(Nationscape samples are provided by Lucid, which runs an online exchange for survey respondents, and match a set of demographic quotas. The survey data are then weighted to be representative of the American population.)
Trump’s approval bump is quite small relative to the bump other leaders have received. And in this latest Nationscape survey, the 46 percent of Americans who approve of Trump lags the 58 percent who approve of his handling of the coronavirus outbreak — suggesting that some Americans do not think Trump’s handling of the pandemic justifies a positive assessment of his overall performance as president.
But perhaps more notable is exactly who is becoming more favorably disposed toward Trump. In the Nationscape surveys, it is both Democrats and the small fraction of registered voters (11 percent) who say they are independent and do not lean toward a party. Of course, most Democrats disapprove of Trump but his current net approval rating is better than it was in December before the coronavirus first emerged.
This helps make sense of a puzzle: Why has Trump’s approval bump not helped him in his probable November matchup again former vice president Joe Biden? The Nationscape shows no clear movement toward Trump in the past few weeks.
This graph makes it clear that Democrats remain firmly in Biden’s camp, even as a few more of them say that they approve of Trump. And while independents have gravitated somewhat toward Trump relative to Biden, there are simply not very many of them in the electorate as a whole. This explains why Biden’s national lead over Trump has been so stable.
In other words, Trump’s approval bump may be concentrated among voters who are unlikely to support him in November.
But the bigger point at the moment isn’t the exact number so much as the trend — or lack thereof. Right now, Trump’s small approval bump has not helped him narrow Biden’s lead.
Robert Griffin is a political scientist and research director of the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group.