Monday, August 28, 2017

Trump's Poll Numbers Should Continue to Decline

Last week Nate Silver's "7 Rules For Reading Trump’s Approval Rating" established some helpful guidelines for looking at Trump's poll numbers post-Charlottesville and with Congress soon to return from its August recess and begin budget negotiations.

Silver didn't see any big dip in support for Trump due to his pro-fascist comments following Charlottesville, but that doesn't mean that Trump is holding steady. Silver argues that Trump is losing a percentage point a month, and Trump's rock bottom is somewhere in the mid-to-low-20s:
But let’s not lose sight of the big picture. Despite the relatively small shift after Charlottesville, the overall trend in Trump’s numbers so far has been toward decline. In fact, a simple linear trend line captures most of the variation in his approval ratings so far and implies that his approval ratings are dropping slightly more than 1 percentage point per month. If Trump were to continue losing ground at this rate — though he probably won’t (see below) — it would be truly catastrophic for him, as his numbers would fall into the low 20s by midterms.
Silver identifies an underlying seesaw to Trump's polling numbers. Approval tends to decline over a president's term, but it also tends to revert to the mean; this helps explain why the dam has never really broken on Trump:
And while there are a couple rules of thumb for how presidential approval ratings behave over the long run, they’re contradictory in Trump’s case. On the one hand, approval ratings tend to decline over the course of a president’s term, which would predict a further decrease for Trump. On the other hand — in part because of partisanship — approval ratings are mean-reverting, meaning that they tend to rise when they’re lower than roughly 40 percent and to decline when they’re above 50 percent, which would tend to produce an increase since Trump’s ratings are below 40 percent now.
So far, the first rule — a president’s rating tends to get worse during his term — has usually won out for Trump, and his approval rating has continued to decline. But the first rule won’t necessarily keep winning the tug-of-war with the second rule. Partisan gravity could pull Trump’s numbers back into the low 40s if he has a couple of relatively calm weeks or months — as he did this April, for example. Or an issue that Americans aren’t thinking about very much now — say, a military confrontation with North Korea — could be pivotal in the 2018 and 2020 elections. The best news for Trump is that there’s a long way to go before voters go to the polls again.
Trump could get a bump if it turns out that his handling of Hurricane Harvey wasn't completely inept. I think the bar is low here because of the chaos unleashed by 2005's Hurricane Katrina. If Harvey's damage is less, which it appears to be, and Trump's response is less callous than Bush's, then he comes away unscathed.

On the other hand, the Arpaio pardon is not going to be a winner for Trump. It reveals that Trump is completely dependent upon the Bannon formula -- motivating the hard-shell Tea Party types -- to cling to power. The only way this strategy continues to be a winner is if the Democrats remain completely deplorable. Right now, though there is some indication that leadership is beginning to figure things out, that seems a good bet.

Big trouble awaits Trump when Congress begins work on the budget. Trump has threatened a government shutdown unless funds for the border wall are appropriated. The Freedom Caucus is going to want big cuts in social and regulatory programs.

Another enormous problem for Trump is that by now it should be apparent to all the "America First" libertarians who voted for him that perpetual war has not been pared back; it is expanding.

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