The people know.
- Approval rating up five percentage points from prior poll
- 60% approve of president’s response to COVID-19
- Job approval higher among independents, Democrats
WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump may be enjoying a small rally in public support as the nation faces the COVID-19 pandemic. Forty-nine percent of U.S. adults, up from 44% earlier this month, approve of the job Trump is doing as president. Trump also had 49% job approval ratings — the best of his presidency — in late January and early February around the time of the Senate impeachment trial that resulted in his acquittal.
Independents’ and Democrats’ approval of Trump’s performance has increased slightly since earlier this month, tying as the best he has registered to date among each group. The president’s approval rating among Republicans was already above 90%, and remains so — but is not currently his highest on record (94% in late January).
March 2-13, 2020 March 13-22, 2020 Change % % pct. pts. U.S. adults 44 49 +5 Republicans 91 92 +1 Independents 35 43 +8 Democrats 7 13 +6 Gallup
Trump’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic may be behind his higher overall approval rating. Americans give the president generally positive reviews for his handling of the situation, with 60% approving and 38% disapproving. Ninety-four percent of Republicans, 60% of independents and 27% of Democrats approve of his response.
The Trump administration has received some criticism for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic — including that the president downplayed the threat, at least up until his nationally televised address on March 11. On March 16, Trump acknowledged the seriousness of the situation by urging people to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and to have workers and students stay home if possible. The administration has had daily press conferences since then to update the nation on what the federal government is doing to address the situation.
A Trump ‘Rally’?
Two aspects of Trump’s latest approval rating suggest a presidential approval rally effect. His rating shows a fairly sudden increase, and that increase is seen among both independents and Democrats — both highly unusual for Trump in particular.
Historically, presidential job approval has increased when the nation is under threat. Every president from Franklin Roosevelt through George W. Bush saw their approval rating surge at least 10 points after a significant national event of this kind. Bush’s 35-point increase after 9/11 is the most notable rally effect on record.
During these rallies, independents and supporters of the opposing party to the president typically show heightened support for the commander in chief.
Significant rally effects appear to be a relic of the past as political polarization in presidential approval ratings has reached new levels. Presidential approval ratings today are characterized by consistent, exceedingly low approval ratings from opponents of the president’s party. As a result, neither Barack Obama nor Trump saw rally effects as big as those of their predecessors, because their usual opponents were reluctant to approve of them regardless of what was happening in the country.
At most, Obama’s approval rating rose by seven points after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011. (He had a smaller five-point rally in support after the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.)
Seven points is also the largest short-term increase in approval for Trump. His approval rating increased from 37% to 44% in February 2019 after the federal government shutdown ended and Trump touted U.S. economic gains in his State of the Union address. Trump’s job approval rating increased six points in April 2019 after special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump campaign ties with Russia officially concluded; at that time, Attorney General William Barr largely cleared the president of wrongdoing. Trump’s job approval rating also increased five points earlier this year when it was clear he would be acquitted in the Senate impeachment trial.
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