Incoming President Donald J. Trump faces a significant challenge experienced by no other President in recent memory: public opinion polls suggest he currently suffers from the lowest public approval ratings for a new President in 40 years. Only President Jimmy Carter in 1977 received a colder reception from the electorate. What does this situation mean for Mr. Trump's administration? How will low initial favorability numbers impact him as an office holder?
In mid-January, 2017, several influential pollsters agree President Trump has not achieved a favorable image in the view of large numbers of Americans. A CNN/ORC poll found the President-Elect facing a 53% unfavorable opinion rating (compared to a 44% favorable rating) in the estimation of the public.
An ABC News-Washington Post poll ranked him even lower, with negatives in the 54% percentile range compared to an approval rate of only 40%. If someone asked 10 people at random about their opinion of the new President's likely job performance, only four would express approval.
In classic Trump fashion, he took to Twitter to respond to this low approval numbers. He tweeted, “The same people who did the phony election polls, and were so wrong, are now doing approval rating polls. They are rigged just like before.” Trump kind of has a point here. The entire polling industry lost a lot of credibility after the election, and Trump will never hesitate to point that out.
An Unusual Candidate
Of course, Donald J. Trump has succeeded in breaking many stereotypes concerning U.S. Presidents. During his election campaign, many of his supporters clearly relished his role as a Washington D.C. "outsider". He achieved success among voters indicating a desire for significant change. His election surprised many experienced pollsters.
Mr. Trump becomes the first billionaire to win election to the White House. He joins President Ronald Reagan as one of only two Presidents in U.S. history to win a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His past self-promotion efforts, which included starring in his own successful reality television series, several movie cameo roles and even an appearance on stage at a brawny WWE match, do reflect a willingness to commandeer the public spotlight. His personality may enable him to rebound quickly from initially low public approval ratings. Some of his other random facts include being a complete germaphobe, only sleeping three-four hours a night, never drank a cup of coffee, and passed on buying the New England Patriots in the 1980s.
Conventional political science theory might advise a President with very low initial favorability ratings to steer a moderate course in office and cultivate broader public support before endeavoring to initiate ambitious new programs. Yet President Trump may choose not to adhere to standard political wisdom. He certainly did not listen to "mainstream" advice during his recent successful election campaign, when he made many politically incorrect (and sometimes even rude) public remarks.
During his first two years in office, he will enjoy a Republican majority in Congress, a situation which might conceivably change following the midterm elections. Since Presidents do not need to consult opinion polls before making policy decisions, he may simply choose to ignore pollsters and media pundits and pursue his own legislative proposals aggressively while he enjoys partisan Congressional support.
The next national election may indicate how well the Trump Administration succeeds, or not. As a public figure who apparently thinks "outside the box" in many situations, President Trump appears poised to enjoy either spectacular success or dismal failure.
About The Author
Cliff is also the Editor of USS Sports Machine with a group of like-minded friends from college. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.