Sometimes, when all seems calm on the surface, waters are roiling beneath. Something like that may have occurred over the past week with President Donald Trump’s job approval rating, according to the latest tracking poll from SurveyMonkey.
Trump’s overall job approval rating remains essentially unchanged, though down a point (from 43 to 42 percent) from the previous week, while disapproval ticked up (from 55 to 56 percent). Nevertheless, this week’s number matches the 42 percent rating from two weeks ago and remains within the range (42 to 44 percent approve) of results in SurveyMonkey’s tracking in all but one week since December.
Beneath the surface, however, the survey also shows a two-point decline (from 24 to 22 percent) in the percentage who strongly approve of the way Trump is handling his job. The decline, which occurs almost entirely among Republicans, knocks the strongly approve number down to its lowest level in SurveyMonkey tracking since mid-December.
(We can be more confident about the most recent changes because SurveyMonkey’s tracking samples over the past two weeks were unusually large, reducing the level of statistical noise.)
Some background: Since late December, following enactment of the Republican tax reform bill, President Trump has enjoyed a modest uptick in his approval numbers, fueled mostly by Republicans.
On February 28, however, Trump met with lawmakers and said, among other things, “I like taking guns away early” from people who might commit violence, adding “take the guns first, go through due process second.” In the week that followed, the President also announced a plan to impose new steel and aluminum tariffs, including his statement that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.” Both stories prompted objections from prominent Republicans and some critical coverage in conservative media outlets.
Those stories coincided with a slight drop in Trump overall approval among Republicans (from 89 to 87 percent over the past week) and Republican-leaning independents (from 87 to 84 percent). Meanwhile, Trump’s rating among independents who lean to neither party ticked up a point to 37 percent, the best number since September. Trump’s single-digit ratings from Democrats remained essentially unchanged.
The bigger overall drop in strong approval over the past two weeks was far more pronounced among Republicans (from 60 to 55 percent) and Republican-leaning independents (from 50 to 47 percent). Both results represent levels of strong approval not seen since the Trump’s ratings bounced up following passage of the tax bill in December.
The drops in strong approval over the past week have also been highest among:
Meanwhile, on the question, “which of the following issues matters most to you right now,” selections of “job and the economy,” the number one issue throughout the first year of Trump’s term, ticked back up from 23 to 25 percent, followed by “health care” at 20 percent, immigration and education at 11 percent and the environment, terrorism and foreign policy all in single digits.
Selections of “other (specify)” had jumped, from eight to 13 percent in the two weeks following the shootings at Parkland High School in Florida, but this week edged down to 11 percent. Further analysis of the verbatim volunteered “other” responses revealed that those including the words “gun,” “shooting,” “weapon,” “rifle” or “school safety” had increased from near zero to four percent of all adults as of last week. This week, that percentage declined slightly to three percent of all adults.
Methodology: This week’s SurveyMonkey Tracking poll testing President Trump’s approval rating was conducted online March 1 through 7, 2018 among a national sample of 21,603 adults. Respondents for this survey were selected from the nearly 3 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Data for this week have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States. The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 1.0 percentage points. More details on SurveyMonkey's methodology are available here.