Talk about the bigotry of low expectations. As news outlets gather ‘round and marvel at Donald Trump's slowly improving popularity, he's basically being rewarded for having posted truly middling polling numbers for the past two years. Virtually ignored in all the coverage is the fact that Trump is the only president in the history of modern-day polling who has spent his entire presidency at an under 50 percent approval rating. Trump has effectively rewritten the American record books for how consistently unpopular a sitting leader can be. After eight years of trolling President Barack Obama for not being popular enough and supposedly suffering from “plunging” approval ratings, the Beltway press has politely flipped the script for Trump.
Note these recent headlines:
“Trump reaches highest approval rating of presidency in latest poll” (NBC News)
“Poll: Trump's approval rating hits highest point of presidency” (The Hill)
“President Trump's job approval rating reaches high mark in NPR/PBS/Marist poll after racist tweets” (USA Today)
“Trump’s approval rating hits record high: poll” (New York Post)
None of those reports contain any context explaining that Trump's new “highest” represents a historically low showing. For a sitting president in his 10th quarter in office, the average approval rating is 52 percent, according to Gallup's analysis. Trump currently sits near 44 percent. It's amazing how a president running that far below the historic average is able to rack up so much positive coverage about his approval rating.
And let's be clear: There is no surge that's driving Trump's still-tepid approval rating. Despite the context-free coverage, which certainly leaves the impression that Trump is riding some sort of wave, his approval rating today is basically where it was last year. For instance, according to Gallup, Trump's approval rating currently stands at 44 percent. And according to Gallup, 12 months ago it stood at 42 percent, which signifies virtually no change. Also note that among the crucial category of independent voters, Trump's approval ratings is a dismal 38 percent today, just as it was one year ago.
The recent polls come with a bunch of bad news for Trump, but most of that takes a backseat in the media’s coverage.