and two-thirds of Democrats. The economy is doing well, which 66 percent of Americans agree — but Americans also think Obama deserves more of the credit.

We don’t really expect Trump to tweet that qualification, either.