While discussing President Donald Trump’s recent polling numbers, a CNN analyst made a startling exclamation.
When the topic of the president’s approval rating on the economy came up, CNN’s David Chalian said Trump’s 56% approval was “the highest number we’ve ever seen at CNN polling.” Chalian was making the claim in reference to only Trump, saying a few seconds later, “It’s the high watermark in the entirety of the Trump presidency in CNN polling.”
Indeed, it is the highest approval rating on the economy that Trump has received during his presidency from CNN, but it is not the highest approval rating CNN has ever seen.
Former President Barack Obama, for example, beat that number twice during his eight years as president — in the first months of his presidency in 2009 and as he was leaving office in 2017. Both of these numbers should be looked at with a grain of salt. He entered office with high hopes. Remember, he had won the Nobel Peace Prize for a speech he gave before he was inaugurated. His approval rating on the economy jumped eight points from before the 2016 election to just before Trump was inaugurated, so one can also assume that might have had more to do with apathy over Trump than anything Obama had actually accomplished.
Trump is now in his third year as president. At this same point in Obama’s presidency, his approval rating for the economy was just 42%. So on that, at least according to CNN polling, Trump has him beat.
Other polls, however, have not been so kind to Trump. Real Clear Politics averaged Obama’s approval rating on the economy at 57%, which is far higher than CNN’s average.
Newsweek reported in March that former President Bill Clinton’s economic approval rating blows everyone else out of the water:
While Trump’s economy rating essentially matched Obama’s, they both paled in comparison to President Bill Clinton’s, who had the record economic approval rating of 81 percent in 1999. The record low rating since Gallup began polling on the economy, at the start of President Ronald Reagan’s term, was 17 percent for President George H. W. Bush in 1992. Trump’s latest rating is well above the average rating of 43 percent. Trump’s economic approval rating never dipped below 45 percent.
CNN further reported that Trump’s high economic approval rating comes after the economy performed better than expected during the first quarter, growing 3.2% compared to the expected 2.5%. (CNN conveniently left those numbers out of its report on Trump’s economic approval rating.)
Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, said at a recent conference in Los Angeles that Trump’s handling of the economy would help him win re-election in 2020.
"You hate to sound like a cliché, but are you better off than you were four years ago? It's pretty simple, right? It's the economy, stupid. I think that's easy. People will vote for somebody they don't like if they think it's good for them," Mulvaney said.