Email #324: Least Popular President in Modern History

How do you think President Trump is going to influence the coming election?

Begin by comparing his approval levels to his predecessor’s. According to the conglomerate polling data at Real Clear Politics, in October of his first year in office President Obama’s approval rating was 52% and his disapproval 42%. The low point of his two terms didn’t come till December 2013, when his approval dropped to 43% and his disapproval rose to 53%.

In contrast, President Trump has been consistently polling below Obama’s lowest marks since May, with a current approval of 39% and disapproval of 56%.

In fact all Presidents but one since 1946 had higher approval ratings in the October of their first year. The exception is President Ford, who took office after Richard Nixon resigned rather than face removal through an impeachment conviction, and Ford’s approval plummeted after granting Nixon a pardon.

Even President Clinton had climbed out of his June low of 38% and had begun his slow climb to his high mark of 72%.

Prior to President Trump, the lowest average approval rating at this point in a first term was President Truman’s 45%.

President Trump’s current average is 39%.

That’s not going to help Republican candidates running on November 7th. Perhaps President Trump will reverse his slow downward trend before the following election on November 6, 2018.

According to the National Review, the party of a President has maintained a House majority only four times since 1952, while the other party won twelves times. Democrats lost 48 seats in 1966, but still held onto their majority. That’s because they started with a 70-seat advantage. Currently Republicans have a 24-seat advantage.

According to Gallup records, the party of Presidents with 50% approval or higher have lost an average of 14 House seats in mid-term elections, while Presidents with approval below 50% have averaged a loss of 36 seats.

Gerrymandering by Republican state legislatures will help offset the President’s low approval—but only to a degree. And there’s also an unprecedented complication for Republicans. According to a CBS survey, 39% of Republicans think you and other House Republicans “don’t like” the President and want to undermine him, and another 37% think you only “pretend to” to like him in order to pass your own agenda. That means that even if the President’s base stops shrinkinfg, those voters support him, not you and the rest of the GOP Congress.

Also, according to a Quinnipiac survey, 29% blame Democrats for legislative gridlock but 46% blame Republicans. While that’s already bad news for you, only 15% blame the President and only 4% of Republican voters blame him. In short, President Trump is objectively the least popular president in modern history, and his small but loyal base openly rejects the Republican party establishment.

Finally, in the past month, five Republicans—Rep. Reichert, Rep. Dent, Rep. Tiberi, Senator Flake, and Senator Corker—have announced that they will not be running for reelection. A total of 19 Republicans but only 10 Democrats are stepping down.

Why do you think that is?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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