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Mueller Report Failed to Move Trump’s Approval Ratings

Trump is who he is: unpopular but dangerous. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

There was a lot of hope in Republican circles that the “exoneration” the president claimed after his Attorney General William Barr gave a rosy assessment of the Mueller report’s conclusion would give him just the popularity lift he needed going into his reelection campaign. There were even some objective indications that could happen:

President Trump’s job approval rating has rebounded since the release of a summary of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s findings related to Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to a new poll.

Gallup survey released Friday finds that 45 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance, up from 39 percent in March …

[T]he latest approval figure matches two previous highs in Gallup polling.

Trump’s earlier 45 percent readings came during his first week in office in January 2017 and in June 2018 after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

And when it turned out the report itself contained very damaging evidence of presidential obstruction of justice, Democrats began to think that perhaps public opinion would turn even further against the 45th president, and there was some evidence of that, too:

President Donald Trump’s approval rating has dropped 5 points, equaling his presidency’s low-water mark, since last week’s release of the special counsel report into the 2016 election, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.

But now that there’s more post-Barr, post-Mueller data, it’s looking like the whole brouhaha has for the moment left Trump where he’s mostly been throughout his presidency, with job approval numbers in the low 40s.

At FiveThirtyEight, which maintains the most comprehensive database of polls, Trump’s average approval rating was at 42.1 percent on March 24, the day Barr released his “summary of principal findings.” A week later it was exactly the same. On April 18, when the redacted Mueller report was released, Trump’s average approval rating was 42 percent. FiveThirtyEight reported 14 polls taken (partially or fully) on or after that date. Trump’s average is now at 41.3 percent.

RealClearPolitics’s polling averages don’t include as many polls and don’t adjust the results for partisan bias or survey quality. If only because Rasmussen’s wildly inflated assessments of Trump’s popularity appear regularly, RCP usually shows higher approval averages for the president. But there, too, there’s very little movement. On March 24, Trump’s average approval rating was 43.6 percent. On April 18 it was at 43.9 percent. And now it’s at 43.4 percent.

While it’s always possible there will be some delayed effect of all this favorable and unfavorable news for Trump, it will probably be self-neutralizing. That would leave him in his customary position as an unpopular president who could nonetheless win reelection if he can drag his opponent’s standing down near his own (as he did so successfully in 2016) and then drive his fans to the polls in a hate frenzy that matches or exceeds that of Democrats. It’s worth noting as well that Trump’s amazingly stable approval ratings seem to have been impervious to consistently good economic news, so there’s no particular reason to assume that its continuation will at some point lift him into approval-rating territory he’s never occupied.

The Mueller report did, of course, boost support for impeachment among Democrats, including some presidential candidates. If that sentiment eventually pushes House Democratic leaders to initiate impeachment proceedings, that could have an impact on Trump’s standing, though it’s not entirely clear in which direction it might change. The best odds remain that no matter what happens between now and next year, Trump will remain a dangerously wounded political animal who doesn’t care what damage he does to the country in order to survive.

Mueller Report Failed to Move Trump’s Approval Ratings