Can Trump improve his record-low approval rating?

Nearly four in 10 Americans still support President Donald Trump, despite his early stumbles on immigration and health care, his caustic social media presence and his uneven performance on the world stage, and as Trump moves into the second half of his first year in office, it has become clear that his base isn’t budging, at least not yet.

According to reports, Trump ended the second quarter of his presidency with the lowest average approval rating of any elected president on record since Gallup began tracking that information in the mid-20th century. “Trump reached the six-month mark of his presidency Thursday without having signed a single major piece of legislation into law. His controversial travel ban has been partially blocked by the courts, and Republicans in Congress have struggled, and so far failed, to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The Russia story won’t go away,” commented the PBS News Hour.

His average approval is down from his 41% average approval rating in his first quarter on the job, when he was also the lowest of any other president on record for that time frame.

Trump’s average approval rating for his second quarter in office, 38.8%, is more than five percentage points lower than the next closest president, Bill Clinton at 44%. The two are the only presidents on the list whose average job approval does not rise above 50%.

His previous approval low was 35% on March 28 and his previous disapproval high was 60% on June 12.

In another poll conducted by ABC/Washington over the weekend, just 36 percent of Americans approve of Mr. Trump’s job performance. Trump questioned the accuracy of the ABC/Washington Post poll, noting in a tweet that “almost 40% is not bad at this time.”

Trump’s predecessor, President Obama, enjoyed an approval rating of 62 percent during this period of his first term.

In the history of modern polling, which began with the widespread adoption of the home telephone in the United States after World War II and Harry Truman’s presidency, no other president has held such a low approval rating through their first six months in office.

According to Politico, Trump’s popularity could continue to slide, slowly, in the months to come. Polling shows that moderate Republicans and independents have started breaking with Trump over health care, the investigations into Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign, and his leadership abroad. Still, there are several factors working in Trump’s favor that could keep his approval rating from slipping much further.

Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion said Trump’s approval rating will hinge on the economy more than any other issue. When it comes to a president’s popularity, it “does all come back to the economy.”

Barring an unforeseen downturn, voters could enter next year’s midterm elections feeling confident about their economic future, said Robert Shapiro, a political science professor and polling expert at Columbia University. “The economy is basically holding steady and improving in a lot of respects,” Shapiro said.

Trump’s approval ratings however remain particularly polarized, especially when compared to polarization of approval ratings in the past. In his second quarter, he has garnered only 8% approval from Democrats when compared to 34% of Independents and 85% of Republicans.

According to Gallup, this increased political polarization is one contributing factor as to why Trump’s overall ratings are historically low. While polarization is nothing new, it’s reaching new heights with Trump when compared to past presidents. In George W. Bush’s second quarter, he had a 29% approval rating from Democrats; likewise, in Barack Obama’s second quarter, he had a 26% approval from Republicans. Both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush had approval ratings in the 40s from Democrats in their second quarters, Gallup said.

If Trump sticks with his narrative that Democrats are obstructionists and the Russia probes are a political witch hunt, his approval rating a year from now could remain in roughly the same place that it is today.

According to Danielle Vinson, a political science professor at Furman University, “we are in this polarized era where it doesn’t matter what people think of the president. Republicans will continue to vote for Republicans, and Democrats will continue to vote for Democrats.”

And several historians and pollsters said that it could still go up. The most common example they gave was President Clinton, who won reelection two years after suffering a major setback in the 1994 midterm election, when Republicans gained control of the House for the first time in four decades. Clinton’s approval rating remained above 50 percent through his second term in office, even during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

The second-quarter Gallup poll was conducted by landline and cellphone from April 20 to July 19 with a random sample of 52,765 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 states and Washington, DC. The margin of sampling error is +/- 1 percentage point at 95% confidence.

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