According to a brand new Rasmussen poll, President Trump’s approval numbers have now climbed back to 46%, near the highest of his presidency. And all the other polls have now reflected the bump: the NBC/WSJ poll over the weekend shows Trump at an all-time high of 45%. That poll also showed that just 53% of Republicans approved of Trump’s behavior at his meeting with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin in Helsinki — but that didn’t matter much to their overall approval of him, which is nearly universal (88%).
What’s bolstering Trump’s high approval rating? The NBC/WSJ poll suggests that Trump’s economic record is his biggest asset: 50% of Americans like the way he’s handling the economy. 51% dislike the way he has handled Putin overall, 58% disapprove of his immigration policy, and 53% disapprove of his tariff policy.
But there’s something else that has happened, too: Trump’s approval rating has been remarkably stable since long before he was president. He began his presidency at nearly the same number he now occupies; during the election cycle, he hovered in the low-40s as well. News coverage simply doesn’t touch Trump, because everything is baked in. There’s nobody in America who doesn’t have a personal opinion or take on Trump. He’s become the political equivalent of the Super Bowl: the thing everybody watches and talks about.
And that means that new information doesn’t change the math.
What does change, however, is the impact Trump has on Congressional elections. Republicans aren’t nearly as priced-in as Trump. That means that when Trump does something unpopular, Congressional Republicans bear the brunt in the polls. So, for example, at the beginning of June, before the latest round of hubbub, Democrats led Republicans in the generic ballot by 3 points; now that number is 7.4%, according to RealClearPolitics.
That’s actually not unique to Trump. President Obama retained high approval ratings throughout his time in office, because everyone had an opinion about him. But his actions reflected far more on his Congressional Democrats than on Obama himself, which is why Democrats experienced heavy losses across the country. All of which suggests that some caution is in order before Republicans declare victory thanks to Trump’s solid approval ratings: the variability in our national polls no longer seems to apply to presidential approval ratings nearly as much as to Congressional approval ratings. That’s because we’ve now used the presidency as a proxy for all of our partisanship, and we seem to reserve our more nuanced political judgment for Congressional races, where the stakes of going out to vote are lower and seemingly less fraught.