Then he said it again and again and again. And again and again. And yet again. His statement in London marks the 14th time he has made some version of this claim, this time in service of the argument that GOP lawmakers would be making a mistake to seek to block his promised tariffs on Mexico.
So maybe some Pinocchios will convince him to stop it, unless he wants to earn yet another Bottomless Pinocchio.
The White House has never explained what poll the president is referring to, and the Trump reelection campaign did not respond to a request for comment on his London statement. When he first made this claim, the Daily Mail had touted the fact that on his 500th day as president, he was more popular than any postwar president among Republicans except for George W. Bush. The Gallup Poll, which offers a nifty interactive on presidential approval numbers, was the source of the statistic.
Trump may have been second, but he was barely close. Bush had a rating of 96 percent, compared to Trump’s 87 percent.
Moreover, Trump claimed he had the all-time record and it was 90 percent. Sometimes in his telling, such as in London, it went even higher, 93 or 94 percent.
In the Gallup poll, however, Trump only reached 90 percent approval among Republicans in February of this year; he has maintained that position through May, when the most recent Gallup poll was released.
But George W. Bush achieved an astonishing 99 percent approval rating among Republicans in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. George H.W. Bush reached a high of 97 percent in 1991 after the successful conclusion of the Persian Gulf War. Ronald Reagan hit a high of 94 percent at the end of 1984, Richard Nixon a high of 91 percent in 1973 and Dwight Eisenhower a high of 95 percent in 1956.
So that’s five presidents with a higher approval rating among Republicans at some point than Trump in the Gallup poll. That puts Trump in sixth place among GOP presidents since World War II. (Only Gerald Ford is lower.) Yet he keeps claiming he has the all-time high.
Interestingly, Trump at one point acknowledged he had not topped George W. Bush’s record. But he tried to dismiss that detail in a Bloomberg News interview in August 2018.
“In fact, I guess the Republican poll came out, there’s one at 92 and one at 93 and one at 90, and they’re the highest numbers that have ever been, with the exception of a tiny period of time with a bullhorn,” Trump said. “But that period lasted for about a week.”
In reality, Bush’s approval rating among Republicans was generally above 96 percent from September 2001 to the end of 2003, or more than two years. It even went back to 96 percent at the end of 2004.
As a reminder, here’s what Trump is talking about when he mentions “a tiny period of time with a bullhorn:”
Of course, Gallup is not the only metric, but Trump fares worse in other polls. The Washington Post-ABC poll goes as far back as Reagan’s presidency. Trump was at 78 percent approval among Republicans in the January poll; his high water mark was 86 percent in November 2018.
By contrast, George W. Bush reached 99 percent approval in October, November and December 2001, and then stayed at or above 90 percent through January 2003 in the Post-ABC poll. George H.W. Bush achieved 98 percent in March 1991 and Reagan hit 94 percent at different points in 1985 and 1986.
Trump’s high point of 86 percent approval is more in line with the average of 85 percent rating for G.W. Bush/G.H.W. Bush/Reagan among Republican adults. His latest rating of 78 percent is below that.
In the most recent CNN poll, conducted at the end of May, Trump was at 86 percent, also below 90 percent.
The Pinocchio Test
No matter how you measure it, Trump has never achieved the “all-time record” for approval from Republicans. In fact, he ranks in sixth place among post-World War II GOP presidents in the Gallup poll. It’s especially damning that Trump continues to make this claim, since he has acknowledged that George W. Bush actually holds the record.
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