The Era of Strong Feelings

This week’s installment of the weekly Economist/YouGov Poll was published today, adding another approval rating to the mix – 43% approve to 44% disapprove. Disapprove rose by 9 points from last week, while disapproval also rose by 2. It’s still very early and there is much going on, so it’s difficult to draw too many conclusions about any individual poll at this point. However, in making sense of the relatively low disapproval number (when compared to Obama, who was in mid- to high-50s for years) and the loud, proud protests breaking out across the country, the “Strongly disapprove” number does stand out.

Roughly a third (33%) of the country already “strongly” disapproves of Donald Trump, making up, you might say, the floor of anti-Trump sentiment. Obama didn’t reach this level of passionate opposition until December 2009, following months of backlash and Tea Party protests over TARP, taxes and the impending “government takeover” of healthcare. Afterwards, those numbers never really went below that level again.


What this means for Trump’s presidency is uncertain. Obama, of course, lost out in the midterms in 2010, but went on to a convincing reelection in 2013. But when it comes to the formation of a sizable, hardened opposition, Trump has received no honeymoon.

Sidebar: There’s now quite  a spread on Trump: Politico/Morning Consult have the approve-disapprove split at 49-41 (albeit pre-ban) and Gallup have 52-43. One wonders about a modal effect – are respondents online more willing to be honest about positive feelings towards Trump? – but YouGov doesn’t really confirm that. However, one of the under-appreciated differences between the online and phone “modes” is simply the options provided; YouGov and Morning Consult display a “don’t know” option while Gallup’s is volunteered. All three show undecideds in decline, but one additional possibility for Gallup’s higher disapproval number is people who haven’t really formed an opinion are reverting to their general feelings about Trump, even independent of his presidential performance.

The Era of Strong Feelings

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