The FINANCIAL — President Donald Trump’s job approval rating averaged 38.4% during his first year in office — slightly more than 10 percentage points lower than any other elected president’s first-year average. Bill Clinton is the only other president who was below 50% in his first year. All others were 57% or higher, with six of the 10 presidents elected since World War II averaging 60% or better in their first year.
Presidents usually get substantial support from the public during their first year in office, known as the “honeymoon period” and marked by above-average job approval ratings.
Trump had little or no honeymoon period to speak of — beginning his presidency with a job approval rating below 50%. His ratings eroded over the course of his first year in office but have since stabilized between 36% and 37%. This is reflected in his quarterly averages — during his recently completed fourth quarter in office, an average of 36.8% of Americans approved of the job he was doing, essentially the same as his third-quarter average.
His most recent weekly average, based on Jan. 15-21 interviewing, is 36%.
Trump First Year Ranks in Bottom 10 of All Presidential Years
Trump’s 2017-2018 yearly average is not only the lowest for a first-year president, it ranks among the 10 worst for any president in any year since Gallup began regularly measuring job approval in 1945. These include Jimmy Carter’s third and fourth years; George W. Bush’s sixth, seventh and eighth years; Harry Truman’s seventh and eighth years; and Richard Nixon’s last partial year leading up to his resignation. Unlike Trump, all those presidents were in the late stages of their presidencies.
Trump Approval Among Independents, Democrats Well Below Historical Averages
Historically low first-year ratings from both Democrats and independents contributed to Trump’s record-low overall ratings. Just 8% of Democrats approved of the job he was doing, shattering the previous low approval rating among supporters of the opposition party in a president’s first year — 23% for both Barack Obama and Clinton among Republicans. Before Trump, first-year elected presidents had averaged 44% approval from those who identify with the opposition party.
Trump’s 34% job approval among independents also pales in comparison to the 60% historical average approval independents gave to Presidents Eisenhower through Obama in their first year.
Democrats’ and independents’ low approval ratings for Trump led to his lack of a honeymoon period.
Republicans’ ratings of Trump are not out of line with what prior presidents have gotten from supporters of their party. The 83% first-year average approval for Trump among Republicans is higher than Carter’s and Clinton’s averages among Democrats, and about the same as those for the elder George Bush, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon among Republicans. Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, George W. Bush and Obama received higher job approval ratings from their fellow partisans during their first year than Trump did.
The 75-point difference between Democrats’ and Republicans’ approval of Trump is easily the largest party gap a first-year president has had. Obama’s 65-point gap during his first year is now second largest, while Clinton’s 52-point gap ranks third. All other presidents’ first-year approval ratings showed party differences of 45 points or less.
The 75-point party gap in Trump’s job approval rating is also one of the highest in Gallup’s polling history. It ranks fourth behind a 77-point gap in Obama’s eighth year as president and 76-point gaps in Obama’s and George W. Bush’s fourth years.
Trump, and his fellow Republicans, can only hope his ratings improve soon with midterm elections coming this November. Trump’s low job approval rating imperils the Republican congressional majorities given the strong relationship between presidential approval ratings and midterm election outcomes.
With Trump’s ratings showing only modest change over his first year in office, it is possible that opinions of him have essentially crystallized and thus will be more resistant to change regardless of national conditions. Indeed, a recent Gallup analysis suggested Trump should be enjoying approval ratings closer to the majority level, given historical patterns between job approval and measures of national conditions.