President Donald Trump’s approval rating has ping-ponged between a low of 35% and a high of 45% during his first year in office — the worst record of any of the most recent seven presidents, according to Gallup.
Trump has incorrectly claimed that he has matched Obama’s approval rating at the same point in his predecessor’s presidency. But our analysis of Gallup approval ratings for the first 365 days of every presidency back to Jimmy Carter indicates that Trump is almost always at the back of the pack in the race for support from fellow Americans. Press “play” on the graph below or click the timeline at any point to see exactly how Trump’s approval rating stacks up:
If it’s any consolation to the White House, there appears to be a single moment in this head-to-head matchup in which Trump was not in last place. A 1993 poll conducted on June 5 and 6 rated President Bill Clinton at 37% — the lowest of his eight years in office, long before his impeachment — while Trump’s commensurate approval rating in a poll from June 12 to 18, 2017 had him at 38%. While polls don’t fall on the same exact dates for each presidency, this appears to be the only comparable window in which Trump was not the least popular recent president during his first year. (Of course, a one percentage point difference is well within the margin of error.)
Other presidents have seen more dramatic first-year fluctuations. The clearest example is George W. Bush’s quantum leap to 90% approval after the Sept. 11 attacks. His approval rating remained high, at 83%, by the end of his first year.
Of course, both pollsters and Americans adapt to the times when it comes to opinions of the president. As we have previously noted, approval ratings used to be largely guided by the economy, while the current environment lends itself to the phrase “partisan cheerleading” — which is to say, people are loath to break with their own party affiliation when it comes to how they publicly express their support a president of one party or the other.
Whether this means Trump will stay in his lane of 40%, plus or minus 5 percentage points, is not yet possible to say. Based on historical trends and contemporary patterns, we previously calculated that Trump’s lowest possible approval rating is 22%.
Design by Robin Muccari
Correction: The original version of this article misstated the year when Bill Clinton’s approval rating reached 37%. It was June of 1993, not 1994.
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