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Trump's First-Year Job Approval Worst by 10 Points

Trump's First-Year Job Approval Worst by 10 Points

Story Highlights

  • Trump averaged 38.4% approval in year one of his presidency
  • Prior lowest first-term average was Clinton's 49.3%
  • Party polarization in Trump's first-year ratings greatest to date

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Donald Trump's job approval rating averaged 38.4% during his first year in office -- slightly more than 10 percentage points lower than any other elected president's first-year average. Bill Clinton is the only other president who was below 50% in his first year. All others were 57% or higher, with six of the 10 presidents elected since World War II averaging 60% or better in their first year.

First-Year Job Approval Averages, Elected Presidents
  Dates of first year First-year approval average N
Kennedy Jan 20, 1961-Jan 19, 1962 76.4 15
Eisenhower Jan 20, 1953-Jan 19, 1954 68.8 14
G.W. Bush Jan 20, 2001-Jan 19, 2002 67.9 33
G.H.W. Bush Jan 20, 1989-Jan 19, 1990 65.9 14
Carter Jan 20, 1977-Jan 19, 1978 61.9 25
Nixon Jan 20, 1969-Jan 19, 1970 61.4 20
Obama Jan 20, 2009-Jan 19, 2010 57.2 349
Reagan Jan 20, 1981-Jan 19, 1982 57.1 20
Clinton Jan 20, 1993-Jan 19, 1994 49.3 29
Trump Jan 20, 2017-Jan 21, 2018 38.4 282

Presidents usually get substantial support from the public during their first year in office, known as the "honeymoon period" and marked by above-average job approval ratings.

Trump had little or no honeymoon period to speak of -- beginning his presidency with a job approval rating below 50%. His ratings eroded over the course of his first year in office but have since stabilized between 36% and 37%. This is reflected in his quarterly averages -- during his recently completed fourth quarter in office, an average of 36.8% of Americans approved of the job he was doing, essentially the same as his third-quarter average.

Donald Trump's Quarterly Job Approval Averages, 2017

His most recent weekly average, based on Jan. 15-21 interviewing, is 36%.

Trump First Year Ranks in Bottom 10 of All Presidential Years

Trump's 2017-2018 yearly average is not only the lowest for a first-year president, it ranks among the 10 worst for any president in any year since Gallup began regularly measuring job approval in 1945. These include Jimmy Carter's third and fourth years; George W. Bush's sixth, seventh and eighth years; Harry Truman's seventh and eighth years; and Richard Nixon's last partial year leading up to his resignation. Unlike Trump, all those presidents were in the late stages of their presidencies.

Ten Lowest Yearly Job Approval Averages, 1945-2018
  Year in office Dates of year Approval average N
Truman 6 Jan 20, 1950-Jan 19, 1951 38.6 13
Trump 1 Jan 20, 2017-Jan 21, 2018 38.4 282
Carter 4 Jan 20, 1980-Jan 19, 1981 37.6 16
Carter 3 Jan 20, 1979-Jan 19, 1980 37.4 24
G.W. Bush 6 Jan 20, 2006-Jan 19, 2007 37.3 32
G.W. Bush 7 Jan 20, 2007-Jan 19, 2008 33.3 26
G.W. Bush 8 Jan 20, 2008-Jan 19, 2009 29.8 28
Truman 8 Jan 20, 1952-Jan 19, 1953 29.7 11
Truman 7 Jan 20, 1951-Jan 19, 1952 26.5 12
Nixon 6 Jan 20-Aug 9, 1974 25.4 15

Trump Approval Among Independents, Democrats Well Below Historical Averages

Historically low first-year ratings from both Democrats and independents contributed to Trump's record-low overall ratings. Just 8% of Democrats approved of the job he was doing, shattering the previous low approval rating among supporters of the opposition party in a president's first year -- 23% for both Barack Obama and Clinton among Republicans. Before Trump, first-year elected presidents had averaged 44% approval from those who identify with the opposition party.

Trump's 34% job approval among independents also pales in comparison to the 60% historical average approval independents gave to Presidents Eisenhower through Obama in their first year.

Democrats' and independents' low approval ratings for Trump led to his lack of a honeymoon period.

Republicans' ratings of Trump are not out of line with what prior presidents have gotten from supporters of their party. The 83% first-year average approval for Trump among Republicans is higher than Carter's and Clinton's averages among Democrats, and about the same as those for the elder George Bush, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon among Republicans. Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, George W. Bush and Obama received higher job approval ratings from their fellow partisans during their first year than Trump did.

The 75-point difference between Democrats' and Republicans' approval of Trump is easily the largest party gap a first-year president has had. Obama's 65-point gap during his first year is now second largest, while Clinton's 52-point gap ranks third. All other presidents' first-year approval ratings showed party differences of 45 points or less.

The 75-point party gap in Trump's job approval rating is also one of the highest in Gallup's polling history. It ranks fourth behind a 77-point gap in Obama's eighth year as president and 76-point gaps in Obama's and George W. Bush's fourth years.


Job Approval Ratings for First-Year Elected Presidents, by Political Party
  Republicans Independents Democrats Party gap
  % % % pct. pts.
Trump 83 34 8 75
Obama 23 54 88 65
G.W. Bush 92 64 47 45
Clinton 23 45 75 52
G.H.W. Bush 83 61 51 32
Reagan 85 59 39 45
Carter 46 59 72 26
Nixon 82 61 49 34
Kennedy 58 72 87 29
Eisenhower 87 69 56 32




Trump, and his fellow Republicans, can only hope his ratings improve soon with midterm elections coming this November. Trump's low job approval rating imperils the Republican congressional majorities given the strong relationship between presidential approval ratings and midterm election outcomes.

With Trump's ratings showing only modest change over his first year in office, it is possible that opinions of him have essentially crystallized and thus will be more resistant to change regardless of national conditions. Indeed, a recent Gallup analysis suggested Trump should be enjoying approval ratings closer to the majority level, given historical patterns between job approval and measures of national conditions.

Explore President Trump's approval ratings 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, 2017-Jan. 21, 2018, on the Gallup U.S. Poll, with a random sample of 175,710 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 point 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. Poll works.

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