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Trump's Job Approval in First Quarter Lowest by 14 Points

Trump's Job Approval in First Quarter Lowest by 14 Points

Story Highlights

  • Averages 41% job approval during his first quarter
  • Historical first-quarter average is 61%
  • Bill Clinton had previous low first-quarter average of 55%

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Donald Trump averaged 41% job approval during his first quarter as president, 14 percentage points lower than any other president in Gallup's polling history. Bill Clinton had the previous low mark of 55%. The average first-quarter rating among post-World War II presidents elected to their first term is 61%, with John Kennedy's 74% the highest.

First Quarter Presidential Job Approval Averages, Elected Presidents Since World War II

The results are based on Gallup Daily tracking from Jan. 20 through April 19. During this time, Trump's approval rating ranged from a low of 35% -- in the days after Republicans' failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- to a high of 46% shortly after his inauguration.

Gallup's latest estimate of the president's job approval rating, based on April 17-19 interviewing, is 43%.

No president before Trump had an initial approval rating below 50%. His poor debut followed his subpar ratings on other measures during the presidential campaign and his presidential transition.

In mid-February, before the end of Trump's first month, his approval rating briefly fell below 40%, earlier in his presidency than anyone before him. In the second half of March, Trump had sub-40% job approval more consistently. Clinton is the only other president to register sub-40% approval ratings in his first year, having done so in June 1993 -- less than five months after he took office.

While Trump has yet to register majority approval, most presidents stayed above the 50% level for a full year or more after taking office. In addition to Clinton, Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan were exceptions to that pattern; both of them dipped below majority approval in November of their first year.

Trump as Popular in His Own Party as Past Presidents

One area in which Trump matches prior elected presidents is the support he receives from his fellow partisans. An average of 87% of Republicans have approved of the job Trump is doing to this point. The average first-quarter approval rating among those who identify with the president's party had been 83% before Trump. The last three presidents, including Trump, have all done better than that, as opinions of the president have become more closely tied to Americans' partisan leanings in recent decades.

First Quarter Presidential Job Approval Averages Among Americans Who Identify Politically With the President's Party
Presidents elected to their first term
Year President's party Approval
%
Eisenhower 1953 Republican 86
Kennedy 1961 Democrat 86
Nixon 1969 Republican 82
Carter 1977 Democrat 79
Reagan 1981 Republican 83
G.H.W. Bush 1989 Republican 78
Clinton 1993 Democrat 78
G.W. Bush 2001 Republican 89
Obama 2009 Democrat 90
Trump 2017 Republican 87
Average before Trump 83
Approval for Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, G.W. Bush, Trump is among Republicans; approval for Kennedy, Carter, Clinton, Obama is among Democrats
Gallup

At the same time that strong partisanship has kept Trump's approval high among Republicans, it has kept it low among Democrats. Only 9% of Democrats on average have approved of the job Trump is doing to date. That is nearly 20 points lower than any other president has received from supporters of the opposition party and 35 points below the pre-Trump historical average opposition-party approval rating.

First Quarter Presidential Job Approval Averages Among Americans Who Identify Politically With the Opposition Party to the President
Presidents elected to their first term
Year President's party Approval, opposition party
%
Eisenhower 1953 Republican 61
Kennedy 1961 Democrat 58
Nixon 1969 Republican 50
Carter 1977 Democrat 54
Reagan 1981 Republican 43
G.H.W. Bush 1989 Republican 42
Clinton 1993 Democrat 28
G.W. Bush 2001 Republican 32
Obama 2009 Democrat 30
Trump 2017 Republican 9
Average prior to Trump 44
Approval for Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, G.W. Bush, Trump is among Democrats; approval for Kennedy, Carter, Clinton, Obama is among Republicans
Gallup

The historical trends are clear. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower through Jimmy Carter enjoyed approval of 50% or higher among supporters of the opposition party during their first quarter as president. By the time Reagan and George H.W. Bush came into office, opposition approval had fallen below the majority level but still exceeded 40%. The three presidents immediately before Trump got worse ratings from those who identified with the other major political party, but still roughly 30% approved in those presidents' initial months in office.

Independents Also Give Trump Poor Reviews

Trump's anemic early approval is also attributable to historically low ratings from political independents. To date, 37% of independents have approved of the job Trump is doing, on average. All other newly elected presidents had 51% or higher approval among independents during their first quarters, with the historical average before Trump at 61%.

First Quarter Presidential Job Approval Averages Among Americans Who Identify Politically as Independents
Presidents elected to their first term
Year President's party Approval, independents
%
Eisenhower 1953 Republican 70
Kennedy 1961 Democrat 70
Nixon 1969 Republican 60
Carter 1977 Democrat 66
Reagan 1981 Republican 63
G.H.W. Bush 1989 Republican 51
Clinton 1993 Democrat 51
G.W. Bush 2001 Republican 55
Obama 2009 Democrat 60
Trump 2017 Republican 37
Average before Trump 61
Gallup

Independents' approval ratings show a similar pattern over time to that of Democrats. Eisenhower and Kennedy had approval ratings of 70% among independents. Richard Nixon, Carter and Reagan had approval in the 60% range, but ratings were between 51% and 60% for the most recent presidents before Trump.

Many independents have partisan leanings, and it is likely that those who lean toward the opposition party are disinclined to express approval of the president in the current political environment.

Implications

Trump won election using a campaign that flouted norms of political decorum and relied heavily on social media to spread his, at times, controversial messages. His unconventional style suggested his presidency would be like nothing seen before. And that has been true, but likely not in the way he or his supporters hoped -- with no honeymoon period to speak of and approval ratings far worse than any president has received this early in his tenure. On his best day, less than half of Americans, 46%, have approved of the job Trump is doing.

Near the 100-day mark in his presidency, his approval rating has settled near 40%. Whether foiled by his own party or outside forces, Trump has not been able to deliver on many of his campaign promises thus far, including repealing the ACA and tightening access to the U.S. from several majority-Muslim countries. He did fulfill his promise of adding a conservative justice to the Supreme Court after Senate Republicans employed the "nuclear option" to eliminate the minority party's ability to filibuster high-court nominations.

If Trump hopes to avoid setting a new low in average job approval for an entire presidency -- Harry Truman's 45.4% average is the lowest in Gallup's history -- he would need to improve his ratings among independents and Democrats, because the vast majority of Republicans already support him. But in an era of intense partisanship, Democrats' approval of Trump may not budge much from its current level near 10%, similar to the way in which Republicans' opinions of Obama held near 10% after his first year in office.

These data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Explore President Trump's approval ratings in depth and compare them with those of past presidents in the Gallup Presidential Job Approval Center.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 20-April 19, 2017, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 45,111 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.

Gallup


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