On Thursday morning, Gallup released new data asking Americans how they felt about Trump’s performance in office. About 40 percent of adults approve of the job Trump is doing, down from 43 percent in the first half of September.
But that 40 percent figure is only about 1.5 points lower than Trump’s average over the course of 2019 and right in line with his average over the course of his presidency.
The lowest Trump’s approval has been is 34 percent, and the highest is 46 percent — a 13-point range. Broken out by party, the same effect is visible: His approval ratings among Democrats, independents and Republicans have all moved only within a narrow range. With each group, his most recent approval is somewhere in the middle of that range.
This graph makes another aspect of Trump’s approval clear: Were it not for his robust support from Republicans, his not-great 40 percent approval would be quite a bit lower, given that independents tend to be more skeptical of Trump than Americans overall.
Of course, were it not for the robust opposition of Democrats, his approval would be higher. Part of the reason that his approval with Democrats is so low (and his approval with independents not great) is that Americans also don’t particularly like Trump personally.
In the late 1990s, as then-President Bill Clinton faced an impeachment push stemming in part from his lying under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, Americans generally viewed Clinton negatively from a personal standpoint. About a third of the country told Gallup they approved of Clinton as a person — but approvals of his performance as president were at least 20 points higher.
Early in President George W. Bush’s first term, by contrast, he was viewed more positively on a personal level than professionally. These numbers from Gallup mirror data from NBC and the Wall Street Journal that we looked at last month: Even when people didn’t think Bush was doing a good job, they generally liked him personally. In 2003, his job approval was 50 percent and his personal approval 18 points higher.
Trump stands out here, unpopular both professionally and personally. Among groups broken out by Gallup, only with Republicans did a majority view Trump with approval on a personal level. Overall, Trump’s personal approval mirrors Clinton’s in the 1999-2000 period, but his job approval is 20 points lower.
We’ve been taking a keen eye to Trump’s approval rating of late, given the looming impeachment fight he faces. While the driver of that fight — his call with Ukraine’s president — emerged in the middle of Gallup’s polling period, he doesn’t seem to have taken much of a hit yet.
Looking at it another way, though, we could say that Trump hasn’t taken an additional hit. He is already as unpopular personally as Clinton was during his impeachment but without the upside. Impeachment aside, it’s a daunting combination with 2020 approaching.