As the coronavirus pandemic began to shut down American society in late March, President Donald Trump suddenly got more popular.
His job approval numbers, long stuck in the low 40s, jumped into the high 40s. His disapproval numbers dropped. Suddenly it looked like the onset of the coronavirus – and his administration’s handling of it – might reset Trump’s long-stagnant standing with the American people.
Yeah, not so much.
The latest data from Gallup and a slew of other national polls conducted this month suggest that while Trump clearly benefited from a sort of rally-‘round-our-President effect in the early days of the pandemic’s grips on the country, that bump has now disappeared.
Gallup’s latest poll, released on Thursday, shows Trump’s approval rating at 43% – down 6 percentage points from where he was in late March in the same poll. As Gallup’s Justin McCarthy writes: “The six-point decline in the President’s approval rating is the sharpest drop Gallup has recorded for the Trump presidency so far, largely because Trump’s ratings have been highly stable.”
Why did Trump’s numbers drop? Because Democrats and independents, who briefly warmed up to him amid the onset of the pandemic, went back to feeling as they always have about him – not great. Trump is back in single-digit approval territory with Democrats (at 7%) – a drop of 6 points since the last Gallup poll. And less than 4 in 10 (39%) of independents now approve of the job he is doing, down from 43% last month.
And it’s not just Gallup. According to Real Clear Politics poll data, the last 11 national polls have all shown Trump’s disapproval rating outstripping his approval number; his average approval rating in those polls is 46% while his disapproval is 51%. The most recent CNN poll – released on April 8 – showed Trump at 44% approval and 51% disapproval.
The reason for the drop – just as the reason for his temporary rise – seems nearly certain to be perceptions of his handling of the coronavirus crisis. In a new Pew national poll, two-thirds of respondents said they though he had reacted “too slow” to the coronavirus pandemic. That same poll showed a majority of Americans (52%) saying that Tump was making the situation seem better than it actually was.
Always keenly aware of his poll numbers, Trump has grown desperate for good news among this recent slump. On Thursday, he tweeted this: “.@OANN Poll “Gives President Trump a 52% Approval Rating in North Carolina, and a seven point lead over (Sleepy) Joe Biden.”
OANN is the One America News Network, a pro-Trump “news” organization that has positioned itself to the right of Fox News in the media firmament. A quick search of a little thing I call the internet shows that OANN in fact does not do any sort of polling. In fact, if you search for “OANN poll” the link Google spits out brings you to an OANN page that says simply: “Polls. It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for. Perhaps searching can help.” Riiiiiiight.
What poll was Trump talking about then? It appears to be this one – conducted by Civitas, which bills itself as “North Carolina’s most broadly supported conservative policy organization.” So, pretty thin gruel there for Trump.
What the latest national poll numbers make clear is that a) any Trump bump from the early days of coronavirus is over and b) the pandemic, politically speaking, is not going to be the thing that saves Trump in November.
The longer the fight against coronavirus has worn on, the more Trump’s numbers have returned to where they have always been. The only question is whether, as the fight continues on, his handling (or lack thereof) of the coronavirus crisis will actually drag his approval ratings below where they have been for the past few years.