York column: Job performance metric too simplistic to rate Trump – Baraboo News Republic

Posted: August 27, 2017 at 9:43 pm


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Perhaps the most astonishing thing about Donald Trumps victory last November was that, according to exit polls, 60 percent of the voters had an unfavorable impression of Trump on the day he was elected president of the United States.

Now, its remarkable that after all that has happened, Trumps favorable and unfavorable rating not his job approval, but whether people hold a favorable or unfavorable view of him is virtually the same as it was on election day.

A new Marist poll found that 60 percent of those surveyed have an unfavorable view of the president, versus 34 percent who have a favorable view and 6 percent who dont know.

In the RealClearPolitics average of all polls on the favorable/unfavorable question, Trump is now at 55.2 percent unfavorable versus 39.6 percent favorable. That is little changed from his average on November 8: 58.5 percent unfavorable, versus 37.5 percent favorable.

Considering all that has gone on in the Trump presidency, the stability of the Trump favorable/unfavorable rating is notable.

The other measure, Trumps job approval rating, has fallen since he took office; it was 43.8 percent in the RCP average in his first week in office and is 38.6 percent now. Pollsters and strategists believe the job approval rating is much more important than personal approval.

In every model I am familiar with over the past 40 years, job approval has been a more influential predictor than a personal favorable rating and I believe that will be true for President Trump as well, Bill McInturff, the Republican pollster who, along with Democrat Peter Hart, conducts the Wall Street Journal-NBC poll, said in an email exchange. Long ago, presidents could have some gap between how we perceived them personally, with Carter and Reagan, for example, having stronger personal ratings than job approval at various points. An exception was President Clinton in 1998, who had terrible personal ratings, but high job approval.

Right now, Trumps job approval and personal favorability ratings are very close, as are the job disapproval and personal unfavorable ratings. But is that disastrous for the president, or not? Theres still what happened on election day to consider.

In another email exchange, David Winston, a pollster who has done extensive work for House Republicans, agreed that job approval is a more important measure than personal approval, but also noted that Trumps polls are hard to interpret.

Trying to compare Trump numbers with prior presidents at this point is very difficult, particularly given that he started with 60 percent unfavorable on election night, Winston said. He also had a significant amount of support coming from people who had an unfavorable view of him. Of the people that voted for him, 20 percent had an unfavorable view, according to the exit polls.

Winstons comments suggest that the old way of viewing job approval as the pre-eminent measure of a presidents performance might be lacking when it comes to Trump. Yet nobody has come up with a better measure.

Though much of the political reporting and commentary at the moment focuses on Trumps excesses, McInturff also sees something bigger than Trump at work.

We are at the logical end of a generation of change in American politics, McInturff said. Political scientists measure polarization by the gap between how the presidents party rates a president versus the opposition party. President Clinton was the most polarizing president in polling history, followed by Bush 43, who took over the mantle of most polarizing until replaced by President Obama, with the largest gap now being held by President Trump.

McInturffs conclusion: President Trump did not begin this trend, but he has become its logical end point. Hence, its hard to change numbers when 85 percent of your own party likes you and functionally no one does in the other party.

I think two polarizing presidencies in a row have broken this measuring stick, Brad Todd, a Republican strategist who has worked with many congressional candidates, wrote in an email. Job approval is more important than personal favorability, but neither is as important as what we call the gas pedal/brake pedal question.

Trump is a conundrum, Todd concluded, because voters see him as a brake pedal on both parties. So it is unclear whether they will put a brake pedal on the brake pedal in the next midterm.

The bottom line is that evaluating Trumps standing is probably more complicated than simply citing a falling job approval number. This is a presidency like no other, and it should be no surprise that measuring it presents new problems.

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York column: Job performance metric too simplistic to rate Trump - Baraboo News Republic

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August 27th, 2017 at 9:43 pm