The internet is nothing if not a source of instant gratification. What the news cycle delivers, it can unceremoniously take away. Opponents of President Donald Trump who are celebrating a dip in his job approval ratings today are celebrating prematurely. Their imprudent revelries are only creating the conditions for Trump to claim vindication when those ratings improve.
The latest source of the merriment among Donald Trump’s opponents comes from Gallup’s tracking poll, which shows Donald Trump’s approval rating among adults cratering to an all-time low. Gallup as a pollster has particular historical utility because it has used the same methods to track the approval rating of every president since the late 1940s. Their latest results show Trump’s approval ratings sliding to an abysmal 35 percent. With 59 percent of respondents disapproving of his performance in office, Trump is a miserable 24 points underwater.
Barack Obama’s all-time low in Gallup’s tracker never went lower than 38 percent. At 35 percent, Trump matches the low point of Ronald Reagan’s presidency when he, too, hit 35 percent in 1983. It seems not to have occurred to those touting Trump’s abysmal numbers that neither president is remembered for a brief period of ugly job approval ratings.
These numbers should not be dismissed outright by Trump’s defenders. In the wake of a series of setbacks, controversies, and legislative disappointments all of the president’s own making, Trump’s performance in office has lived down to his detractors’ expectations. The president’s standing is so precarious now that well-heeled activists are coming to his defense with a seven-figure pro-Trump media blitz. This is a presidency in crisis.
And yet, it is only day 70 of the Trump presidency. Gallup’s numbers have likely been driven downward as a result of the recent failure of the Republican ObamaCare replacement bill and, perhaps to a lesser extent, the revelation that the FBI is investigating his campaign for its links to Russian officials. Investigations are fickle things; they can result in exculpation as often as indictment. Just ask Hillary Clinton. Further, Trump’s early failures could quickly be forgotten in the wake of successes in Congress and the courts. In the next several weeks, the GOP-led Congress could confirm a Supreme Court justice and secure a sweeping tax code overhaul. Unless Trump’s critics believe the 115th Congress will be entirely unproductive, they would do well to temper the expectancies of “The Resistance.”
Finally, it’s of note that Trump’s job approval rating does not begin and end with Gallup. A variety of pollsters that gauge the sentiment of likely and registered voters have found the president performing far better, albeit still in negative territory. If Trump’s most wide-eyed opponents are hoping that the president’s support among Republicans in Congress softens to the point that they would one day throw him to the wolves, polls of American adults are all but useless. All that matters are polls of voters—specifically, Republican voters—and most surveys find the GOP’s rank and file are still solidly behind the president.
President Donald Trump remains his own worst enemy, but he could not ask for a more reckless troupe of antagonists. The matter of whether Trump’s job approval ratings rebound is much more likely a matter of when than if. When the president rebounds, those same media figures who are today covering the president’s job approval ratings with breathless disregard for historical precedent will surely not adjust their tactics. Only then, the headline will be the renewed enthusiasm among Americans for the Trump and his agenda. The coverage then will be just as hyperbolic as it is now, but an utter lack of perspective is no impediment to a dramatic narrative.