President Trump speaks at the Loren Cook Co. on Aug. 30 in Springfield, Mo. (Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

The good news for President Trump: His approval rating is stabilizing, according to Gallup. The bad news: It's stabilizing at 34 to 35 percent, which is an all-time low for Trump and unusually bad for a president this early in his tenure.

What's even more unusual is that Trump continues to struggle despite a strong economy, including an unemployment rate that has sunk to its lowest level in 16 years: 4.3 percent. Political-science types will remind you that views about a president are often strongly tied to views about the economy. “It's the economy, stupid” and all that.

Trump seems to be a notable exception. A new Fox News poll shows that his ratings on the economy are slightly positive, but he does worse on every other issue. For Trump, it seems to be everything but the economy, stupid.


(Fox News)

But how big an aberration is Trump's unpopularity, given the strong and improving economy? I looked back on every period since 1948 in which the unemployment rate dipped to 4.3 percent — where it is today — or below, and compared it with Gallup's presidential approval ratings during those periods. (Both Gallup data and Bureau of Labor Statistics data stop at 1948, as it happens.)

The result? Only one president with an unemployment rate as low as what it is under Trump was more unpopular: Harry S. Truman in the early 1950s. And the average approval rating for a president with an unemployment rate 4.3 percent or lower over the entire span was more than 55 percent. So Trump's approval rating is 20 percentage points lower than the average for a president with his unemployment rate.


Seven of the past 13 presidents have enjoyed periods with unemployment this low: Trump, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Truman. Only Truman and Johnson ever sank below 50 percent approval during these periods. Johnson, who dropped as low as 35 percent, almost undoubtedly had the Vietnam War to thank for that. The causes of Truman's unpopularity are more complex, including the Cold War and the war on the Korean Peninsula.

Trump hasn't had a similar major crisis or war hanging over his head, of course — or at least, he didn't until Hurricane Harvey came along. It kind of makes you wonder: How popular might Trump be if he could kick his addiction to controversy?

For comparison's sake, below are how each of those previous six presidents were viewed during their periods of 4.3 percent or lower unemployment. For each period, I picked out the lowest approval rating recorded by Gallup.

George W. Bush, January 2001-March 2001

Highest approval: 63 percent

Lowest approval: 53 percent


Bill Clinton, January 1999-January 2001

High: 66 percent

Low: 53 percent


Clinton, March 1998: 63-66 percent

High: 66 percent

Low: 63 percent


Richard Nixon, January 1969-February 1970

High: 67 percent


Low: 56 percent

Lyndon B. Johnson, September 1965-January 1969

High: 66 percent

Low: 35 percent


Dwight D. Eisenhower, May 1955-August 1957

High: 79 percent

Low: 59 percent


Eisenhower, January 1953-November 1953

High: 74 percent

Low: 59 percent


Harry S. Truman, October 1950-January 1953

High: 43 percent

Low: 22 percent


Truman, January 1948-December 1948

High: 69 percent

Low: 36 percent