President Donald Trump made three false claims on Saturday in a single 19-word tweet.
The tweet: “94% Approval Rating in the Republican Party, an all time high. Ronald Reagan was 87%. Thank you!”
Facts First: Trump does not have a 94% approval rating among Republicans; he is at 90% in Gallup polling. Trump has not recorded the all-time high for Republican approval; his peak ranks sixth out of the seven Republican presidents after World War II. And Reagan’s peak was 94%, not 87%.
Trump has been falsely claiming for more than a year to have set the all-time high for approval among Republican voters – first at “over 90%,” then at “93%,” and now, as of June, at “94%.” He has even claimed to have beaten Abraham Lincoln, though there was no scientific polling on approval ratings in the 1800s.
In reality, he has never come close to setting the record.
Let’s break down the three ways his latest tweet was incorrect.
1) Trump does not have a 94% approval rating among Republicans.
Trump is extremely popular with Republicans, but we could not find a single recent poll where his approval rating with party supporters was 94% or higher.
Gallup had him at 90% with Republicans in its monthly approval poll in June. CNN’s poll in late June had him at 89% with Republicans. His 44% overall approval in the Washington Post/ABC poll conducted in late June and early July was the highest overall number he has ever had in a poll by those media outlets – but his approval with Republicans was 87% even there.
We asked the White House late Sunday night to tell us what poll had Trump at 94% with Republicans. We had not received a response as of 1 p.m. on Monday.
2) Trump has not recorded the all-time high for Republican approval.
Even if Trump really had 94% approval among GOP voters, that would not be a record. Trump’s peak Republican approval in Gallup polling, 90%, ranks sixth out of the seven Republican presidents who served since the end of World War II.
Gallup’s website features data on approval rating by party for every president since Harry Truman. George W. Bush has the record for Republican approval over this 74-year period: he hit 99% after the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001. His father, George H.W. Bush, hit 97% at the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Reagan, Richard Nixon, and Dwight Eisenhower all went higher than 90%.
Trump’s 90% Gallup peak beats only the 80% peak of Gerald Ford, the only person who has served as vice-president and president without being elected to either office.
Trump acknowledged last year, very briefly, that he hasn’t actually set the GOP record. He told Bloomberg News in August that he had “the highest numbers that have ever been, with the exception of a tiny period of time with a bullhorn” – referring to the famous address George W. Bush delivered via bullhorn while standing on the rubble of the World Trade Center. Trump added: “But that period lasted for about a week.”
That “about a week” was also incorrect: Bush stayed at 97% or higher with Republicans for more than five months, until March 2002.
3) Reagan’s peak was not 87%.
This version of Trump’s claim was a bit vague: it wasn’t entirely clear if he was saying 87% was Reagan’s peak Republican approval or that 87% was Reagan’s approval with Republicans at the same point in their presidencies.
But when Trump uttered a near-identical claim in an interview with Piers Morgan in June, he made clear he was talking about Reagan’s peak: “I just found out we have 94% support in the Republican Party. That’s higher – Ronald Reagan was the highest at 86, and we have 94%.”
So we think it’s safe to go with that interpretation here – and, in that case, Trump is wrong again. Reagan peaked at 94% with Republicans in December 1984, a month after his landslide re-election victory. Reagan finished his presidency at 93% with Republicans.
Trump could accurately boast that he is doing better with Republicans than Reagan was doing at the same point. Reagan was at 82% this week in 1983.
But Trump has rarely chosen nuanced truths over simple untruths.