One of the storied barometers of an American president’s standing with voters is the “100-day Mark,” which President Trump has long since passed.  Polls conducted around that time in April 2017 pegged the president’s job approval at a relative low compared to previous presidents, with his approval rating clocking in at 40{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}.  Roughly 400 days later, polling conducted around the 500-day mark offers three main insights:

  • It records a slight uptick in Trump’s job performance from the 100-day mark;
  • It simultaneously underscores the ossification of Americans’ views of his job performance;
  • And yet, when placed in historical perspective, it could ultimately prove to be of little consequence given that Trump has not yet served even half of his term.

On day 506 in office, Gallup records Trump’s job approval at 42{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} (the latest weekly average).  Similarly, NBC-WSJ, for which Public Opinion Strategies is the Republican partner, pegs the president’s approval rating at 44{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in its latest June survey.

The table below displays past presidents’ approval ratings at approximately the same 500-day mark in their presidencies, as recorded by Gallup. For all of these presidents except Gerald Ford and Lyndon Johnson, who both assumed office part-way through the previous president’s term, this corresponds to June of their second year in office.  Those June Gallup approval averages, though they track closely with the 500-day mark data, are also provided in the table:

While Trump’s approval rating at the 500-day mark is below the average of 56{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}, he is certainly not alone: six other presidents have seen approval ratings under 56{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} at this point in their presidencies, including presidents who would later leave office with high marks.  The data for these presidents appear in the table below:

Not only is there room to grow, but there is also historical precedent for such growth.  The challenge for President Trump is that his approval rating fluctuates far less than those of previous presidents: all of his Gallup job approval reads have fallen within a ten-point window, 35{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-45{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}.  Moreover, his average approval rating stands at just 39{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}. By way of contrast, President Obama’s approval in his first 500 days in office saw a high of 67{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} and a low of 47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}; throughout his two terms, his approval ranged from 40{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-67{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}, a window nearly three-times as wide as Trump’s.

The jury is still out as to whether the president can expand this window; his record-low approval rating of 10{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} among members of the opposing party—in this case, Democrats—certainly is a barrier in this regard.  Whether the Republican tax reform or a long hoped-for détente with North Korea or perhaps some unforeseen circumstance or event could help to expand this window for his job approval to increase remains to be seen.

Public Opinion Strategies