Throughout his presidency, President Donald Trump has remained hugely popular among fellow Republicans. As recently as December, after Trump had lost the 2020 election to President-elect Joe Biden, some polls showed the president with an approval rating in the high 80s among Republicans.
But a new poll by the Pew Research Center suggests that the events of the last few weeks — a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol, and then Trump was impeached for the second time in his presidency — are finally starting to weigh on Republican voters. The poll was conducted from January 8-12, so it was conducted entirely after the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
The poll shows Trump with a disastrous 29 percent approval rating among US adults. Notably, this rating, the lowest of his presidency, appears to be driven in large part by a significant minority of Republicans who have lost faith in the president. Only 60 percent of Republicans approve of Trump, a stark drop from previous Pew polls.
The poll potentially bodes bad news for the Republican Party, as it shows that a rift may be forming within the GOP between hardcore Trump loyalists and Republicans who would prefer to see the party leader fade away. Other recent polls have also found a sharp decrease in Trump’s support, as FiveThirtyEight’s tracker shows, though not all to such a low.
According to Pew, 29 percent of Republicans agree with four pro-Trump statements — they “endorse Trump’s post-election conduct, hold him blameless for the riot, believe he is the election’s rightful winner and want him to have a major role in politics going forward.”
At the same time, 25 percent of Republicans disagree with all four of these statements.
Trump lost the 2020 election by more than 7 million votes. His false claims that the election was somehow stolen from him have been rejected by numerous courts, including by judges appointed by Trump himself.
At least some of Trump’s falling approval rating might be explained by a phenomenon known as “response bias.” When the news is dominated by stories that reflect badly on a politician, that politician’s supporters sometimes stop responding to pollsters, leading to artificially poor polling numbers for the embattled figure.
And Republicans don’t seem to have budged much yet on support for impeachment, with a slim majority of Americans saying that Trump should be removed, but only 15 percent of Republicans agreeing, according to FiveThirtyEight’s poll average.
But Pew’s numbers are especially stark, and if other polls show similarly large declines, they could potentially have serious long-term implications for Trump.
Most likely next week, the Senate will convene to hold Trump’s second impeachment trial. While it is very unlikely that this trial will conclude soon enough to remove Trump from office before his term expires on Wednesday, the Senate has the power to permanently disqualify Trump from holding office — but only if two-thirds of senators first agree to convict Trump on a charge of inciting insurrection.
That means that at least 17 Republican senators would need to break with Trump for him to be convicted.
Republican senators will be more likely to do so if Trump is a toxic figure with the public at large. And they’ll be even more likely to do so if large numbers of their own base view Trump’s insurrectionist behavior as unforgivable.