After one year of Donald Trump, his approval rating still seems worryingly high

A disturbingly large number of us still have a fatal fascination for the 'strong man' and are willing to forgive him almost any sin

James Moore
Saturday 20 January 2018 11:10 GMT
Trump's opponents would be unwise to rest easy
Trump's opponents would be unwise to rest easy (AP)

Trumpversary greetings! Yes, it’s been a year since the Donald stormed into the White House, and a little less than that since he threw his first tantrum.

And what a year it has been. A happy one for neo-Nazis, the 1 per cent, corporate fat cats, bankers, Fox & Friends, Sean Hannity and the massed ranks of right-wing conspiracy-mongering blowhards.

For much of the rest of America, and in particular the large parts of it where decency prevails, I imagine people are pinching themselves and wondering when the alarm clock will indicate that it’s OK, it really was just a bad dream, but now it’s time to get up.

To those people I say: greetings from Brexitland! Believe me, it could be worse. At least you’re going to get a guaranteed chance to correct the mistake. Just don’t go getting complacent.

Trump's first year in power, summed up in one word

To help them get through the next few days, which will be dominated by the orange one and his bloviating supporters, many will seek comfort in the CBS News poll showing his approval rating sitting at a dismal 37 per cent. Some 58 per cent of the Americans polled disapproved of his performance.

When the results of this short survey are released it’s traditional to compare the incumbent’s ratings with those of their predecessors at the same point in their presidencies. They show that Trump’s paying quite a price for being, well, Trump.

Barack Obama’s rating stood at 50 per cent after his first year in office while George W Bush got a tick from 82 per cent of Americans. Bill Clinton secured the approval of 54 per cent, George H W Bush of 76 per cent, while Ronald Reagan managed 49 per cent, which was when the question was first posed by this survey.

Compared to that lot, Trump isn’t looking so good. Three more years and the nightmare is over!

Or is it?

Sorry to rain on the parade of hope, but I wouldn’t want to be resting on any laurels if I were them.

In fact, if you take a careful look at one of those previous numbers in particular there are grounds for feeling a frisson of fear: what strikes me about Trump’s approval rating is not how low it is, but how high.

Consider the long and growing list of scandals that have dogged his presidency: Michael Wolff’s book and what it says about it; sleazy business practices and the use of the White House as a promotional agency for the Trump brand; sleazy personal behaviour, the latest example of which are the revelations of an extramarital affair with a adult film star, albeit dating from the time before he took office; the never-ending stream of snarling tweets; the childish insults and infighting among the inner circle; the leaks, the firings, the feuds, and the way he has made a laughing stock of the most powerful nation on earth. (My nuclear button is bigger than yours Kim Jong-un! Oh. Right. Not so funny.) The events in Charlottesville, Virginia, when the swastika flew high, and its traditional apologists found that they had a very powerful ally, underline that point. Donald Trump is no joke.

Against all objective criteria, this is the worst president in living memory, perhaps the worst since we Brits were sent packing.

Despite that, according to the poll, every third American you meet will tell you that President Trump is doing a good job, and in some parts of the union the number is very much higher than that.

The American Presidency Project, hosted by the University of California, Santa Barbara put the total voting-age population of the USA at 235,248,000 in 2012.

Given that that number will be bigger today, the poll suggests that nearly 90 million Americans think Donald Trump is doing just fine.

Much has been made of the craven response of the Republican Party to his outrages; the way it has served as his enabler-in-chief despite the regular volleys he and his supporters fire at its establishment.

The criticism is just. However, consider that turkeys don’t vote for Christmas, especially the sort of turkeys that face primaries, the electorates for which are largely made up of hardcore activists. Then consider that the poll says that eight in 10 Republicans approve of Mr Trump’s performance, seven in 10 think he is a good, or very good, President. Trump is their guy and they’ll back him through thick and thin.

A disturbingly large number of us, including those of us living in modern Western democracies, still have a fatal fascination for the “strong man”, and are willing to forgive them almost any sin.

The base to which Trump so regularly plays is a rock-solid one. The prominent critics in his party are often like Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona: they don’t have the guts to challenge it by seeking re-election.

All this goes to show that Trump’s opponents would be most unwise to rest easy and rely on him doing their work for them, particularly given the strong performance of the American economy and the fact that the CBS poll shows even some Democrats credit him at least partially for its success.

As for that fission of fear I mentioned? Look at the numbers I quoted a second time. Pay close attention to George W Bush.

The latter’s approval rating was recorded in the wake of his response to the September 11 attacks on the US, during which time he was seen as a wartime president.

There is nothing like a war to engender America’s uncritical backing for the man in the White House.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in