As President Donald Trump nears the end of his third month in office, it’s clear his approval ratings aren’t looking so great.
But a new Pew Research Center report provides a useful reminder of just how bad Trump’s numbers are for a new president in particular.
This chart shows the most recent six presidents’ approval ratings in their early months in office. One of these is most definitely not like the others:
Indeed, the norm is for a new president to still be in the 50 to 60 percent approval range by April, and to have disapproval numbers that are quite low (under 30 percent).
For Trump, things are reversed. He’s currently polling at 39 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval, according to Pew. That is far worse than any of the numbers for the most recent five presidents before him at this point in their presidencies.
As the historical comparisons show, the early months are typically a “honeymoon” period for a new president, in which most Americans tend to approve of him and outright disapproval is limited to a relatively small minority of the population.
Yet whether due to Trump’s own failure to reach out and his penchant for controversy, or due to Democratic voters never giving him a chance, Trump got no honeymoon to speak of. Though his favorability improved during the transition, he remained more unpopular than popular throughout it. And though he started off after his inauguration with net positive job approval ratings, that turned around within just two weeks.
This is the backdrop for many of Trump’s struggles so far. A new president’s popularity during the honeymoon period can often help him get major new bills through — bills that would be tougher to pass later in the term, when presidential popularity tends to dwindle. But though Trump remains quite popular among Republicans and Republican leaners, he just doesn’t have that broad popularity among the general public. So it’s no surprise he’s had a tough time reshaping American policy.
More from Pew: almost nobody in America thinks Trump is too cautious
There’s lots more to chew over in the full Pew report, including dismal approval ratings for House Speaker Paul Ryan, an enduring Republican advantage over Democrats on the terrorism issue, and massive Democratic advantages on the environment and health care.
But one of my favorite bits is the question about whether respondents think Trump is “too impulsive,” “too cautious,” or “about right” in his decision-making, pictured above — because numbers for a question like this are rarely so lopsided.
Yes, a mere 2 percent of respondents say they think Trump is too cautious. That breaks down into just 1 percent of Democrats or Democrat leaners, and a mere 4 percent of Republicans or Republican leaners. So if Trump wants to improve his popularity, he may want to start by trying to act more presidential, and cutting down on the tweets.
Today’s top politics reads
- “Bold promises, fewer results: Trump's executive orders don't always live up to his claims”: “A review by The Times of the 39 orders and presidential memorandums signed by Trump found that fewer than half actually made a substantive change in federal policy. Sixteen of the directives simply told Cabinet agencies to study a problem and come up with recommendations — something that in many cases the agencies had the authority to do even without a formal order.” —David Lauter, Los Angeles Times
- “Trump gives generals more freedom on ISIS fight”: “While military commanders complained about White House micromanagement under former President Barack Obama, they are now being told they have more freedom to make decisions without consulting Mr. Trump. ... The firmer military stance has fueled growing concerns among State Department officials working on Middle East policy that the Trump administration is giving short shrift to the diplomatic tools the Obama administration favored.” —Dion Nissenbaum and Maria Abi-Habib, Wall Street Journal
- “The inside story of the Kushner-Bannon civil war”: “Who will be next to fall from grace is a daily parlor game of the Washington press corps. What seems clear is that each member of the staff operates with the knowledge that there will always be someone who seems about to fall next, and that that person may well be him or her. This uncertainty is frozen in place by a peculiar trait of the boss: as one West Wing official told me, ‘For a person who has made a very successful TV career off “You’re fired,” he’s not someone who likes to fire people.’” —Sarah Ellison, Vanity Fair