A new look at state-by-state polling of President Donald
Trump’s approval rating in 2018 shows that the president is below 50 percent in
the Rust Belt and swing states as well as a number of typically strong
Republican states. The polling indicates that Mr. Trump has a difficult road
ahead in his quest to win re-election.
The polling from Gallup found that the president’s approval was less than 50 percent in the Rust Belt
states that helped him to win the Electoral College in 2016 as well as all of
the usual swing states. In Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, Trump’s
disapproval was above the 50 percent mark. Of the Rust Belt states, Trump’s net
disapproval was only within 10 percent in Ohio, where his approval and
disapproval were even at 48 percent.
In swing states, Trump’s disapproval was 50 percent or
greater across the board. In two swing states won by Hillary Clinton, Virginia
and Nevada, Trump approval was at 40 percent. In a third, Colorado, it was at
39 percent. In North Carolina and Florida, swing states won by Trump, the
president’s approval was at 45 and 43 percent respectively.
No less significant is that Trump’s approval was below 50
percent in several traditional Republican strongholds. In the Southern states
of Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas Trump’s approval was also lower than 50
percent. In both Georgia and Texas, the president’s disapproval was above 50
Trump’s approval was at or above 50 percent in 17 states
during 2018. He won 30 states in the 2016 election. MAGA country is contained
in two pockets. The first runs from the Southeast to the Midwest while the
second is in the Northwest. The polling showed that West Virginia and Wyoming
were states where Trump had the highest approval at 62 and 61 percent
respectively. The president’s disapproval was highest in Hawaii where only 26
percent approve of his job performance.
While the poll is gloomy for the president across the board,
the worst news is from the Rust Belt. The states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and
Wisconsin typically lean Democrat in presidential elections but were won by Mr.
Trump in 2016. The victories spurred hopes of a Republican resurgence in these
northern states that are rich in blue-collar
voters. However, the 2018 polling indicates that the Rust Belt is slipping back
into the Democratic orbit. If these three states flip in 2020 then President
Trump will not be re-elected.
While many Republicans scoff at polls and point to Trump’s
unexpected victory in 2016 as evidence that they should be ignored, the polling
data is backed up by results from the midterm elections. In 2018, Republican
candidates lost seven of eight statewide races in the Rust Belt. These election
results confirm the Gallup polling and should set off warning bells for Republican
In contrast with 2016, the polling also shows a wider gap in Trump’s net disapproval than the gap between Trump
and Hillary. The 2016
polling showed the race in most swing states to be closer than three percent,
which was within the margin of error of most polls. The 2018 Gallup polling
shows that voters disapprove of Trump by double-digit margins in many states,
including the crucial three Rust Belt states.
Polls are not predictive.
They don’t show how voters will vote next year and much could change in that
time. Many factors, such as who the Democrats pick as their standard bearer,
will certainly affect the course of the election. Still, the polling, especially
when taken together with the midterm election results, serves as a caution to
Republicans that support for the president has eroded considerably since he
lost the popular vote in 2016.
President Trump and the
Republicans should consider taking a more unifying and conciliatory tack to rebuild
support among moderate voters in the time left before the election if they hope
to retain control of the White House. The president’s focus on issues that
split the country, such as the wall and illegal immigration, may be alienating
moderate voters even as it solidifies his control over the GOP.
Republicans clearly need to find
a different way to appeal to moderate and independent voters if they hope to avoid
another disaster in 2020. If the president is incapable of doing so, Republican
primary voters should consider finding a new candidate.