Trump’s approval rating is down significantly from 49% in March, while his disapproval rating is up 9 points from 45%.
What’s the point: Trump received a clear boost in his approval rating as the coronavirus pandemic began to grip the country. His net approval rating (approval - disapproval) among voters shot up to its highest point since the first month of his presidency. But now, just weeks later, Trump’s popularity has been dropping.
Looking at the data, Trump seems to have had one of the fastest retreats of a rally around the flag effect in modern polling history.
Trump’s net approval rating stood at -10 points among voters in an aggregate of polls as late as March 11. Less than three weeks later, it got up to -4 points on March 27. Today, it’s back down to -8 points.
Even at its peak, the jump of just 6 points is weaker than any well-known rally around the flag event that I know of for a president. It’s only about half that of what Barack Obama got after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. It falls well short of the nearly 70-point jump George W. Bush received after 9/11.
But even if Trump failed to reach the levels of any of his predecessors, you might have thought the bump would stick around for a while. Even the shortest of bumps (like Bush got after Saddam Hussein was captured) had residual effects for a few months. My study of rally around the flag events since World War II found that the median one still has some effect for more than 200 days after the event occurs.
We’re only about 40 days after Trump started to see his polling climb. Unbelievably, this is usually when rally around the flag effects hit their peak, not when they are almost entirely extinguished.
Now, a lot has changed since many of these rally around the flag events took place. We’re in a 24/7 news environment. Still, there’s plenty of reason to think that Trump’s limited bounce in terms of height and time is an underperformance.
Indeed, as Trump’s approval rating has declined, Congress’ has gone up. Both Fox News and Gallup put Congress’ approval rating at their highest since 2009. In pretty much every state poll I’m aware of, the governor’s approval rating, no matter their party affiliation, is higher than Trump’s. Even internationally, Trump saw a significantly smaller bounce than other world leaders.
It is possible that Trump could see some sort of secondary bounce. You can imagine that possibly happening when restrictions are lifted in states or when a vaccine is found.
In terms of his reelection prospects, it should be worrying to the President that even with a black swan pandemic occurring, he couldn’t get his net approval rating above 0 points. It’s going to be difficult to win the election if his net approval rating is -8 points among voters on election day.