Despite Bright Spots for Trump, Disapproval Remains Intense

With so many conservatives and Republicans down on mainstream-media organizations and the polls that they sponsor, the latest Fox News survey gives us an opportunity to drill down on data that theoretically isn’t tainted by the liberal media bias that so many on the right feel is there.

One note: The Fox News poll always starts out with registered voters, which makes their numbers a couple of points better for Republicans than those of most other news organizations who begin with a base of all adults, then narrow down to registered and likely voters on ballot-test questions as the elections get closer. To my liberal friends who like to dispute anything connected with Fox, this difference between registered voters and adults explains much of the divergence between the polls of Fox and other major news organizations. I am only referring here to polls conducted over the telephone by live interviewers, not online polls or robo-phone polls. ABC News/Washington Post, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, Gallup, NBC News/Wall Street Journal, and the Pew Research Center all utilize live callers on most of their surveys.

The latest Fox News poll (conducted Feb. 10-13 of 1,005 registered voters) shows President Trump’s approval rating at 43 percent, roughly the same as their previous poll three weeks ago, which was 45 percent, and just above the range of 38 to 42 percent where he had been in the last six months of last year. Trump’s disapproval rating of 53 percent was the same as the previous survey after ranging between 53 and 57 percent in the last half of 2017.

The Fox poll is one of the handful that also measure intensity, a very important metric. In this survey, 30 percent strongly approved of the job that Trump is doing, up 3 points from the previous poll, while 45 percent strongly disapproved, up 4 points from last month. During the second half of 2017, Trump’s strong disapproval ranged from 44 to 49 percent, and his strong approval varied from 25 to 28 percent. So his approval is up a couple of points from late last year as is his strong approval, though there hasn’t been much change from mid-January.

Among all men, Trump’s approval is at minus-1 point (48 percent approve, 49 percent disapprove), but among women, he is at minus-18 (39 percent approve, 57 percent disapprove). Among men, strongly approve is 36 percent, while 40 percent strongly disapprove; among women, strongly approve is 25 percent, and strong disapprove is 50 percent.

Another eye-catching difference is that among voters 45 years of age and older, Trump is at minus-2 points (47 percent approve, 49 percent disapprove), but among those 44 years old and younger, he is at minus-22 points (38 percent approve, 60 percent disapprove). Within the 45-and-older group, 35 percent strongly approve, 43 percent strongly disapprove, while among those younger than 45, 22 percent strongly approve, and 48 percent strongly disapproved.

The education gap is similarly wide. Among white voters with no college degree, 56 percent approve of Trump, and 40 percent disapprove. Among whites with a college degree, 45 percent approve, 54 percent disapprove. Again the intensity problem for Trump came through on the education variable: 40 percent of whites with no college degree strongly approved, 33 percent strongly disapproved, but 30 percent of whites with a college degree strongly approved, and 45 percent strongly disapproved.

Not surprisingly, the racial gap is enormous. Among all whites, Trump is at 51 percent approve, 45 percent disapprove, with 35 percent strongly approving, and 39 percent strongly disapproving, but among nonwhites, just 24 percent approve, and 73 percent disapprove. Just 16 percent of nonwhites strongly approve, 62 percent strongly disapprove,

Simply put, Trump does best among non-college-educated whites, men, and those over 45 years of age. He does worst among college-educated whites, women, those under 45 years old and, of course, nonwhites. Given that midterm elections are virtually always referenda on the incumbent president, this should be food for thought for GOP candidates and office-holders.

The Fox poll didn’t break it out as such, but it is safe to assume that college-educated, white suburban women are a huge problem for Republicans. That demographic certainly cost Ed Gillespie, who ran as well or better than winning GOP candidates usually do in small town and rural areas in last year’s Virginia gubernatorial race, but got buried in the suburbs, particularly among college-educated white women.

One interesting finding was to the question, “Would you say you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the U.S. economy right now?” In January and June of last year, 66 and 64 percent respectfully said optimistic, 30 and 32 percent chose pessimistic. In this new poll, 63 percent said optimistic, and 34 percent said pessimistic. You can interpret this multiple ways. A lot of people feel pretty good about the economy now, which Republicans like to see, but they did in January and June of last year as well, and passage of the tax bill does not appear to have made a significant difference. And it remains worth asking: If 63 percent feel optimistic about the economy, why is the president’s job-approval rating so lousy?

This story was originally published on on February 16, 2018