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Trump Is Far Less Popular Than The Economy Suggests He Should Be

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup. Today’s theme song: “Let the River Run” from the television show “Working Girl.”

Poll of the week

President Trump continues to be the least popular president this far into his presidency. With a net approval rating1 of -18 percentage points, Trump easily outpaces former President Gerald Ford, who previously held the record low (-9 points). But here’s what makes Trump’s poor rating extra unusual: People think the economy is in pretty good shape.

Trump’s net job approval rating on the economy specifically — pollsters typically ask whether a respondent approves of “how Trump is handling the economy” — tends to be significantly higher than his overall rating. In the latest Quinnipiac University survey, for example, Trump sports an -18 percentage point net approval rating overall and a +2 point rating on the economy.

That’s a huuuuuuge split.

As you can see in the chart below, Trump’s overall net approval rating is far below where we would expect it to be if the usual relationship between economic and overall approval ratings held for him.2

Instead of a net job approval rating of -18 percentage points, Trump’s would be projected to be about +12 percentage points.

Every president since Jimmy Carter had a higher overall net job approval rating than economic approval rating in October of the first term. For example, President Obama averaged a net job approval rating of +11, according to FiveThirtyEight’s approval tracker, and an economic net approval rating of +4. On average, presidents have had a net overall rating 14 points above their economic rating. Trump’s is closer to 20 points below his economic rating.

The sample size of previous presidents here is pretty small at just six, so we shouldn’t read too much into the exact projection of what we’d expect Trump’s overall job approval rating to be in comparison to his economic rating. Additionally, Trump’s background as a businessman may give him a boost in economic job approval ratings that previous presidents didn’t get. Still, it does seem that Trump’s popularity is vastly lower than we would expect given how Americans view him on the economy.

It’ll be interesting to see how this unusual split relates to upcoming elections. If Republicans hold their own in the 2018 midterms, it could be because voters are casting their ballots based on how they feel about Trump’s performance on the economy. It’s also possible that Trump’s overall approval rating will improve to match his economic approval rating as voters tune in before the midterms. If Trump’s overall approval ratings remain low and Republicans lose a lot of seats in the midterms, however, it will be in spite of what they see as a decent economy.

Other polling nuggets

  • 87 percent of Americans think sexual harassment in the workplace is a problem, per a new Marist poll. That’s way up from past decades.
  • A majority of millennial women say they have received a “dick pic,” according to a YouGov survey. Just 27 percent of millennial men say they have sent one, but 20 percent of men “prefer not to say” whether they have or not.
  • Just 9 percent of Democrats, 11 percent of Republicans and 13 percent of independents gave Trump a score between 41 and 60 (on a scale of 0 to 100) when Gallup asked what percentage of what Trump does that they support. That is, most Americans like a lot of what Trump does or very little. Few are in the middle.
  • Trump’s net approval rating among his base of rural voters, according to Ipsos polling, has fallen from +17 percentage points to zero since the beginning of his presidency.
  • Trump’s approval rating has also dropped in every state since the beginning of his presidency, according to Morning Consult.
  • Mary Norwood (22 percent) and Keisha Lance Bottoms (19 percent) lead the Atlanta mayoral race and look like they will advance to a December runoff, according to a new Landmark Communications survey.
  • The race to be the next mayor of Syracuse, New York, according to Siena College: Democrat Juanita Perez Williams (35 percent); independent Ben Walsh, who has family ties to the GOP (28 percent); Republican Laura Levine and Working Families Party candidate Joe Nicoletti, who isn’t campaigning and has endorsed Williams (each at 9 percent); and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins (5 percent).
  • A “little more than half of Republicans” want those who burn or desecrate the American flag to be stripped of their citizenship, according to a YouGov/Cato survey.
  • Dallas-Fort Worth residents, at 86 percent, were the most likely to say the relationship between the public and the local police was at least somewhat good in a YouGov survey of the 20 most populous cities. Just 51 percent of Chicago residents said the same.
  • Following the mass shooting in Las Vegas in which a number of the guns found in the murderer’s hotel room used “bump fire stocks,” 52 percent of Americans want them banned completely per a YouGov poll. Just 34 percent of Republican do, which could make a bill to ban them difficult to get through a Republican-controlled Congress.
  • Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced she is running for re-election this past week. Her approval rating was 54 percent among likely voters and 76 percent among Democrats in a September Public Policy Institute of California survey.

Trump’s job approval rating

Trump’s job approval rating has fallen to 37.9 percent, while his disapproval rating has risen to 56 percent. Those are slightly worse than last week, when his approval rating was at 38.8 percent and his disapproval rating was at 55.6 percent.

The generic ballot

Democrats lead the Republicans 46.6 percent to 39 percent on the generic congressional ballot. That’s basically unchanged from last week.


  1. That’s the share of people who approve of Trump minus the share who disapprove.

  2. We’re looking at the overall and economic job approval ratings for each president since Jimmy Carter in October in the first term.

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