This was one of the reasons he lost his reelection bid, of course: While a lot of Republicans really liked him, a lot more independents and Democrats really didn’t. President-elect Joe Biden didn’t have to draw massive crowds, even if there weren’t a viral pandemic. The hard work of motivating Democratic voters was being done by Trump.
Though he has been broadly unpopular, it is also the case that his approval ratings haven’t moved much. There have been a countless array of incidents in which a president in another era might see his approval ratings crater, but Trump, as the unique container of the hopes and dreams of the Republican right, managed to weather them all.
That general rule of thumb might meet its match in “fomented insurrection.” Since last Wednesday, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol in a vain and deluded attempt to forestall congressional confirmation of Biden’s election win, two national polls have shown a drop in Trump’s overall approval rating.
We can step aside for a second and note the sheer bizarreness of evaluating approval ratings in the aftermath of a president actively encouraging his supporters to cause trouble for the legislative branch. Should someone in 2010 have put forward the events since Election Day in the abstract, it would have seemed positively odd to wonder whether the president’s approval rating would suffer. But we have long been denizens of Bizarroworld, so these are the things that we ponder.
A poll released Friday by Marist University and its partners at PBS NewsHour showed that since a similar poll was conducted at the beginning of December, Trump’s overall approval rating dropped five points, to 38 percent. The biggest drop was among Republicans, with his approval within his own party sinking 13 points, from 90 percent to 77 percent. (This is largely because he didn’t have much room to fall with Democrats.)
On Monday, Quinnipiac University released similar findings: Trump’s overall approval dipped to 33 percent, tied for the lowest the pollster has recorded. The drop among Republicans was 18 points, to 71 percent.
Both polls broke out strong approval and disapproval as well. Among Republicans, Trump’s strong approval fell from 79 to 58 percent in Quinnipiac’s poll. In Marist’s, it dropped from 74 to 64 percent. The percentage of Republicans who strongly disapprove of the president increased by nine points in Quinnipiac’s poll and by 11 in Marist’s.
FiveThirtyEight’s average of approval polls, which includes a number of other measures, weighted for past performance, shows an obvious shift since the Capitol riot. On Nov. 3, Trump’s average approval rating was 41.8 percent, and his average disapproval was 53.7 percent. His net approval — the percentage approving minus those disapproving — was minus-11.8.
On Jan. 5, the day before the riot, his approval was down to 40.8 percent and his disapproval had risen to 54.8 percent, or minus-13.9 on net. Over the past six days, his net approval has fallen to minus-15.7, with his approval now barely above 40 percent and the percent disapproving at an average of 55.7.
There’s little question that this is related to the events at the Capitol. In Quinnipiac’s poll, 60 percent of respondents said that Trump was undermining (as opposed to protecting) democracy, and a majority thought he should resign or be removed from office. Fifty-six percent of respondents said they held Trump responsible for what happened Jan. 6.
In Marist’s poll, Trump was found to be even more culpable. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they thought Trump was to blame at least “a good amount,” with more than half saying he was “a great deal” responsible. Even among Republicans, 3 in 10 respondents said that Trump was at least “a good amount” responsible for what happened.
That Trump may pay at least some political cost for what happened may, however slightly, shift the perception that he was largely immune to the fluctuations in approval that most past presidents have experienced.
Of course, he’s seen larger declines in his approval in the past, even over similar periods. This, too, might have shocked our imaginary friend from 2010: Yes, his approval rating dropped, but it didn’t exactly crater.