The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump’s approval with Republicans is nowhere near where he says it is

An audience listens as President Trump addresses the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention Monday in Chicago. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

With a House vote formalizing an impeachment inquiry into his presidency looming, President Trump on Wednesday morning retweeted himself.

It was the ninth time he had tweeted about his approval rating among Republicans since the emergence of questions about his administration’s efforts to cajole Ukraine into announcing politically useful investigations. Before the past five weeks, he had only tweeted about his approval rating among Republicans 11 times.

With the exception of retweeting the chair of the Republican Party calling his approval “over 90%” with members of the party, Trump’s presentation of his approval has been consistent. In six tweets in February and March, he said his approval was 93 percent with Republicans. (On March 5, he inexplicably announced that his approval had “just hit” that mark.) In six tweets from July through Sept. 23 — the day before the inquiry was announced — Trump had it at 94 percent. Over the course of October, it was up again, holding steady at 95 percent.

While Trump will often tout the results of polls, he usually includes credit. His frequent “working hard, thank you” tweets celebrating his (again) hitting 50 percent approval in polls from friendly pollsters include the name of the polling firm being cited. Even when he’s calling out polls he doesn’t like, he generally identifies the pollster — including when it’s Fox News.

So why isn’t he citing the source on these polls? Perhaps they’re internal, like the polls his 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale referenced obliquely back in January. Parscale claimed Trump was at “his highest national approval rating since I started tracking,” despite public polls all showing Trump flailing during the government shutdown.

Maybe he’s citing something that isn’t really a poll, like one of those useless online surveys he likes. When Trump was talking about being at 93 percent approval earlier this year, we determined that the 93 percent number had come from a poll done at a conservative political conference, rendering it about as scientific as astrology.

The safest bet, of course, is that Trump is just making this up. The reason for doing so is obvious: Trump desperately needs GOP legislators to think Republican voters overwhelmingly approve of his presidency so those legislators are hesitant to support Trump’s impeachment. Trump’s intent is hilariously transparent, really, given that he’s really hammering on this “95 percent” approval only now that impeachment is very much a reality.

But it’s also likely that he’s making it up because actual polls from actual pollsters don’t have his approval anywhere near 95 percent. In fact, a new poll from The Washington Post and our partners at ABC News has Trump’s approval among Republicans at a low for his presidency: 74 percent.

Overall, Trump’s approval hasn’t changed all that much on our polling since he’s been president. He has never been above 42 percent approval and never under 36 percent. Right now, he’s at 38 percent approval, on the lower side of things.

Our polling also shows that 78 percent of respondents hold strong views of Trump’s presidency, most of them disapproving. That’s the highest percentage of people with strong views that we’ve found. Both strong approval and strong disapproval are near highs in our polling.

That strong disapproval is driven by Democrats. About 4 in 5 Democrats strongly disapprove of Trump’s performance as president. Only 8 percent approve of how he’s doing.

Independents are similarly more likely to strongly disapprove of Trump than to approve of him. Nearly half of independents strongly disapprove of the job he’s doing as president, significantly more than the percentage that approves of Trump at all.

But, again, we’re here to talk about Republicans. As noted above, Trump’s approval is 74 percent among Republicans, including nearly two-thirds who strongly approve of him.

Those are good numbers, but they ain’t 95 percent.

What’s more, the percentage who strongly approve of Trump has faded since July. At that point, nearly three-quarters of Republicans strongly approved, and his overall approval within his party was nearly 90 percent.

What those legislators on Capitol Hill might want to focus on, though, are the disapproval numbers among Republicans. Trump’s overall disapproval within his own party is now 23 percent, including 15 percent who strongly disapprove of his performance.

Each of those figures is a high for Trump’s presidency.

There’s a reason we tend not to focus on the results of one poll as definitive. There are all sorts of ways in which uncertainty enters into estimates of approval ratings, and averages of multiple polls tend to give a better sense of where things stand.

That said, this is a poll that offers much gloomier news for Trump than he presents. Republicans will have to decide which number better captures the mood of the party’s base: the new Post-ABC poll conducted among hundreds of Republicans nationally — or the poll number that Trump probably made up?

It’s a tough call.