When it comes to Donald Trump’s first few months in office, you’re either someone who thinks they’ve been very successful and some of the most productive in history — or you believe in facts. Trump’s administration has been an ineffective joke, plagued with a growing list of scandals and incompetence unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
While Trump didn’t go into office with high approval numbers (his first Gallup rating was 45 percent — the lowest for any newly elected president), things have actually managed to get worse for “The Donald.” Since hitting 35 percent on March 28th, a low Barack Obama never experienced during his entire eight years in office, Trump’s approval number has floated around 40 percent over the last few weeks.
These historically low numbers are bad, but they’re even worse once a little context and perspective is added to the discussion.
For starters, let’s take a look at the approval numbers for Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama upon entering and exiting office:
- Clinton: Beginning: 58%/End: 66%
- Bush: Beginning: 57%/End: 34%
- Obama: Beginning: 68%/End: 59%
So, of the last three presidents spanning the last 25 years, Trump entered office with an approval rating 12-23 percent lower than any of his predecessors, which is significant. Especially when you remember that Bush was elected under a cloud of controversy. He clearly wasn’t as disliked as Trump was going into office, but like our current “Commander-in-Chief,” he was still “elected” despite receiving fewer votes than his opponent.
Even as controversial as Bush’s 2000 win was, and as disliked as he was going into office, his approval number was still much better. While Bush inherited a better economy, as well as a balanced budget, both men inherited strong economic conditions.
That’s a big part of what makes Trump’s approval rating worse than it actually appears.
Right now Trump’s enjoying a strong economy — yet his approval rating is barely above where Bush’s was right in the middle of the Great Recession. In fact, at its lowest point a few weeks ago, it was barely one percent above Bush’s final Gallup rating.
Trump’s teetering on a favorable rating close to what Bush’s was at during an economic meltdown despite the fact that he’s still presiding over a strong, stable economy thanks to eight years of competent leadership under President Obama. If anything negative happens, especially an economic downturn, his approval rating is going to sink to unprecedented levels of futility.
The truth is, one of the biggest things keeping Trump’s approval rating from sinking lower is the fictional belief by many of his supporters that the economy has improved since he’s been in office. It’s not true, but it’s what many of them think. So if things turn south economically, that will almost certainly erode support from even some of his most loyal backers, causing his approval rating to really sink.
Another issue for Trump is that some of his supporters have admitted things aren’t going how they expected them to under his leadership, but because they want to give him the benefit of the doubt (at least for now), they’re essentially saying “in Trump we trust.” But that’s not going to last forever. As time goes on, with more and more of his promises getting broken, even some of his most loyal supporters are going to get sick and tired of making excuses for him.
This all comes back to my point about Trump’s approval rating actually being worse than it seems. While hovering around 40 isn’t good for any presidency, as sad as it is, that number is actually artificially inflated due to the fact that:
- It’s still very early on into his administration.
- He’s still enjoying the strong economy given to him by Barack Obama.
- There hasn’t been anything hugely negative he’s had to deal with outside of his control (natural disaster, mass shooting, terrorist attack, etc.).
- There’s still a sizable chunk of his supporters who, even though they’re not satisfied with the job he’s done, are still giving him the benefit of the doubt — for now.
He’s still benefiting from a strong economy he had nothing to do with and he’s still being given the “benefit of the doubt” by a sizable chunk of his supporters due to his brief time in office.
It speaks to the awfulness of Donald Trump that, with the same economy that propelled Obama to a 59 percent approval rating upon leaving office just a few weeks ago, his number is much closer to Bush’s 34 percent at the end of his presidency — right in the middle of the worst economic crash in nearly a century.
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