In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s election and inauguration, many observers despaired as he bragged about the seemingly unshakable loyalty of his voting base.
As outrage and scandal after scandal pours out of a chaotic West Wing, there has been a lot hand-wring about how, maybe, Trump had been right when he bragged that he could “stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
Seven months into the era of President Trump, that theory isn’t quite holding up. It’s true that his base hasn’t completely collapsed. But there are clear signs that it’s withering, and at an accelerated pace.
The trendline is fairly clear. Not only has the disapproval rating of Donald Trump climbed steadily, the number of people expressing approval continues to fall. In November, he won 46 percent of the vote. Now, few polls show him over 40 approval. Some have slipped as low as 32 percent.
Of course, Trump supporters will often dismiss that because “the polls were wrong” about the election.
In point of fact, they weren’t wrong. All of the candidates wound plus or minus two percentage points of their final polling average. That’s why, prior to the election, polling analyst Nate Silver gave Trump a nearly three-in-ten chance of winning.
Polls had in fact shown the race tightening. And remember that Trump did lose the popular vote to Clinton by more than two points. The triple-bank-shot in the Electoral College, narrowly winning three midwestern states, is simply not the sort of thing that national polling averages could have accounted for.
How low Trump’s approval rating falls could have important ramifications. That may apply particularly to how Republican Party congressional leaders deal with him. While it’s true that most Republican voters still support their president, approval has been slipping there too.
From the mid-80s, Trump is now down to the low-70s among Republican. His decline there is, if anything, faster than his decline among the overall population.
Once Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans falls below around two-thirds, and his approval ratings among the general electorate falls below one-third, there will be more space for anti-Trump Republicans to maneuver.
For reference, Nixon’s final approval rating, as measured by Gallup, was 27 percent.
(Photo of Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump casting their votes on Election Day in New York City by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; Image of Trump approval rating, average of all polls, from FiveThirtyEight.)