Trump’s new normal in approvals places him among a cast of incumbent losers

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For several weeks now, we’ve seen Donald Trump’s approvals inching lower in most polls while his disapprovals also hit historic highs in some polls. In Gallup’s latest poll earlier this week, Trump sank to 38% approval, down 11 points from his personal best of 49% in early May and just three points above his worst-ever Gallup rating of 35%.

But perhaps what’s most significant is that Trump’s overall approval rating seems to be resetting at the level of the new lows, and that’s putting him in the company of presidential incumbents whose reelection bids have not fared well.

Here’s how that new normal looks in Civiqs’ tracking poll—as is often the case, the specific number isn’t quite as important here as the trend. And trend-wise, over the last month, Trump has reset at a lower approval and a higher disapproval rating by a several-point margin.

But as Gallup notes, the last two presidents who had sub-40s approvals in its polling in June were George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, who both lost reelection. Pre-COVID and before George Floyd, Trump’s high 40s approvals were looking more on a par with those of Barack Obama and George W. Bush. However from this point on, there’s no predictive trend about whether an incumbent president’s approvals rise, fall, or flatline.

What we do know is that ever since the early ‘70s, incumbent winners are typically polling in the high 40s to 50s, while incumbent losers are polling closer to high 30s, low 40s. And for the moment, Trump’s sweet spot appears to be idling in incumbent loser mode.

One more instructive data point that CNN’s Harry Enten has noted is that while Republicans have been complaining that the public polling is being skewed, they also aren’t releasing their own internal polls. Since April, Enten notes, Republicans haven’t made a single internal poll public, while Democrats have released 17 of their own internal polls publicly.

That ratio alone is “highly predictive” of where the election is headed, according to Enten.

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