President Trump’s approval rating got an upward blip for a few weeks after he declared a national emergency for Coronavirus back in March. Now it seems that the brief surge in the polls is ending and the president’s popularity is heading back to the low 40s, where it has stayed for virtually his entire tenure in office.
The FiveThirtyEight average of polls shows that the president’s average approval rating topped out at 45.8 percent on March 27. It plateaued for a few days and then began to slide. As of this writing, the average approval is at 44.5 percent. Even at its height, Trump’s approval rating was still underwater with 49.7 percent average disapproval.
Politico points out that Trump’s failure to get a rally in a national crisis defies historical precedent. Presidents Carter, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush all got surges of at least 25 points when they faced national crises. In contrast, Trump’s increase was only about three points.
Donald Trump’s failure to capitalize on his Administration’s response to the pandemic likely stems from two factors. The first is that the response has not gone well. There have been revelations that Trump ignored warnings about the pandemic and squandered months before taking the threat seriously. As a result, stockpiles of medical supplies are dangerously low.
Second, President Trump is in front of the news cameras every day at the Coronavirus Task Force briefing. I said a week ago that the focus on President Trump was both good news and bad news for Republicans. While Republicans may feel a tingle run up their collective leg when Trump speaks, the rest of the country is not so enamored of a president who frequently uses the briefings to espouse misinformation and attack political opponents.
But Trump’s declining approval may not relate only to his handling of Coronavirus. The polling average shows that Trump’s approval dropped sharply in the days after his abrupt firing of Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community last Friday. The move returned the Ukraine whistleblower scandal to the public consciousness. Voters have consistently said that Trump acted improperly with respect to Ukraine and majorities favored impeachment and removal for his actions.
Even as the economy suffers from the pandemic response, it continues to be a bright spot for President Trump. A recent CNN poll found that Trump’s approval on the economy had declined only six points to 48 percent. About two-thirds said they believed that economic hardship caused by the pandemic was only temporary.
While Trump’s daily briefings have crowded Joe Biden out of the news cycle, they have not benefited the president’s re-election chances. Instead, Mr. Trump’s fixation with attacking political foes and rooting out perceived enemies has turned his polling bump into a momentary blip. Even in a time of national crisis, Mr. Trump seems incapable of rising to the occasion for long.