President Donald Trump says his base of support is “bigger and stronger than ever before.” But his claim is contradicted by a steady stream of recent polling that shows the share of Americans that approve of Trump’s job performance is shrinking, along with the share of Americans most enthusiastic about his presidency.
However you measure the president’s base, it has diminished, not increased, in the 7 months he’s been in office. It’s a slide he’ll need to reverse to avoid dragging down the GOP in the midterms — and to have a more credible shot at reelection.
A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows Trump’s approval rating slipping to the lowest point of his young presidency. While he’s confounded the polls before, it’s the trendline that should be most worrisome to the White House.
Only 40 percent of registered voters approve of the job Trump is doing as president, the new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows, down from a high-water mark of 52 percent in March. And the percentage who approve strongly — one way to measure the size of Trump’s most fervent supporters — is also at a new low: just 18 percent.
That fits with other surveys conducted over the past few weeks, all of which show Trump at or near the low-water marks for each pollster. And there is evidence Trump’s backslide has eroded some of his electoral base: The president has lost ground with Republicans and the independent voters that propelled him to victory.
Trump’s approval rating among self-identified Trump voters is at 81 percent, down from 86 percent last week. And among Republican voters in the new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, the president is at 76 percent, down slightly from 79 percent last week.
A closer look at those Trump voters who approve of the president’s job performance shows that the Trump base isn’t “even closer together,” as the president said on Twitter this week. Among Trump voters who approve of his job performance, they are equally divided between those who approve strongly, and those who only approve somewhat.
Overall, just 41 percent of voters who say they supported Trump last year strongly approve of the job he is doing, equal to the 41 percent who approve only somewhat. Ten percent of Trump voters disapprove of his job performance somewhat, while 7 percent strongly disapprove.
"Unabated by the turbulence of the last six months, there remains a core base of ardent Trump supporters," said Morning Consult co-founder and Chief Research Officer Kyle Dropp. "However, that base has unquestionably declined since the president took office. In late January, 56 percent of Trump voters strongly approved of the president, and just 1 percent disapproved. Today, 41 percent strongly approve, and 17 percent disapprove."
Trump isn’t bringing converts into his base, either, the poll shows. Among voters who say they backed Hillary Clinton last year, more than three-in-four, 78 percent, strongly disapprove of Trump. Only 8 percent of Clinton voters even somewhat approve of Trump.
The new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll was conducted August 3-6, surveying 1,992 registered voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.
The ongoing contraction of Trump’s base has accelerated over the past month. Those trends show Trump’s approval rating has fallen because certain segments of Republicans and independents have soured on him.
In a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll a month ago, Trump’s overall approval rating (46 percent) and strongly approve rating (24 percent) were about 6 points higher than in the current survey. But over the past month, Trump has lost 7 points in strong approval among Republicans and 6 points among independents, compared to just 1 point among Democrats. Trump’s “strong approve” number has dropped 8 points among voters who said they supported him in the last election, from 49 percent to 41 percent.
It’s not only the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that shows Trump fading during his first summer in office. Separate surveys from CNN (38 percent approval), CBS News (36 percent), Gallup (37 percent), Quinnipiac University (33 percent), Investor’s Business Daily/TIPP (32 percent) and Rasmussen Reports (41 percent) show Trump’s approval ratings either at or within a few percentage points of his low-water marks.
And in each of them, there are warning signs about the size — and enthusiasm — of Trump’s base. In the CNN poll — which was conducted by SSRS, the network’s new polling partner — the percentage of Americans who strongly approve of Trump contracted to 24 percent, compared to 30 percent and 33 percent in CNN/ORC polls in early March and early February, respectively. In the Quinnipiac poll, Trump’s strong approval number contracted from 28 percent in late June, to 23 percent now.
The Investors’ Business Daily/TIPP poll notes that Trump has lost significant ground with core groups over the past month. Trump’s approval rating is down 12 percentage points since July among Republicans, even as it was relatively unchanged from already-low records among Democrats and Republicans. Trump’s decline in the Midwest (minus-7 points) is larger than the overall 5-point drop in his approval, as was his 7-point dip among white men.
In the CBS News poll, there are signs it could be difficult for Trump to recover — even as he touts continued economic growth in his first six months in office. Asked to choose which is more important in evaluating Trump – “the culture and values that you believe in,” or “your economic and financial well-being” — 48 percent say culture and values, while only 37 percent say their economic and financial well-being is more important.
The president’s response to these surveys so far suggests he doesn’t believe them – and he’s sought to discredit the results among the public.
“After 200 days, rarely has any Administration achieved what we have achieved..not even close!” Trump tweeted Tuesday afternoon, adding in a second sentence, “Don’t believe the Fake News Suppression Polls!”
“The fact is the Fake News Russian collusion story, record Stock Market, border security, military strength, jobs … Supreme Court pick, economic enthusiasm, deregulation & so much more have driven the Trump base even closer together,” Trump tweeted. “Will never change!”
But inside Trump’s own White House, there does seem to be some acknowledgment of the president’s falling poll numbers, even if the chief executive insists that they are “fake.”
“His approval rating among Republicans and conservative[s] and Trump voters is down slightly,” Kellyanne Conway, a former Republican pollster currently serving as counselor to the president, said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “It needs to go up.”
Morning Consult is a nonpartisan media and technology company that provides data-driven research and insights on politics, policy and business strategy.