Donald Trump's very weird polling problem

There's an old political cliche that goes like this: Presidents get too much credit when the economy is going well --...

Posted: Jul 31, 2018 11:53 PM
Updated: Jul 31, 2018 11:53 PM

There's an old political cliche that goes like this: Presidents get too much credit when the economy is going well -- and too much blame when it's going poorly.

That cliche begets this political reality: When the economy is good and/or people believe the economy is good, a president is usually popular. And when the economy is weak (or perceived to be weak), a president is almost always struggling in the polls.

Which is why Donald Trump's current situation is super weird.

All current polling suggests that people not only feel good about the economy but give Trump credit for its success. In an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll released last week, 50% of Americans approved of the job Trump was doing with the economy while only 34% disapproved. Those numbers on the economy were far better than how people said Trump was handling immigration (41% approve/51% disapprove) or the US relationship with Russia (26% approve/51% disapprove).

And yet, in that same NBC-WSJ poll, just 45% approved of Trump's performance as President overall while 52% disapproved.

That disconnect isn't a fluke. In the Real Clear Politics aggregate of polls, 50.4% approve of Trump's handling of the economy while 42.3% disapprove. The RCP average of Trump's overall job performance produces this: 43.3% approve, 52.9% disapprove.

Just how anomalous are high economic approval ratings -- and positive jobs numbers like 4.1% economic growth in the 2nd quarter of 2018 -- with middling overall job approval numbers, historically speaking?

The short answer is VERY.

Here's the long answer -- via CNN's Harry Enten -- who compared presidential job approval with approval of a president's handling of the economy at around the same time in their terms as Trump is now:

The only two presidents with significantly higher approval ratings on the economy as compared to their overall approval were Trump now and Bill Clinton in July 1998. The Clinton result is easily explained: He was in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. So people liked how the economy was doing (and gave him credit for it) but were less willing to say they approved of him as heartily. The Trump example is less simple to understand.

My working theory is that voters don't like Trump personally but do like the state of the economy. So they are willing to give Trump credit for the economy specifically but when it comes to his overall job approval their feelings are much more determined by their feelings about Trump, the person. That's a trend that was apparent as far back as the 2016 election. Sixty-four percent of the electorate said that Trump was neither "honest" nor "trustworthy" but 1 in every 5 of those people voted for him, according to exit polling. Fully 63% said Trump didn't have the temperament to be president but, despite that, one in five in that bloc voted for him.

Regardless of the "why" of Trump's economy/overall approval disparity, it's clear that if he could simply disappear -- like, literally just stay in the White House and never tweet -- his overall approval numbers would likely improve. People seem to be reacting negatively to the full package of Trump, which crowds out their positive reaction to the job he is doing on the economy. If, he could take the focus off his tweets, the Russia investigation and the like -- and steer all of his rhetorical firepower onto the state of the economy, he and the Republican Party he leads would likely be in a much better place today.

Of course, that sort of message discipline isn't Trump. And if we've learned anything these last three years, it's that Trump is going to Trump. Always.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 515504

Reported Deaths: 10296
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34999558
DeSoto33360432
Hinds32743643
Jackson24906392
Rankin22565405
Lee16455245
Madison14954283
Jones14158248
Forrest13834260
Lauderdale12311323
Lowndes11357193
Lamar10693140
Pearl River9748244
Lafayette8868143
Hancock7849132
Washington7559169
Oktibbeha7229138
Monroe7068179
Pontotoc7033110
Warren6885178
Panola6791135
Neshoba6744210
Marshall6707142
Bolivar6468151
Union643598
Pike5942157
Alcorn5921107
Lincoln5540136
George510680
Prentiss508285
Tippah495683
Itawamba4884107
Scott478999
Tate4777117
Adams4776125
Leflore4749144
Copiah458195
Yazoo458092
Simpson4566117
Wayne443472
Covington434895
Sunflower4319106
Marion4295112
Coahoma4244110
Leake414191
Newton396182
Tishomingo386894
Grenada3789109
Stone366166
Jasper341266
Attala340490
Chickasaw318367
Winston318392
Clay312978
Clarke301695
Calhoun286850
Holmes272889
Smith270552
Yalobusha244947
Tallahatchie232353
Greene225149
Walthall222166
Lawrence220242
Perry214556
Amite210357
Webster206548
Noxubee188843
Montgomery182157
Carroll175441
Jefferson Davis174343
Tunica163539
Benton153139
Kemper145441
Choctaw137027
Claiborne134839
Humphreys132239
Franklin126530
Quitman107828
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson97134
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 847659

Reported Deaths: 16172
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1163752005
Mobile743371381
Madison53434738
Shelby38413371
Baldwin38171589
Tuscaloosa36131643
Montgomery34571782
Lee25664264
Calhoun22622519
Morgan22527408
Etowah20059520
Marshall18821318
Houston17769426
St. Clair16946359
Limestone16192220
Cullman16140305
Elmore15948295
Lauderdale15055307
Talladega14244302
DeKalb13061271
Walker12138380
Blount10765193
Autauga10545157
Jackson10204195
Coffee9435192
Colbert9363210
Dale9038192
Tallapoosa7283202
Russell710165
Chilton7078170
Covington6967197
Escambia6962144
Franklin6364108
Chambers5795142
Marion5435130
Dallas5302210
Pike5128109
Clarke485686
Lawrence4845130
Winston4785110
Geneva4650136
Bibb435495
Barbour370180
Butler3444101
Marengo342793
Monroe338366
Randolph337767
Pickens334790
Fayette331485
Henry321066
Cherokee319964
Hale318889
Crenshaw261678
Washington256852
Cleburne255460
Lamar253555
Clay252069
Macon245767
Conecuh193562
Coosa185847
Wilcox178338
Lowndes178268
Bullock152745
Perry141840
Sumter139741
Greene130345
Choctaw94328
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