The FINANCIAL -- President Donald Trump's 40% job approval rating about one month into his presidency is 21 percentage points below the historical average rating for elected presidents in mid-February (61%). It is also 11 points below the lowest mid-February reading for any other president.
Bill Clinton held the previous low for a president near the end of his first month in office, at 51%. Ronald Reagan was the only other president with ratings at this point in his tenure below 60%. John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter enjoyed approval ratings above 70% at similar points in their presidencies, according to Gallup.
Trump's initial job approval rating was 45%, making him the first president to begin his term with less-than-majority approval. Since then, his approval has fallen by five percentage points.
Clinton and Barack Obama are the only other presidents whose approval ratings declined significantly during their first month in office. Clinton's seven-point decrease represents the biggest first-month drop in Gallup's records.
On the other hand, four presidents enjoyed a significant increase in approval during their first month, with George H.W. Bush's 12-point increase being the biggest.
The average first-month change in approval from Dwight Eisenhower through Trump has been a one-point gain.
Trump's first-month job approval decline may be partly due to negative reactions to his controversial executive orders on immigration. More recently, his administration has been dogged by concerns about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's pre-inauguration communications with Russian officials and his accounts of those talks. Flynn resigned from his position on Monday after admitting he misled administration officials about what he discussed in those calls.
Presidents Rarely Have Approval Below 50% in First Year
Trump is already one of only four elected presidents to receive a job approval score below 50% during his first year in office. Reagan, Clinton and Obama are the others, with Clinton falling below the majority level in his fourth month in office (May 1993) and Reagan and Obama doing so in their 10th months (November 1981 and November 2009, respectively).
Currently, Clinton is the only first-year elected president to have a sub-40% approval rating during his first year in office. His approval ratings dropped to 37% in a Gallup poll conducted June 5-6, 1993, during his fifth month in office. That poll was taken immediately after Clinton withdrew his nomination of Lani Guinier to a key Justice Department position over concerns about her views on race. His administration was also embroiled in controversies over firing the White House travel office staff and an expensive haircut he received aboard Air Force One that snarled air traffic at Los Angeles International Airport.
Clinton's approval remained below 40% in a poll conducted June 18-21, 1993, before rebounding in late June after the U.S. launched missile attacks on Iraq to retaliate for the plotted assassination of former President George H.W. Bush.
Fewer Than One in 10 Democrats Approve of Trump
Trump's job approval ratings are low largely because few Democrats -- currently 8% -- evaluate the job he is doing positively. His current level of support from Democrats is much lower than what presidents typically get from the opposition party during the "honeymoon phase" of their presidency. The prior low was 24% approval of Clinton among Republicans. However, the average has been 43% job approval from the opposition party in mid-February after taking office.
Trump's 35% job approval among independents is also much lower than the 58% presidents have averaged among independents at this point in their presidencies.
Trump's 87% approval rating among Republicans is slightly higher than the 83% historical average approval presidents have received from supporters of their party at this point in their administrations. Four prior presidents -- Richard Nixon, Carter, Reagan and Clinton -- had less than 80% approval from supporters of their party.
Since Trump's inauguration, his job approval rating has fallen six points among Democrats, five points among independents and three points among Republicans.
It is clear that Trump has not enjoyed the same honeymoon phase his predecessors had -- and to the extent he has had one, it has only been among his fellow Republicans. Trump's approval ratings are substantially lower than any prior president's at this point in their administration. Democrats' job approval ratings are approaching the lowest scores Republicans ever gave Obama (6%), the president who had the lowest average job approval ratings from the opposition party by a substantial margin.
The immediate prospects for improvement in Trump's support do not appear good, as the Flynn incident has only raised suspicions about the Trump campaign's and administration's involvement with Russia. Trump's labor secretary nominee, Andrew Puzder, withdrew his nomination after his confirmation appeared increasingly unlikely. And the administration is still deciding how to advance its immigration agenda after federal judges rejected his ban on travel from seven predominantly Muslim nations.
If Trump's job approval ratings drop one additional point, he will join Clinton as the second president to fall below 40% approval during his first year in office. While Clinton's approval ratings did improve fairly quickly, he also saw his party suffer historic losses in the 1994 midterm elections, giving Republicans control of Congress. Unless Trump's approval ratings improve significantly over the next year and a half, Republicans may endure a similar outcome in the 2018 midterms.