Inconsistent approval rating harms Donald Trump’s re-election campaign

US President Donald Trump's approval ratings.
US President Donald Trump’s approval ratings. Photo: Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)


US President Donald Trump’s inconsistent approval ratings are likely to hurt him come the November 2020 elections.

With the US presidential election only six months away, the race for the White House is in full swing.

Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic 2020 presidential nominee, while Mr Trump has an uphill battle heading into the election in November.

The 2020 polls are one of high stakes.

Ongoing protests following the death of George Floyd have laid bare the country’s inequality, class, and racial divisions.

The protests are foremost in the mind of the American voting public, along with issues such as the economy, healthcare, climate change and US unemployment figures (now at an all time high due to the Covid-19 pandemic).

Mr Trump’s approval rating since in office peaked in late March during the Covid-19 crisis at 49%, but has since fallen; he has never had an approval rating above 50% during his time in office.

By contrast Barack Obama peaked at 69% approval rating, while Mr Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush had one of the highest US presidential approval ratings at 90%.

At the beginning of May, Mr Trump’s net approval rating was below zero at -8.1 (this is the approval rating, minus the disapproval rating).

History has shown that former US Presidents with a higher net rating six months out, can easily survive the battle for re-election.

US Presidents with net ratings of below zero have struggled to regain power and sunk further in the ratings, or only completed one term in office like Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush.

Both had net ratings below zero heading into elections at the end of their first term.

Mr Trump has labeled the Covid-19 pandemic the “worst attack ever”.

He believes it hit harder than the Pearl Harbour attack in World War Two and the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

With the coronavirus outbreak gripping the world, Mr Trump’s power and ability to get on top of this virus has been questioned.

Daniel W. Drezner, professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, states that “Mr Trump’s toddler traits have significantly hampered America’s response to the pandemic.”

A poll taken in April by Gallup found that only 37% of Americans trusted Mr Trump’s information on the coronavirus outbreak, and 60% of voters had no or not much trust in the President’s information and ability to help them get through the crisis.

This is shown in Mr Trump’s approval rating constantly changing throughout the last three months.

With the death toll in the US climbing past 100,000 if Mr Trump can help guide the US out of this crisis and help rebuild the economy, then his approval rating might increase and this may help him come November.

He needs the economy back up and running before the election, which means reopening the country sooner than advised by the Chief Health Officer Dr Anthony Fauci .

However, re-opening the country too soon could potentially lead to more deaths which will make people point blame at the president.

Wrong decisions made at this stage will change people’s views, which will lead to a loss of votes.

If the economy does not recover or if the effects of the pandemic do not recede, it’s hard to see Mr Trump’s situation improving – although finding a cure or vaccine for coronavirus before the election could save Mr Trump and push him through for a second term as the one thing that he will be remembered for as President.

Early polls indicate that five key states could affect the result through swinging votes.

All five states were previously held by former US President Barack Obama (a Democrat) and swung the Republicans’ way, when Mr Trump took over in the 2016 election.

Early indications show that Mr Biden and the Democratic party could swing those votes back in their favour.

Mr Biden’s margins are slightly smaller than in the national polls.

If Mr Biden’s lead narrowed by two per cent, these states could end up with closer election results than current predictions.

No one can save Mr Trump’s electoral fate, other than himself.

Months away, he needs to start his focus on solving one problem at a time in the United States of today, which is beset by many.

Overcoming racial tensions, finding a cure to the outbreak, and helping rebuild the American economy before the election will carry Mr Trump through to another term.

If the United States can rebound from these problems stronger that it was before the virus, then Mr Trump can honestly say that his actions lived up to his campaign policy of “making America great again”.