Since taking office, President Donald Trump has had consistently dismal approval polling, usually hovering steadily around 42 percent with disapproval in the mid-50s or even low 60s at different points. After having been obsessed with polls during the 2016 primary and general elections, Trump has largely avoided talking about his approval numbers as president because they’ve been so unimpressive (though he once bizarrely bragged about a poll finding his approval at 45 percent.)
So it was notable Thursday when Trump tweeted a screenshot of a poll from Fox Business’s show Lou Dobbs Tonight, which claimed that he has a 55 percent approval rating — a number that would be fairly impressive compared to his baseline:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2019
But as anyone who is familiar with the president’s polling could have told you at a glance, something was wrong with this picture. The best case scenario was that this poll was an extreme outlier for the president, showing a much more positive view of Trump than most other surveys found.
Yet it was much worse than that: an outright error. It was what Trump himself would call “fake news” had any mainstream outlet made a similar mistake that made him look bad.
“That tweet featured a poll that was not entirely accurate, which Fox Business would like to correct,” Fox Business reporter Blake Burman said Thursday of Trump’s tweet, in a clip pointed out by Axios. “According to a poll from Georgetown University, 58 percent of respondents approved of the president’s handling of the economy. That portion of the graphic was right. However, the graphic also showed that 55 percent of the respondents approved of the president; that number is not correct. The 55 percent number was those, Stuart, who have an unfavorable impression of President Trump.”
Only 40 percent of people have a “favorable” view of the president, according to that poll. (On the slightly different question of “approval,” Trump fared slightly better — 43 percent of people approve of him overall while 52 percent disapprove.)
And in fact, that difference between the public’s view of Trump’s handling of the economy its view on his favorability is a pretty telling feature of the poll. Presidential approval is often closely tied to Americans’ view of the economy. The fact that, in Trump’s case, so many people can believe that he’s handling the economy well (whatever that means) while also having an unfavorable view of him show what a miserable job he is doing at uniting and leading the country. It also indicates that, if the economy falters between now and November 2020, his approval rating could plummet even further and drastically reduce his reelection chances that are already lower than they could be. In approval terms, Trump is operating without a safety net.
And as of publication time, Trump has not removed or amended his false tweet.