Donald Trump will be sworn in under far different conditions. Despite losing the popular vote, he won more votes in the electoral college after narrow victories in the Rust Belt and upper Midwest. He spent the period between Election Day and the inauguration celebrating his victory and, often, lashing out at his opponents. In a slew of recent polls, Trump's favorability ratings are lower -- often far lower -- than any recent president-elect.
It's a feature of the American process, not a bug, that we can swap a popular president for an unpopular one. And while Trump's starting in a particularly weak position, the trajectory of Obama's eight years in office offers a reminder that Trump's current position is not static. Obama's popularity faded -- and then, over the course of the 2016 campaign, came back strong.
The unpopular new president
The extent to which Trump is unpopular is fairly remarkable.
Five polls conducted over the past ten days give Trump an average favorability rating of about 38 percent. On average, almost half the country views him unfavorably.
Three of those pollsters, including The Post and our partners at ABC News, can compare those figures to past presidents. In Post polling, each of the last four presidents-elect have had much higher favorability ratings -- about 75 percent on average. That includes George W. Bush who, like Trump, lost the popular vote in a contentious race.
In part, that's because people view Trump's transition period negatively. Four of those five polls included a question about how people viewed Trump's preparations for assuming the office and, on average, only 40 percent of people approve of how it's gone.
CBS News polling indicates that this is the first time on record (going back to Bill Clinton) that a president-elect's transition has been viewed more negatively than positively.
Trump's favorability numbers, though, are actually a bit higher than they were when he started his run for the presidency. They dipped a bit in the heat of the Republican primaries but ticked upward after his general election win.
In only four polls, two of them from the Republican-leaning pollster Rasmussen Reports, has Trump topped 50 percent approval. But all four of those polls have been in the last month or so.
The popular old president
We can compare that broadly to the trajectory that Obama has experienced. Here are weekly approval ratings from Gallup since he was inaugurated.
The pattern, across most demographic groups, is as follows: High initial approval that faded rapidly. An uptick around the time of Obama's reelection, and then another sag. At about the time the 2016 race began to heat up, a steady upward trend. After years of mostly partisan bifurcation on perceptions of Obama's tenure, this latter uptick was somewhat unexpected.
Among all voters, Obama's approval ranged from 67 percent (at his inauguration) to 40 percent (in 2013). Among black Americans and Democrats it was consistently higher; among Republicans and conservatives, much lower. Within nearly every demographic group, Obama ends his second term near the upper end of the range of opinions that group has held since Jan. 20, 2009.
Note two demographic groups on that tool above, independents and Hispanics. Only 41 percent of independents viewed Obama positively at the time Trump jumped into the race; by Election Day he'd hit 60 percent. Among Hispanics, Obama was consistently above 50 percent, but he saw a huge spike in late 2014. That was the point at which he announced new executive actions to expand protections for the families of immigrants here illegally.
The variance -- and the fact that particular groups might respond so positively to policy initiatives -- is the good news for Trump. His current position isn't static; he has the opportunity to change how the country feels about him.
Part of Obama's recent uptick, of course, is precisely because of the campaign to replace him. After seven years in office, it was another Democrat, Hillary Clinton, who was absorbing all of the fire from the opposition party. (George W. Bush, who left office with much lower approval ratings than Obama, saw a similar uptick during and after the 2008 election.) If nothing else, Trump may be able to eventually rely on lame duck status to boost how America views his presidency.