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New polling confirms Trump's slide as healthcare, Russia investigation drag down his standing

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

New polling released Sunday confirmed how deep the hole is that President Trump finds himself in six months into his presidency, but also offered some warnings to his Democratic opponents.

A new Washington Post/ABC News survey found that Americans by 36%-58% disapprove of Trump's performance in office.

That's a significantly worse grade than the public has given any president at this point in his tenure since modern polling began in the 1940s.

The poll does not suggest that recent headlines have worsened Trump's standing -- although some were interpreting it that way.

There's no evidence, for example, that news of Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer and a Russian American lobbyist last year has affected the president's standing so far -- although the poll did find that by 63%-26%, Americans thought the meeting was "inappropriate."

The Post/ABC poll showed a slide in Trump's standing since the survey was last taken in April. Many other polls in the intervening weeks have documented that drop.

Most of the decline appears to have taken place in early May -- around the time that Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey and the House passed the Republican healthcare bill, which is extremely unpopular.

Trump tried to brush aside the new poll, saying in a tweet that the Post/ABC poll had been inaccurate during the 2016 election.

 

That's untrue. The Post/ABC was off by about 2 percentage points from the actual election results. If it's currently wrong by the same amount, Trump would remain far more unpopular than any of his predecessors.

But the poll offers some potential good news for the president: He has largely kept support within his own party.

While Democrats and independents disapprove of Trump's performance by large margins, those who identify themselves as Republicans continue to approve, 82%-15%.

That could give Trump a base on which to rebuild. 

In that regard, Trump's position somewhat resembles that of former President Clinton -- the only other modern president who suffered from the disapproval of a majority of voters at this stage of his presidency.

Clinton's low approval helped cost his party control of the House in the midterm election two years into his tenure. Trump's poor standing similarly threatens Republican control of the House in 2018.

But Clinton eventually was able to climb back up and win reelection, in part because of some spectacular errors by his Republican opponents.

Clinton had another factor in his favor that Trump may not, however -- the economy. He won the presidency just as the economy had started to recover from a short, but sharp, recession. Strong economic growth in his reelection year helped him win.

Trump, by contrast, took office with the economy seven years into a slow recovery from the worst recession since the 1930s. So far this year, economic growth has been lagging a bit. Whether the economy will continue to grow for the next four years is a wide-open question.

The president also could benefit from the Democrats' failure so far to convince the public that they stand for something other than opposition to Trump. In the Post/ABC poll, 37% said the Democrats stand for something, while 52% said they just oppose Trump. 

Separately, a new NBC/Wall St. Journal survey which looked at counties Trump carried in 2016 found that 50% of adults in those areas now approve of Trump. That level is significantly below Trump's showing in those counties in the election, which averaged around 60%. The two numbers are not entirely comparable, but the figure suggests some weakening of Trump's backing in the places crucial to his victory.

The Washington Post/ABC poll was conducted July 10-13 among 1,001 adults nationwide.  The margin of sampling error is 3.5 points in either direction. The NBC/Wall St. Journal survey was conducted July 8-12 among 600 adults in the targeted counties. The margin of error for the full sample is 4.0 percentage points in either direction.

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