Trump said Cuomo’s response was bolstered by the federal effort to tackle the virus and insisted he beat Biden in recent polling. (That’s not true of a new Post-ABC News poll, which has Biden and Trump essentially tied. It’s also not true of a recent Fox News poll, which had Biden up by nine points. The Fox News hosts did not point this out to the president.)
He offered viewers another reminder, too.
“You say he’s gotten good marks,” Trump said of Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic. “Well, I’ve gotten great marks.”
Trump has embraced this idea that America is embracing his presidency as a result of the government’s handling of the pandemic. Over the weekend and at a briefing Sunday, Trump touted those briefings’ high television ratings. Last week, he celebrated a 60 percent approval rating on his handling of the pandemic, as recorded by Gallup. Gallup polling also has Trump matching his all-time high overall approval rating.
An average of approval ratings compiled by RealClearPolitics shows something similar. Trump is at 47.3 percent approval in an average of recent polls, the highest mark he has received. You can see the recent spike in that number.
Of course, 47 percent approval is good for Trump — but not that great for a president. The rating still shows Trump’s disapproval is higher than his approval.
Trump’s approval in Gallup’s polling is in fact at its high, but it hasn’t actually gone up very much. In RealClearPolitics’s average, he’s up less than three points since the beginning of the year. In Gallup’s, he’s up about five since early January.
It’s useful to compare Trump’s point increases with other surges seen by politicians dealing with crises — including Cuomo.
A Siena College poll released Monday shows Cuomo’s approval in New York jumped by more than 20 points. More than 7 in 10 of his constituents approve of the job he’s doing as governor. In mid-January, Cuomo’s overall approval rating was near Trump’s.
We also can compare Trump’s increase to the one seen by President George W. Bush in 2001. Between early August and late September, Bush saw a spike of more than 30 points overall, a response to his handling of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Obviously, there’s a difference between 9/11 and the pandemic and, obviously, there’s a difference between Cuomo’s approval in a blue state and Trump’s approval in a country in which he lost the popular vote four years ago. But what’s noteworthy in the graphs is how members of the opposing party shifted their views.
After 9/11, Democrats’ approval of Bush surged by 53 points. In the past two months, Republicans’ approval of Cuomo has gone up 24 points. And since January, Gallup has recorded Trump’s approval among Democrats going up … three points. Or, as a pollster might say, not significantly at all.
What’s driving the shifts in approval for Trump and Cuomo is the pandemic. Nationally, Gallup has Trump at 60 percent approval while in New York, Siena College recorded a remarkable 87 percent approval for Cuomo.
Why? Members of both Trump’s and Cuomo’s parties view their performances on the pandemic overwhelmingly positively. But independents in New York see Cuomo performing much better than independents nationally see Trump. And 7 in 10 members of the political opposition in New York — Republicans — say they approve of Cuomo, while only a quarter of Democrats nationally approve of Trump.
These are two different polls, measuring two different groups of people, but that partisan split is the central divide. Democrats have long viewed Trump with skepticism, if not hostility, and Trump, for his part, has done little to win Democrats over. His politics have from the outset been predicated on maximizing the support of his base instead of broadening his coalition, and Democrats have noticed.
What’s more, Trump’s response to the crisis has differed from that of Cuomo, and from how Bush responded to 9/11. Bush’s response was sweeping and, given what happened, fairly simple. Cuomo’s has been moderated and consistent. Trump’s, it’s fair to say, has been erratic and political.
It’s possible Trump’s approval rating will continue to increase as the pandemic continues. It’s also possible it will slip down to his mid-40s normal. (Bush’s sky-high approval after 9/11 faded quickly; by early 2002, he was back below 60 percent approval.)
For any other president, the shift in approval Trump has seen in recent weeks would have been a blip, the sort of movement you might see from a slightly-better-than-normal jobs report. Trump’s approval rating has been so static, however, that the recent shift is, in fact, unusual. But compared with others, it’s also remarkably modest. The reason has a lot to do with how Trump approached his presidency up until the pandemic emerged.