Trump’s record low approval rating first in presidential history

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

President Donald Trump’s approval rating numbers are sinking fast. The latest Gallup Poll released on Sunday, March 26, 2017, indicated that the president now has a 36 percent approval rating. The number is ten points less than his high of 46 percent just after his inauguration. Trump may not have the lowest approval rating in Gallup’s history, but it is the lowest so early in a presidential term. The poll comes just after the House of Representatives failed to vote on their Obamacare replacement, the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

After just over two months in office, Trump’s approval rating is tumbling. The president has a 36 approval rating with a disapproval rating of 57 percent. The disapproval rating is not Trump’s highest on record for his short presidency; on March 18, he had a 58 percent disapproval rating. The approval rating number is also lower than his predecessor Barack Obama’s eight-year term. Obama had a 38 percent approval rating; however, it was in late in his first term in 2011 and his second term in office in 2014.

Trump’s first term low is only comparable to Democrat Bill Clinton (1993–2000). Clinton had a 37 percent approval rating during the summer of 1993, six months into his term. Clinton’s approval rating went on to rebound to 56 percent by September. Clinton also ended up serving two presidential terms, and he had one of the highest approval rating averages of all post-war presidents. Clinton’s low numbers early on did signify bad news for his party, the Democrats during the midterm elections. In November 1994, the Democrats lost the House of Representatives to the Republicans.

Gerald Ford (1974–1977) also saw 37 percent approval rating in his first year in office in January 1975, five months after assuming the office upon Nixon’s resignation mostly over his pardon of Nixon. Ford’s story did not have the positive ending Clinton did; Ford lost the 1976 election to Jimmy Carter.

The Gallup Poll was conducted just after the Republicans failed to garner enough support to repeal and replace Obamacare. The repeal was a significant promise Republicans made to their constituents since the health care bill first passed in 2010. With Republicans controlling both houses of Congress and the presidency, the time seemed ripe for a change in the legislation. The conservative House Freedom Caucus, however, found the bill to moderate and too much like Obamacare Lite that their opposition tanked the bill.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was scrambling on Friday, March 24 to garner enough votes to pass the bill, but without the Freedom Caucus or any Democrats intending to vote in favor, the bill simply did not have enough votes, and Ryan decided to pull it upon the president’s request. With Trump’s five-point drop in his approval rating in one week, from 41 percent to 36 percent it is clear, Americans are blaming the president for failing to close the deal.

Trump’s approval rating numbers are not the lowest in presidential history. According to Gallup, the following presidents all saw their numbers below 36 percent during their presidencies. They include “Presidents George W. Bush (25%), George H.W. Bush (29%), Ronald Reagan (35%), Jimmy Carter (28%), Richard Nixon (24%), Lyndon Johnson (35%) and Harry Truman (22%).”

A low presidential approval rating is not all bad news for a president. The entire above-mentioned presidents saw their numbers improve except for Nixon, who went to resign in 1974 the presidency over the Watergate scandal. Trump, however, has his brewing scandal over Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential campaign that swung the election to his favor. Inquiries are now trying to determine whether Trump campaign officials or even the president was involved in Russia’s election interference.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

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