Last week was a turbulent one for American politics, as weeks have been for each of the past 158. But last week was particularly turbulent, given the broad blowback against President Trump’s policy of separating families at the border and his eventual partial reversal of it. It’s the sort of week that one might expect would result in a sharp drop in a president’s approval numbers.
And lo, on Monday, new data from Gallup appear to show exactly that. During the week from June 11 to June 17, Trump’s approval was at 45 percent — tied for the highest of his presidency — and only 50 percent disapproved of the job he was doing. The following week, though? Approval down four points and disapproval up five, a swing of nine points.
Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones says the shift is a function of lower approvals from every partisan group: Republicans down three points, independents down four points and Democrats down five.
But if we widen the lens just a bit, we see a slightly different picture. Sure, there was a nine-point shift relative to the prior week, but relative to two weeks prior, the shift was only two points on net. Trump’s latest approval ratings from Gallup are basically the same as they were two weeks ago.
Since about the end of April, multiple metrics suggest relative stability in Trump’s approval rating. Gallup’s had him at 42 points approval on average, with only two weeks more than a point away from that number. The RealClearPolitics polling average (which includes Gallup’s polls) has him averaging about 43.5 points over that period. He’s at 43.7 percent approval in RealClearPolitics’ most recent average.
Looking at that Gallup chart, the outlier seems to be not the most recent week but the week prior, that of June 11 to June 17. Gallup’s Jones mentioned one possible factor in a brief bump in Trump’s numbers: the meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“While the more positive feelings toward Trump coming out of the event would probably have faded in time, that process was likely hastened by the controversy over the administration’s immigration policy,” Jones writes.
Could be. But it’s worth noting that the full range of approval ratings Trump has seen in Gallup polling only goes from 33 to 46 points, with the median at 38. (The long-term average, Gallup indicates, is 39 percent.) In the RealClearPolitics average, the range has been smaller, from 37 to 46 percent, with a median of 40.4 percent.
In other words, after two remarkable weeks in a row, Trump lands above the midway mark within the narrow box that constrains his approval ratings. That box is narrow, as we’ve reported previously, because opinions of Trump are so strong: Most Americans really like or really dislike him, and it’s the small percentage without a strong opinion that spurs small vacillations in his approval.
Did the immigration fight hurt Trump? There’s certainly no evidence that it helped. But the big swing in Gallup seems more like a reversion to the norm than a sea change.