One of the things that helped Senate Republicans unite (with the exception of Mitt Romney) during Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial early in 2020 was that his public support was relatively robust. As the trial unfolded, Gallup placed his job-approval rating at 49 percent, equaling the highest level of his presidency, with 92 percent of Republicans giving him a thumbs-up.
That’s not going to be the case the second time around. Ever since Election Day and the beginning of his disgraceful effort to overturn the results, Trump’s job-approval ratings have been steadily falling. At FiveThirtyEight his average rating was at 44.7 percent the day Joe Biden’s win was “called” by all the media outlets. It’s at 38.0 right now, the lowest since December of 2019 when he was reeling from his unsuccessful effort to repeal Obamacare. We don’t have any Gallup data for the last several weeks. But if a new Pew survey taken from January 8-12 is any indication, the bottom is falling out for Trump since the spectacle of January 6:
Throughout most of his presidency, Trump’s job rating remained more stable than those of his predecessors; it never surpassed 45% or dipped below 36%. But his job approval now stands at just 29%, down 9 percentage points since August and the lowest of his presidency. Much of the decline has come among Republicans and GOP leaners: Currently, 60% approve of his job performance; 77% approved in August.
Maybe that 29 percent rating is an outlier, but maybe not much of one. Other high-quality polls tend to show rapidly declining job-approval numbers as well, which is striking given Trump’s unusually steady assessments. Quinnipiac has him at 33 percent; Reuters/Ipsos at 35 percent; ABC/Washington Post is relatively sunny at 38 percent. He’s definitely getting into that territory occupied by such fading late-presidential tenures as those of Jimmy Carter (34 percent when he left office), Richard Nixon (25 percent when he resigned), and George W. Bush (34 percent in January 2009 but 25 percent two months earlier).
As Pew shows, though, even in his free fall Trump’s Republican support remains relatively high — too high for Republican pols to safely dump him. 79 percent of Republicans oppose his removal from office, and 57 percent want him to “continue to be a major political figure for many years to come.”
If Trump’s sunset in power is quickly turning to dark, Biden appears likely to begin his presidency with at least a bit of a public-opinion honeymoon. Pollsters don’t do job-approval assessments until a president-elect takes office, but some signs are good: Pew shows 64 percent of Americans rating Biden’s conduct since Election Day as “excellent” or “good” (compared to just 23 percent saying the same of Trump’s conduct), and 58 percent approving of the way Biden has “explained his policies and plans.” Given the closeness and bitterness of the 2020 election and a continuing atmosphere of partisan polarization, that may be as good as it can get.