A Year-to-Year Look At President Trump’s Approval Rating

As a pollster, there are multiple positive reasons to enjoy having monthly national surveys.  The two primary reasons are the ability to look at data over time, and also to merge data into huge cell sizes.

My partner, Bill McInturff has served as the Republican half of the bi-partisan NBC/Wall Street Journal surveys since 2004, which has provided both in-depth longitudinal and merge data on numerous key survey questions.

Looking at the subgroup merge data for 2017 and 2018 on President Trump’s approval rating is instructive, because we are talking about robust cell sizes.  The 2017 merge N size is 7,500 and the 2018 merge N size is 9,180.

Merge data of that size across a year smooths out the bumps from one month to the next.  Overall, President Trump’s job rating for 2017 was 41% approve/53% disapprove.  In 2018, it was 44% approve/53% disapprove.  For such tumultuous political times as we are living in, that’s actually relatively stable; only a three point net shift in favor of the President from one year to the next.

While that is neat and all, the really interesting changes come in the subgroups.  The table below breaks it down further, but here is a quick synopsis of groups with whom the President improved with, weakened with, or there was little change from 2017 to 2018.

The biggest net gains for the President’s approval rating from 2017 came with Hispanics, 18-34 year olds, men 18-49, conservatives, and voters in the South.  It is important to recognize that inclusion on this list does not mean support for the President.  Three groups, Hispanics, 18-34 year olds, and younger men, are still negative on his approval rating, but just not as negative in 2018 as in 2017.  For example, Hispanics went from 26% approve/68% disapprove in 2017 to 30% approve/64% disapprove in 2018 – a net shift of eight points.  That was the largest net gain for Trump year to year.

Out of the 47 subgroups that we looked at, only five, had their net approval of Trump drop more than two points.  The biggest drop came with a group who already did not like him, as white college educated women dropped a net six points, from 35% approve/61% disapprove in 2017 to 33% approve/65% disapprove last year.  Other groups that dropped were senior citizens, older women, white women, and white voters in the Northeast.

All of the five groups who became more negative toward the President were already negative to him in 2017.  They just became even more negative in 2018.  Three of those five groups really underscore the challenges Trump’s approval rating faces among women.

Many subgroups had no significant change, ranging from a net gain of two points to a net loss of two points.

The chart below shows all 47 subgroups in each of three categories: Trump gains, No change, and Trump drops. 

While there was not much movement in the President’s approval rating from his first calendar year to the second calendar year, the fact that the movement was positive overall means that the 2018 election may have actually been worse for Republicans if it had happened in 2017!

*This post does not reflect the opinions of NBC, WSJ, or Hart Research


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