The last two times that The Washington Post and our polling partners at ABC News asked Americans for their views of President Trump, he had not yet suffered two of his most bruising defeats.
In both October and early November, Trump’s approval was near 40 percent and the percentage of Americans who viewed him with disapproval was near the lowest we’ve seen in our polling. He was still underwater on his approval as they say, meaning that the percentage of Americans who viewed him with disapproval, 53 percent in November, was larger than the percentage that viewed him with approval — 40 percent shortly before the midterm elections.
Those midterm elections were an almost complete disaster for Trump and his party, with the president clinging to red-state Senate gains like Rose Calvert clinging to a door in the North Atlantic. A month later, another problem: A government shutdown embraced by Trump until it became obvious that Americans both blamed him for its negative effects and viewed him more negatively for making it happen.
The result? A new Post-ABC poll released on Friday showing that Trump’s disapproval had spiked to 58 percent — near the high in our polling — and that his approval had dropped to 37 percent. He was 13 points underwater in November; now, he’s 21 points underwater.
This isn’t good news for the president, of course, but what should be particularly concerning to him is where those changes occurred.
Among Democrats, there was actually some slight improvement, as the percentage who disapprove of Trump fell slightly and the percent who approve climbing into the double digits. But elsewhere? A bloodbath.
Trump wants to see the red lines on this chart (approval) go up and the black lines (disapproval) go down. For the most part, they don’t.
The movement here is remarkable. In November, Trump was seven points underwater with independents. Since then, the gulf between his disapproval and approval has widened an additional 22 points. Among Republicans, who generally like Trump, there was a similar change. He was 82 points above water in November and is now only 62 points above water, with his approval among Republicans dropping below 80 percent. That’s a swing of minus-20 points. (By contrast, the swing toward Trump among Democrats was only plus-14 points.)
Those are the relatively minor shifts against Trump. Notice the graph for independent women. In November, Trump was six points underwater with that group. Since, he’s dropped to minus-51, with 6 in 10 independent women now saying they view him with strong disapproval. The margin of error with this group is larger than the overall population, of course, but that’s a significant change. Among Republican women, Trump’s net approval dropped 26 points.
Or look at white women without college degrees, a group that was central to Trump’s 2016 victory. In November, he was above water with the group by 12 points. Now, more members of that group say they view him with strong disapproval than view him with approval at all.
Another warning sign: rural voters. Trump loves sharing maps of the 2016 election results that show wide swaths of rural America colored dark red. In our most recent poll, though, rural voters went from viewing Trump’s job performance favorably by 38 points on net to a net plus-eight — a 30-point drop.
These numbers, particularly among smaller subgroups, are subject to some volatility. Our poll was conducted at the tail end of the shutdown fight; the odds are good that if we were to take a poll a week or two after the government reopened, Trump’s approval would bounce back up to some degree.
For a president looking at a looming reelection contest and whose victory was dependent on tiny margins of votes in three states, though, these kinds of swings have to be alarming.
Or, anyway, they should be.