If you are like me, you enjoy following the perpetual drama that is a president’s approval rating and trying to figure out what factors are affecting it. The problem with trying to do that in the era of President Trump is the polls rarely agree with where he stands or how his numbers are moving.
A recent Rasmussen poll had Trump at a healthy 55% approval rating. At almost the same time a Pew Research poll had him with just a 39% approval number.
So what is going on?
Fivethrtyeight.com‘s Nate Silver digs deep into the numbers to figure out what is really going on.
“Here’s what we can say for sure: It’s unprecedented for a president to face so much opposition from the electorate so soon. Recent polls show that anywhere between 43 and 56 percent of Americans disapprove of President Trump’s job performance. Even if you take the low end of that range, Trump’s numbers are much worse than any past president a month into his term.1“
“But beyond that, there’s a lot of seeming disagreement in the polls about exactly how unpopular Trump is — and even whether his disapproval rating exceeds his approval rating at all. Moreover, the differences between Trump’s best surveys and his worst ones span a critical range. Take one group of polls, and the country looks about evenly divided — a lot like it did during the 2016 election, when Trump narrowly lost the popular vote but nonetheless won the Electoral College. Take another group, and his electoral fortunes look much bleaker, with Trump already unpopular enough that the House of Representatives could be in play despite Republicans’ advantages from gerrymandering and the geographic distribution of their voters.”
“What’s the real story? The differences between the polls aren’t random, or at least they don’t appear to be based on the relatively limited amount of data we have so far. Instead, Trump’s approval ratings are systematically higher in polls of voters — either registered voters or likely voters — than they are in polls of all adults. And they’re systematically higher in polls conducted online or by automated script than they are in polls conducted by live-telephone interviewers. Here’s every approval rating poll that we can find for Trump so far this month:2“
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