Fact Check: Trump’s 100-Day Low Approval Ratings

Trump's low approval ratings are being used by the media to discredit his first days in office. But what exactly are these "approval ratings?"

By Rachel Alexander Published on May 3, 2017

While President Trump has had a strong first 100 days in office, critics point to his low approval ratings. An AOL headline blares, “Trump has lowest approval rating in history after 100 days in office.” Trump denounces his approval polls as fake news, citing bias.

According to the left-leaning political and elections site FiveThirtyEight, Trump’s approval ratings averaged 42 percent at the end of his first 100 days in office. His disapproval ratings averaged 52 percent.

Mind you, these polls wrongly predicted Hillary Clinton would win the election. FiveThirtyEight’s averaging of polls gave Trump only a 1-in-3 chance of winning. He beat his polling averages by 2 to 3 points in swing states. He beat them by even more in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

So how can we trust the polls now that say the president’s so unpopular?

Most Polling Companies Lean to the Left

Let’s look at the most accurate polling company today, one that is not biased to the left. Rasmussen consistently shows Trump with the highest approval ratings. In fact, in one snapshot of polls from February, Rasmussen showed Trump 6 points higher than the next closest poll, 55 percent to 49 percent.

The former is the same approval rating former President Bill Clinton had after 100 days in office. Yet no one is talking about this. Instead, they cite Gallup far more often.

Larger Sampling of Democrats Polled

Since most of the polling companies lean to the left, it is not surprising to find they often include more Democrats than Republicans in samplings.

Last June, a Reuters presidential poll surveyed 52 percent Democrats and 35 percent Republicans. The rest were Independents or other. Reuters polled almost 33 percent more Democrats than Republicans. Naturally, the poll results showed Clinton far ahead, 47 percent to 33 percent.

Clever Wording

Reuters/IPSOS was caught last July changing a poll’s wording to favor Clinton. After Trump pulled ahead of her in a July poll, Reuters/IPSOS eliminated the word “Neither” from the Neither/Other choice. That change gave Clinton a 7-point bounce.

Just a Snapshot

While Trump’s approval rating may have dipped in late April, that is just one snapshot in time. It was much higher in prior months. Rasmussen conducted several polls since Trump entered office. Several showed over 50 percent approval.

Likely Voters v. Registered Voters v. Adults

Trump generally had the lowest approval ratings in polls of adults. In polls that interviewed registered voters or likely voters, he tended to have the highest approval ratings. Since likely voters decide elections, why would a polling company choose to interview adults? Some suspect this is done on purpose to skew the results against the GOP.

In fact, if polling companies wanted to be really accurate, they would survey “likely likely voters.” These are voters who have not just voted in one election in recent years, but several in a row. That demographic tends to favor the GOP even more.

Devil’s Advocate: What if the Low Approval Ratings are Valid?

If there is some truth to Trump’s low approval ratings, it may be due to — ironically — Trump’s high level of success.

If there is some truth to Trump’s low approval ratings, it may be due to  — ironically  —  his high level of success. He’s cracked down on illegal immigration, the travel ban, intervening in Syria and repealing Obamacare — all fairly controversial positions.

The low ratings could also be due to the spread of social media. It has made it easy to broadcast biased mainstream media articles everywhere. People who normally wouldn’t read The New York Times can’t help but see its articles in their Facebook news feed.

But it Doesn’t Matter Anyway

FiveThirtyEight admits that approval ratings “do a relatively poor job of forecasting the election results.” Based on previous presidents’ experiences, it is too early to predict how Trump’s presidency will go.

Trump’s approval ratings at the beginning of his first 100 days in office started out almost the same as former presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Reagan went on to become a very popular president. Both won reelection. FiveThirtyEight points out, “Trump is not very popular, but he’s also no more unpopular than Barack Obama was for much of his presidency.”

Democrats can gloat all they want about Trump’s low approval ratings, but not only are they probably meaningless, they could fool the party into thinking it’ll easily beat Trump in 2020. They could find themselves repeating last year’s surprise loss.


Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC.

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