For nearly four years, Trump’s approval ratings have been extraordinarily stable, ranging between the high 30s and high 40s. Trump’s denial of the election results and the sacking of the Capitol, however, have managed to do what a failed effort to repeal Obamacare, the white-supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va., impeachment and other scandals couldn’t: erode his once-durable support to new lows.
Trump’s slide means he will leave the Oval Office historically unpopular compared with most of his predecessors. Instead of going out as a popular figure, Trump is set to join George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon as presidents who exited with significant majorities disapproving of their job performance.
Already nearly universally despised by Democratic voters, much of Trump’s polling drop has come from Republicans and independents. Three in four self-identified GOP voters still approve of the job Trump is doing as president — 75 percent — but that is down from 83 percent in the final POLITICO/Morning Consult poll of 2020, conducted in December.
The drop among independents was similar: Fewer than three in 10 independent voters now approve of Trump — 29 percent, down from 38 percent in December.
The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll was conducted Jan. 8-11, as Congress prepared to launch impeachment proceedings against Trump. The poll surveyed 1,996 registered voters online. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.
The same survey, in results released earlier this week, showed voters split on whether Congress should launch impeachment proceedings in the final week of Trump’s presidency.
Other polls conducted since the violent insurrection at the Capitol last week also show declining approval ratings for Trump. In a Quinnipiac University poll out on Monday, just 33 percent of voters approved of the way Trump was handling his job as president, down from 44 percent a month earlier. A PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll, conducted the day after the attack on the Capitol, showed Trump’s approval rating among all Americans was 38 percent, down 5 points from December.
To be sure, the national polls underestimated Trump’s performance in the national election, which he lost by 4 percentage points after trailing in the RealClearPolitics average by 7 points and the FiveThirtyEight average by 8 points.
But the latest polls conducted over the past week all show significant drops in support for Trump from the previous measurements — with one notable exception: Rasmussen Reports. The Republican-leaning automated pollster, which has typically produced stronger results for Trump, has shown that the president’s approval ratings have been virtually unaffected by last week’s events. (Rasmussen’s Twitter account has, over the past month, shared some of the discredited election conspiracies that fueled the pro-Trump demonstrations last week, including one that infamously quoted the Soviet despot Joseph Stalin.)
Trump’s final approval rating is far from settled, given the congressional sprint to impeach him in the closing week of his presidency. But he is poised to go down as one of the most unpopular presidents upon leaving office.
Barack Obama’s approval rating rose in the final weeks of his presidency, following Trump’s upset victory in the 2016 election. According to the RealClearPolitics average, Obama’s approval rating finished at 57 percent, rising about 5 points between the election and Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.
Trump is likely to finish closer to Bush’s final ratings: 34 percent in the final Gallup poll — the best historical record for modern presidential approval — and 29 percent in the closing RealClearPolitics average.
But Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, the last president to be ousted by voters after one term, rebounded after the election in a way that Trump has not. The elder Bush’s approval rating cratered as low as 32 percent in the run-up to the 1992 election, according to Gallup, but finished at 56 percent in the final survey before Bill Clinton’s inauguration.
Clinton and Ronald Reagan both finished with 63 percent approval ratings in the Gallup poll. Trump’s presidency is ending more like Carter’s: The Georgian’s final approval rating before ceding the Oval Office to Reagan was 34 percent.
No president has left office more unpopular than Nixon, who had a 24 percent approval rating in the final Gallup poll before his resignation in August 1974. But rank-and-file Republicans had turned on Nixon more than they have on Trump. In that final Gallup poll, 38 percent of Republicans disapproved of Nixon’s job performance, compared with 23 percent who disapprove of Trump in the new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.
Morning Consult is a global data intelligence company, delivering insights on what people think in real time by surveying tens of thousands across the globe every single day.
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