President Trump hasn’t had much of a presidential honeymoon, with his approval ratings dipping from a historically low 45 percent starting point to 41 percent in the latest week of Gallup data.
But what’s driving these low ratings? Is it just strongly Democratic groups that opposed Trump throughout the campaign that continue to be displeased? Or is Trump struggling among a broader swath of the public, including groups that fueled his election and supported previous Republican presidents?
To answer that question, Gallup broke out its large sample of job-approval surveys over the past week ending Sunday — more than 3,500 interviews -- into a wide cross section of demographic and political groups. To put those results in historical context, we ran the same breakdowns in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted around this point in 2001 as George W. Bush was about three weeks into his first term (raw data courtesy of the Roper Center).
The polls show that both are true: Democrats and liberals have rejected the current Republican president far earlier than they did Bush, and a slew of groups that largely approved of Bush during his first weeks are highly critical of Trump today.
In the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll ending on the 22nd day of Bush’s presidency, he garnered a 57 percent job-approval rating. That is 16 percentage points higher than where Trump stood over the past week (41 percent), and is 23 points below the approval rating President Barack Obama had at the same point (64 percent). Trump’s current standing is actually close to the lowest points in Obama’s presidency: 38 percent in the fall of 2014, as well as during the summer and fall of 2011.
The least surprising of these results is that there is less bipartisan goodwill than early in the Bush administration, following the historic increase in partisan division. Among Democrats, Bush had a 31 percent approval rating, but Trump’s is 20 points lower today (11 percent). Those two numbers are identical among liberals, who were far more approving of Bush than Trump shortly after each entered office.
But look beyond Trump’s partisan and ideological opponents, and his ratings also fall far short of the last Republican president. Among independents, Bush held a 57 percent approval rating at this point in 2001 compared with 35 percent for Trump. It took Bush until his second term in office -- Feb. 9, 2005, to be exact -- for him to dip to Trump’s current support among independents.
Trump’s approval rating is lower than Bush’s by double digits among people at varying levels of education, but the gap is especially stark among those with college degrees. Fewer than 4 in 10 college graduates (35 percent) approve of Trump’s performance at this point, compared with 6 in 10 who approved of Bush at this time in 2001.
Diving deeper into the education divide, white college graduates are far less approving of Trump than they were of Bush. Almost two-thirds of white college graduates gave Bush positive marks three weeks into his presidency (66 percent), compared with just about 4 in 10 who approve of Trump today (39 percent). Trump’s lower approval is most stark among white women who graduated from college, who are 34 points less likely to approve of Trump today than Bush in 2001 (33 percent vs. 67 percent).
One other group with which Trump lags far behind Bush in his first weeks in the White House is younger Americans. In 2001, a 55 percent majority of 18- to 29-year-olds and 58 percent of those in their 30s and 40s approved of Bush three weeks into his presidency, but the latest Gallup data find Trump’s job ratings are at least 20 points lower among each group. Just 30 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds and 37 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds approve of his performance.
Trump’s standing is not weaker than Bush’s -- but also not stronger -- among some of the core demographics that fueled his primary and general-election campaign. Trump has a 68 percent approval rating among white men without college degrees, for instance, similar to Bush’s 66-percent mark with this group in early 2001.
Trump also fares about as well as Bush among Republicans, non-college-educated whites and Midwesterners, all of whom were critical to his victory in 2016. Those numbers may provide some modest assurance to Trump that he is maintaining support among his strongest constituencies, although the Gallup data suggest his first weeks in office have not impressed a broad array of groups that were open to supporting the last Republican in the White House.
Scott Clement contributed to this report.