WASHINGTON - As the November midterm congressional elections draw closer, Republicans are keeping a close eye on President Donald Trump’s public approval rating, which now stands at an average of about 42 percent.
Trump remains in the low 40s in two new surveys. The Gallup weekly poll has him at 42 percent approval, while 52 percent disapprove of his performance in office.
A new Monmouth University poll has Trump’s approval at 43 percent and his disapproval at 50 percent, which Monmouth says is consistent with where his poll numbers have been since January.
Three recent surveys, however, showed the president’s approval rating falling below 40 percent, a possible red flag as Republicans look ahead to the midterm elections. Last week's Gallup poll had the president's rating down to 39 percent. July's Quinnipiac poll had Trump at 38 percent approval, while a recent NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll showed the president at 39 percent approval.
Historically, the president’s party loses more seats in midterm elections when the president’s approval rating is below 50 percent. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both lost more than 50 House seats in their first midterm election, and their approval ratings were slightly better than Trump’s are at the moment.
The president is hoping a strong focus on the thriving U.S. economy will help Republicans keep both the House and Senate in November.
“Our economy is doing better than it ever has before. It was going in the wrong direction when we came on board, and now it is doing better than ever before,” Trump said at the opening of his recent Cabinet meeting in the White House.
Chief Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow also tried to drive home the message in front of the Cabinet. “The single biggest event, be it political or otherwise this year, is an economic boom that most people thought would be impossible to generate.”
Despite his overall weak poll rating, Trump is getting some credit from voters for the economy.
“We know that Trump’s highest approval rating is now for handling the economy,” said Gallup pollster Frank Newport. “Fifty percent approval rating on handling the economy in our latest poll, and that is pretty good, relatively speaking.”
Opposition Democrats are trying to poke a few holes in the Trump record as November approaches.
“While the stock market is up and the president brags about job growth, what we don’t hear said, which is true, is that workers' wages have been stagnant or gone down,” said Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. “Workers are actually making less than they were a year-and-a-half ago.”
Trump has been unable to stay focused on the economy, to the dismay of many Republicans.
The recent White House distractions include more presidential venting about the Russia probe, Trump’s decision to revoke the security clearance for former CIA Director John Brennan and his spat with former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman.
Democrats were alarmed by Trump’s move on Brennan. “To me, it smacks of Nixonian-type practices of trying to silence anyone who is willing to criticize this president. That puts us again in unchartered territory,” said Virginia Sen. Mark Warner.
Trump’s controversial immigration policies and criticism of his recent summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin may also be keeping his poll numbers low, according to University of Virginia analyst Larry Sabato.
“And he is not a 50 percent president. He has never been over 50 percent in the polling averages for one single day of his presidency,” Sabato told VOA via Skype.
Impact in November
A number of analysts said Trump’s low approval rating could have an impact on Republicans trying to keep their congressional majorities in November.
“The party of the president typically loses seats in a midterm election,” said Brookings Institution scholar John Hudak. “That is enhanced by a president who is unpopular, and President Trump’s approval rating has historically been unpopular and it continues to be so.”
Trump supporters believe, and in some cases perhaps hope, that voters will give the president credit for the strong economy in November.
“Unemployment in our country, not just among middle-class white Americans like me, but Hispanics and African-Americans, are at their lowest levels since recorded history in 1973,” former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told VOA’s Georgian service. “This president should be praised for that.”
Trump remains popular with his base, but whether that can stem a Democratic wave in November remains to be seen.