Except there’s little evidence that this “unblurring” has damaged Trump in any way, really. And new polling suggests that he is at least unscathed, and has quite possibly emerged from his impeachment stronger.
A new Gallup poll released Tuesday — the day of Trump’s third State of the Union address and the day before his presumptive acquittal in the impeachment trial — shows his approval rating is the highest to date: 49 percent.
One poll is, of course, one poll. And the picture is more mixed when you look at polling averages. The RealClearPolitics average of Trump’s approval ratings has him at 44.9 percent, which is close to his best to-date, while the FiveThirtyEight average has him at 44.1 percent, which is on his high end but not hugely different than it has been throughout his presidency.
Poll averages include lots and lots of polls, including lower-quality ones. So what about the best in the business? How do those compare to earlier in Trump’s presidency?
There, the picture for Trump is also certainly better — albeit not terribly outside the usual range. Three polls in recent weeks have shown him at least tied for his best approval rating to date:
Others show him at the top of his usual range:
Two other polls, though, showed no real difference:
- A Fox News poll from mid-late January had him at 45 percent, which is right around where he has been for months and months.
- A Marist College poll from early-mid January put him at 41 percent, which is right in line with where it has been for the past year-plus. (This poll did have him in the 30s earlier in his presidency, for what it’s worth.)
The combined picture from these seven polls and the new Gallup poll is that Trump’s image ratings appear to have ticked up, and he has almost certainly not lost anything due to impeachment.
And if you dig a little deeper into these polls, there is something else encouraging for him — and potentially worrisome for Democrats.
That comes when you look at not just who approves or disapproves of Trump, but who does so “strongly.” The Post-ABC poll put the number of Americans who strongly approve of Trump at 35 percent and the number who strongly disapprove at 42 percent. That seven-point gap is the narrowest of Trump’s presidency. The smallest previous gap was 13 points, and for much of Trump’s presidency, it has been as much as 20 points or more.
The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed a similar narrowing of the most passionate opinions. It had 36 percent strongly approving and 44 percent strongly disapproving — again, the smallest gap of his presidency.
Even the Marist poll, which showed Trump’s approval rating being somewhat unremarkable, had his strong approval at 30 percent, which was higher than in any poll before his impeachment began. It had previously bottomed out at 18 percent in September 2017.
Trump is still a president with an approval rating in the 40s, and that’s not ideal for a reelection campaign. But he’s also a president who won in 2016 despite only about 4 in 10 people liking him. It’s looking like he’s now objectively in better shape than he was on Election Day 2016. And impeachment appears to have galvanized his base, at least somewhat.
How much that owes to impeachment is difficult to say; there are many variables at work here. It’s also possible that whatever slight impact impeachment might have will subside by Election Day 2020, which is still nine months away. But since the start of the impeachment process in September, there’s no evidence that it has fundamentally hurt his chances.
Democrats such as Pelosi might take solace in the idea that they’ve affixed something of a scarlet letter to Trump — and perhaps further revelations in the Ukraine scandal could actually damage Trump, such as John Bolton’s book. But the idea that Americans suddenly see Trump for what he is and will judge him negatively for it is fanciful. The evidence suggests otherwise.