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There’s Been A Lot Of News But Little Change In Trump’s Approval Rating

Welcome to a new weekly column — Name TBD — about polls and politics. We’ll follow President Trump’s approval rating and the generic ballot, and provide a far-ranging round-up of the most interesting surveys released over the past week. (Also, a “TV theme song of the week.” Just because.) I hope you enjoy it, but it’s very much a work in progress, so if you have requests for what you want to see in this space (or ideas for the column’s name), email us. This week’s TV theme song: the Osmonds sing “Hello Utah” for KUTV.

Trump’s job approval rating

President Trump’s job approval ratings barely budged over the past week. He began it at 37 percent approve and 57 percent disapprove, and that’s where he is now.

So far, Trump’s pardon of ex-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio hasn’t had much effect on his approval rating. That’s about as expected. The pardon was unpopular, but so is Trump. And most people who disapproved of the pardon were already anti-Trump.

Trump’s handling of Hurricane Harvey, meanwhile, also hasn’t really moved the needle on his approval. But it’s still very early, and that could change as the damage from the storm is assessed and the government’s response unfolds. Early surveys indicate that, if anything, Trump might receive a boost in the storm’s aftermath. In a Fox News poll, 44 percent approved of Trump’s handling of the storm compared to 26 percent who disapproved. That’s a better split than his overall approval rating. Still, roughly a third of respondents (30 percent) were undecided, and they were mostly Hillary Clinton voters, so don’t be surprised if we end up with a more even divide between approval and disapproval of Trump’s handling of the storm as more Americans make up their mind.

The generic ballot

Democrats currently lead the generic congressional ballot 46 percent to 36 percent. (Last week: Democrats’ 47 percent to Republicans’ 37 percent).

We get a lot less polling for the generic ballot than we do Trump’s approval rating, but it’s well-worth following nonetheless. Between self-sorting and the way district lines are drawn, Republicans have a built-in advantage in the battle for control of the House. In short, the GOP can hold the House even while losing the national House vote. But Democrats’ large lead at the moment is still a clear indication that Trump is dragging down congressional Republicans. Anyway, the numbers haven’t moved much over the past week, so we’re in a watch-and-wait mode.

Other interesting nuggets

  • Trump’s conduct — The Pew Research Center found that few people like the way Trump has conducted himself as president. That includes Republicans, who mostly agree with the president on the issues — 65 percent of GOP respondents either had “mixed feelings” about or didn’t like Trump’s conduct. Just 16 percent of Americans overall like it. Meanwhile, 58 percent don’t like Trump’s conduct, which is very close to his overall disapproval number.
  • Betting on a full termFox News asked voters if Trump will make it through the end of his term. Most (58 percent) thought he would. The mere fact that the question was even asked (and similar ones have been asked about Trump before) is astounding. I went back into the Roper Center archives and found only two other instances of a question like this during a president’s first term. One was during Dwight Eisenhower’s tenure, after he suffered a heart attack in 1955. The other was after Jimmy Carter’s “malaise speech” in 1979.
  • Alabama polls are all over the place — Polls released over the last two weeks of Alabama’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate have found anything from a Roy Moore lead over Sen. Luther Strange of just 2 percentage points (Harper Polling) to Moore up by 19 points (JMC Analytics). That’s a pretty big spread, and it’s partly because pollsters aren’t sure who will turn out to vote, on Sept. 26, in a special election primary runoff. The average poll has Moore up by 9 points, but with such a wide spread I’d urge caution.
  • Flake’s in big trouble — The Arizona GOP Senate primary is still about a year away. But the prospect that Sen. Jeff Flake won’t make it out of the GOP primary is looking very real. Two polls conducted since Trump ripped into Flake on Twitter have Flake trailing Kelli Ward by double digits. Flake hasn’t led in a single primary poll taken at any point since last November.
  • Maybe Heller is too — Republican Sen. Dean Heller could also be in trouble. JMC Analytics released a poll this week of the Nevada GOP Senate primary. It found Heller (who’s had a lukewarm relationship with Trump) losing to Danny Tarkanian (a perennial Republican candidate and big-time Trump backer) 39 percent to 31 percent. Heller answered this survey by releasing his own internal poll showing him up 55 percent to 33 percent. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

Harry Enten is a senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight.

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