It’s just one poll from one polling outlet (albeit one given an A+ rating for accuracy and sound methodology by FiveThirtyEight). But for Democrats already concerned about the love shown the president in snap polls following last night’s State of the Union address, the first 2018 national survey from Monmouth University lands like a punch in the mouth.
Compared to its December poll, the new results (taken from interviews between January 28 and January 30) show big gains for both Trump and his party among registered voters. His December job approval rating, at 32 percent, was his lowest since taking office, according to Monmouth’s temperature readings. Now it has bounced up to 42 percent. Similarly, in December the GOP tax bill was notably unpopular, with 26 percent approving of it and 47 percent disapproving. Now opinions on the bill, after lots of hype about bonuses and cuts in tax withholding, are dead even at 44/44.
Worst of all for Dems, a 15-point advantage in the generic congressional ballot in December (51/36) is now down to two points (47/45). This equals the smallest Democratic advantage in any poll since the beginning of the current election cycle.
Yes, there’s been a general pro-Republican trend in the generic ballot in recent weeks. In the RealClearPolitics polling averages the Democratic advantage peaked at 13 percent just before Christmas, and has come down to 7.5 percent now. But that latter number is still consistent with major Democratic gains, and perhaps a House takeover, in November. A two-point margin is another thing altogether.
So members of the Donkey Party will be holding their breath to learn whether this Monmouth poll is an outlier created by statistical “noise,” or whether they are very nearly back to square one after a year of battening on steady anti-Trump and anti-GOP public opinion.