Donald Trump’s presidency has broken just about every conventional rule of American politics, but this one’s a doozy: Almost every other first-term president who’s had an economy this strong has also had an approval rating above 50 percent. Trump’s? It’s at about 38 percent, according to an average of three polls released this week by CNN, Quinnipiac University, and NPR/Marist.
Despite a healthy August jobs report, an economy that’s the strongest it’s been in more than a decade, unemployment hovering at 3.9 percent (near May’s 18-year low), and the highest level of consumer confidence since 2000, in recent weeks Trump’s approval numbers have just kept going down. They’re significantly lower than former President Barack Obama’s approval rating at the height of the Great Recession in the fall of 2009, which hovered around 50 percent even as nearly 10 percent of Americans were unemployed.
The culprit isn’t widespread ignorance about the surging economy. A recent poll from Quinnipiac found that 70 percent of registered voters would describe the state of the nation’s economy right now as “excellent” or “good.” A full 65 percent of Americans expect economic conditions to be good a year from now, the highest number in years, according to a CNN poll released Monday. And many Americans are giving Trump, not Obama, credit for the state of the economy, says Karlyn Bowman, a public-opinion analyst and a senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “It’s definitely his economy now,” she told me. So what’s going on?