Those who voted for Donald Trump have almost no regrets about it. Among Republicans, his standing is strong: The president’s approval ratings typically top 80 percent.
But at the 100-day mark of his presidency, Trump is still lagging behind the pace of George W. Bush and Barack Obama among members of their own parties. Combined with the historic polarization of views about Trump’s first months in the White House, those numbers present a significant challenge to the president and his party in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections and beyond.
While Trump’s average approval rating among Republicans is 86 percent, according to HuffPost Pollster, George W. Bush was at 93 percent among Republicans at the eve of his inaugural 100-day anniversary. Barack Obama was at 92 percent among Democrats.
Polarization of views about Trump’s first months in the White House is nearly off the charts. Previous presidents had wide and deep support from their own parties, but also brought along independents and a sizable chunk of partisans on the other side. Trump isn’t experiencing that. While his numbers with Republicans only slightly lag Bush’s, even Bush had a significant number of Democrats in his corner at the 100-day mark of his administration.
Bush — who was also elected president under divisive circumstances and lost the popular vote — had a 31-percent approval rating among Democrats leading up to the 100-day mark, according to Gallup. Obama had a 28-percent approval rating among Republicans in late April of 2009.
Trump’s average approval among Democrats, according to HuffPost Pollster? Only 10 percent.
“It is remarkable,” said Mark Blumenthal, the head of election polling at SurveyMonkey.
SurveyMonkey’s latest poll gave Trump an 89-percent approval rating among Republicans — the highest of all major polls this week. But Trump’s approval rating among Democrats in the survey is only 11 percent.
“There was similar partisanship for George W. Bush and Obama,” Blumenthal continued, “but not this early.”
Trump is also doing poorly with independents, polls show. On average, his approval rating with independents is only 39 percent. This time eight years ago, Obama had a 64-percent approval rating with independents, only slightly higher than Bush’s 61-percent score.
There are already signs that Trump’s standing after 100 days — Republicans like him, but few others do — is driving the way he is governing: robust executive action, while chafing against the other two branches of government.
Republicans support Trump on nearly every issue; it’s just a matter of degree. Setbacks like Trump’s inability to get a bill to replace the 2010 health care law off the ground in the House, aren’t affecting the president’s position with GOP voters and others who backed Trump in 2016.
“They’re not fazed by stuff like the health care problems,” said GOP pollster Glen Bolger, who conducted a poll of Trump voters for the University of Virginia Center for Politics this month. “Given their loyalty to him and their satisfaction with their vote, it would take a lot for their support to change.”
But because Trump is starting so low in polls with non-Republicans, there is little pressure on most Democratic lawmakers to work with him on most issues. House GOP hopes of advancing a health care bill don’t rely on winning over a single Democratic vote, for example.
Trump is further constrained by divisions in his own party. While Republicans back home may like Trump, there are nearly two dozen GOP members of Congress sitting in districts Trump lost last fall — and they loom as a threat to the health care bill and other key Trump initiatives, like an overhaul of the individual and corporate tax systems.
Previous presidents who began with a honeymoon among some Americans who opposed them in the election managed to use that limited political capital to advance their agendas. Obama, for example, pursued significant changes to the health care system — and though Republicans ultimately abandoned him, he signed the Affordable Care Act into law in March 2010.
Obama’s approval ratings suffered as a result. Despite beginning his presidency with wide support, by the summer of 2010, his ratings were underwater — his disapproval percentage exceeded his approval.
That collapse came largely as a result of Republicans and independents. While Obama had a 31-percent approval rating among GOP respondents in the Gallup poll at the 100-day mark, it was just 11 percent when he signed the Affordable Care Act. His approval rating among independents also dropped 20 points: from 64 percent to 44 percent. By comparison, the slide among Democrats was smaller, only 9 points, from 93 percent to 84 percent.
Trump, however, has never gotten the benefit of the doubt from non-Republicans, which is reflected in polls that show majorities of Americans disapprove of how Trump is handling his job as president. That might suggest public opinion of him and his job performance could remain stable for the time being, shaping a static, polarized and divided political environment prior to next year’s midterms.
“What does this imply about where his approval is six months or a year from now? We’re sort of used to seeing a president come in and have a honeymoon,” Blumenthal said. “It may mean he’s just sort of locked in. Obama, after about a year, got to the point where his approval was within a certain range … largely because of this partisanship.”
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