President Donald Trump’s job approval rating has been consistently low. Yet, he always had an ace in his back pocket: the economy. It’s not that the economy would necessarily save Trump come 2020, but it gave him a shot.
Multiple polls released over the last two weeks showed Trump’s economic approval rating tumbling. The most drastic of which was a CBS News poll, which showed Trump’s economic approval rating dropping from 52% in its last poll to 44% now, while his economic disapproval rating rose from 41% to 52%. Fox News, NBC News/Wall Street Journal and Quinnipiac University polls don’t show as dramatic of declines, but when you average them all together it’s clear Trump lost a lot of ground on the economy.
In the average of the CBS News, Fox News, NBC News and Quinnipiac polls, Trump’s economic approval rating dropped from 51% in each pollster’s previous survey to 48% now as his economic disapproval rating increased from 40% to 48% now.
All told, his net economic approval rating (approval rating - disapproval rating) has dropped 11 points It went from +11 to 0.
The main culprit of Trump’s economic decline was probably the shutdown. Across different measurements, consumer sentiment on the economy as a whole declined during the shutdown. The Trump administration, itself, has admitted that the shutdown at least temporarily hurt the economy.
That’s why it shouldn’t be surprising that the shutdown seemed to cause a disproportionate amount of harm to Trump’s economic ratings compared to overall standing. While Trump’s overall net approval dipped during the shutdown, it only fell by 3 points among these pollsters. In other words, Trump’s net economic approval rating drop during the shutdown was more than double the decline in his overall approval rating.
The good news for Trump is we’re still a long way from the 2020 election. A lot of events can occur between then and now. With this shutdown over, his overall approval rating may climb back to where it was: low, though high enough that he could beat a disliked Democratic nominee.
Make no mistake though: it’s very difficult to imagine Trump winning re-election if his overall and economic approval ratings stay where they are right now.
Economic growth and a president’s approval ratings combined are two of the best predictors of whether a president is going to get reelected. Now, one is deeply negative and the other is hovering right around zero. Before the shutdown, Trump could hope that the strong economy balance out his poor overall approval rating in time for the 2020 campaign.
That’s why events like the shutdown are a double whammy for Trump. The lower his overall approval rating is the more credit voters will have to give to Trump for future economic growth in order dig himself out of the hole. At the same time, however, the chance of voters giving Trump credit for the economy also become lower because of events like the shutdown.
Trump needs to do everything in his power to make more things go right than wrong for him heading into the 2020 campaign. He just spent more than a month doing the opposite.