The big picture of Donald Trump’s presidency hasn’t changed much since his inauguration: A lot of Americans hate him, a smaller number love him, and much of the movement in his approval numbers has been within polling margins of error. It’s a partisan moment, which helped Trump win the presidency (thanks to skeptical Republicans supporting the party) but has generally led to stagnant poll numbers.
A new Fox News poll yields an approval chart that will look familiar. The overall approval number for Trump is at 45 percent, according to Fox, about where it has been since January. About a quarter of Americans strongly approve of the job Trump is doing; about 4 in 10 strongly disapprove.
The splits by party are what they’ve always been: Democratic hate, Republican love, and independents generally reflecting the overall picture.
After that question, though, Fox did something interesting: They asked people to say why they approved or disapproved of Trump.
We took those responses and applied them to the percentage of people holding an approving or disapproving view of Trump. So, for example, 45 percent of respondents approve of Trump, and 24 percent of them do so because of the economy and jobs. That means that about 11 percent of all respondents approve of Trump for that reason.
Here are the responses to Fox’s two questions, sorted by the size of the group of people holding the view. (The full responses are truncated for space.)
One thing jumps out at me here. The main reason people like Trump is because of the economy, as noted above. The two main reasons they dislike the job he’s doing deal with how he is as a leader, questioning his capability and his temperament. More than a fifth of respondents dislike Trump for one of those two reasons.
Many of those who cited the economy would probably approve of Trump even if the economy faltered, it’s safe to assume. (Again, partisanship is a strong factor in this: There weren’t enough Democrats to break out why they approved of Trump and not enough Republicans to break out disapproval.) But a stumbling economy would presumably lead to some erosion of that number. Job growth and economic strength are objective in a way that “not capable” and “bad temperament” are not.
Put another way: If job growth stalls, one would assume that would affect his approval numbers among those who cite the economy as their reason for liking him. But what’s Trump going to do to win over those who dislike him because he’s “not capable”? How does that subjective assessment get turned around?
There are objective measures among those who disapprove of Trump. The most prominent is his treatment of immigration. About 2 percent of respondents disapprove of him because of his handling of immigration. (The margin of error on that number is huge, of course: a small part of a small number. But it’s what we’ve got to work with.) Interestingly, enough people cited Trump’s policy on family separations to warrant inclusion in Fox’s delineation of the poll results. Change his immigration policies, and maybe some of those people view his presidency more positively. But most of those who dislike him do so for much less tangible reasons.
An interesting footnote to Trump’s approval is that Democrats gain support from those looking to keep Trump and the Republican congressional majorities in check. We noted a poll on Thursday that showed a quarter of Republicans were considering candidates who would serve as a check on Trump, a framing of the question that could include skeptical Republicans. Fox asked whether people might specifically vote for a Democrat to provide that check — and a fifth of Republicans said it was at least somewhat possible that they would.
That’s the broader theme of Fox’s poll: The generic ballot shifted back to the Democrats a bit, and Democrats are more enthusiastic about the midterm elections.
And that’s with the economy as strong as it is.