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Americans Accurately Estimate Trump's Approval Rating
Politics

Americans Accurately Estimate Trump's Approval Rating

Americans Accurately Estimate Trump's Approval Rating

Story Highlights

  • Americans guess Trump's job approval rating as 46%, vs. 42% actual rating
  • In 1999, public guessed that Clinton's rating was 59%; actual was 60%
  • Partisans now diverge in their estimates; in 1999, they were similar

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are generally aware of what President Donald Trump's job approval rating is, estimating it as 46% in a late July Gallup poll, when his actual rating in the same survey was 42%. When Gallup conducted the same exercise in 1999 for Bill Clinton, Americans' estimate was even closer -- they guessed 59% when Clinton's approval rating was 60%.

What has changed from 20 years ago is that Republicans' and Democrats' estimates now differ. In 1999, partisans' estimates of Clinton's approval rating were statistically indistinguishable. By contrast, currently there is a double-digit gap between what Republicans (53%) and Democrats (39%) believe Trump's approval rating is.

Americans' Estimates of Presidential Job Approval Ratings
Just your best guess, what is President [Trump's/Clinton's] job approval rating at this time, according to the latest polls?
Bill Clinton (April 1999) Donald Trump (July 2019)
% %
Actual Gallup poll approval rating 60 42
Estimated approval rating
U.S. adults 59 46
Republicans 58 53
Independents 58 46
Democrats 60 39
Gallup

Both the latest results, from a July 15-31 Gallup survey, and those from 1999 indicate that Americans are generally aware of the level of support a president has.

However, partisans' current views of reality are shaded in a way they were not 20 years ago.

Unlike Partisans' Estimates, the Polls Largely Agree on Trump's July Rating

The partisan discrepancy in perceptions of Trump's rating is not a function of Republicans and Democrats seeing different polls that had divergent approval ratings. All of the major national public opinion polls conducted in July were within a narrow range of 40% to 46% for Trump approval.

Thus, both Republicans' average 53% estimate for Trump and Democrats' 39% average estimate fall outside the bounds of what any July survey measured.

The partisan discrepancy can, however, be explained by a substantial proportion of "outlier" ratings within each party group.

  • 22% of Democrats estimate Trump's job approval rating to be 30% or less, 10+ percentage points below the range of publicly reported polls.
  • 18% of Republicans estimate Trump's job approval rating as 61% or more, at least 15 points higher than its actual level.
  • A fair number of independents also greatly underestimate (15%) or greatly overestimate (12%) the president's job rating. But these misperceptions essentially offset each other, which is not the case for partisans' estimates.
Partisans' Estimates of President Donald Trump's Job Approval, by Range
Just your best guess, what is President Trump's job approval rating at this time, according to the latest polls?
U.S. adults Republicans Independents Democrats
% % % %
10% or less 5 2 5 7
11% to 20% 3 0 3 4
21% to 30% 7 1 7 11
31% to 40% 20 10 19 30
41% to 50% 33 40 31 30
51% to 60% 14 22 13 7
61% to 70% 5 6 7 3
71% to 80% 3 6 3 2
81% to 90% 1 3 1 0
91% to 100% 1 3 1 1
No opinion 8 6 11 6
Trump's job approval rating was 42% in same Gallup poll.
Gallup, July 15-31, 2019

In 1999, there were only half as many outlier estimates of Clinton's approval rating among partisans as there are for Trump today.

  • 12% of Democrats estimated Clinton's approval at 71% or better, 11+ points higher than Gallup's reading at the time.
  • 9% of Republicans believed Clinton had a job approval rating of 40% or less, at least 20 points worse than it was.
Partisans' Estimates of President Bill Clinton's Job Approval Rating in April 1999, by Category
Just your best guess, what is President Clinton's job approval rating this time, according to the latest polls?
U.S. adults Republicans Independents Democrats
% % % %
10% or less 2 3 2 1
11% to 20% 1 0 1 0
21% to 30% 2 1 3 2
31% to 40% 5 5 4 4
41% to 50% 11 8 12 13
51% to 60% 26 29 26 30
61% to 70% 22 28 18 23
71% to 80% 7 6 8 7
81% to 90% 3 1 3 4
91% to 100% 1 0 1 1
No opinion 20 17 22 16
Clinton's approval rating was 60% in an April 13-14, 1999, Gallup poll.
Gallup, April 15-18, 1999

Another difference between the 1999 and 2019 data is that 20 years ago, more people did not provide an estimate of the president's job approval (20%) than do so today (8%).

The fact that there are currently more outliers in Americans' estimates of the president's job rating suggests that more people with no idea of Trump's rating are nevertheless giving an estimate. Lacking such information, their estimate may be unduly influenced by their personal feelings about Trump, what they hear from the news media they access, or what their family, friends or associates say about the president.

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

View complete question responses and trends.

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Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/264908/americans-accurately-estimate-trump-approval-rating.aspx
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