Polling Shows Trump as a Polarizing Figure in American Politics


At the time of the inaugural, among registered voters polled by Quinnipiac, Trump’s approval was in the mid-40s and disapproval was in the low 50s.  His approval, by early May had changed little, but his disapproval had increased to 58%.  What changed was the reduction in “Don’t Know” responses.  Those went from roughly 19% to six percent.  If one looks at trends (regression lines for us behavioral scientists).  Disapproval would show an increase, while both approval and Don’t Know would show decreases.

I suspect that what we see on May 10 is what we will see for a much longer period.  Trump will maintain approval that hovers around 40 percent, while disapproval will hover at or just below 60 percent.  Interestingly, Quinnipiac is one of the few polls involving registered voters (see my last post) that has shown a substantial and increasing differential between approval and disapproval.

What becomes somewhat more interesting is when Quinnipiac breaks approval down in to four categories:  Strongly Approve, Somewhat Approve, Somewhat Disapprove, Strongly Disapprove.  With such answers one could expect a relatively even distribution across the four categories (e.g., 25,25,25,25), a distribution indicating a relatively high degree of uncertainty (e.g., 15, 35, 35, 15) where the two middle responses dominate, or one could see a picture of a more polarized electorate (e.g., 40, 10, 10, 40) where the “Strongly” responses dominate.


RATING February* March* April* May
Strongly Approve 31% 28.5% 26.5% 25%
Strongly disapprove 47% 47.5% 49.5% 51%
Differential 16% 19% 23% 26%

*Average rating from two Quinnipiac polls conducted in the month

As the table above indicates, since the beginning of the Trump administration, one sees a positive or upward trend in the differential between the percent strongly approving of Trump’s performance and those strongly disapproving–a reasonable definition of polarization.

As might expect, the approval ratings of those identifying as Republicans or Democrats.  For Republicans, 78% of Republicans who approve of his performance strongly approve of Trump’s performance; for Democrats 93% of those who disapprove strongly disapprove of his performance.  Here one sees a differential of 15 percent with Democrats more likely to take the more extreme view of the administration.

One sees similar patterns for most demographic groups.  The percentages in the table represent the percent of those who approve who fall into strongly approve and the percentage of those who disapprove who say they strongly disapprove.  This table isn’t about percent who approve versus percent who approve.  It is about strong disapproval versus strong approval―polarization.

RESPONSE Men Women White Non-White
Strongly Approve 73% 67% 755 67%
Strongly Disapprove 86% 57% 90% 81%
Differential 13% 10% 15% 14%


The most basic aspect of the table is that it demonstrates polarization in opinions about Trump’s performance among all four groups.  The second aspect of note is that, except among women, the intensity of disapproval is significantly higher than the intensity of approval.  For example, 25% of white respondents who voice approval of Trump’s performance indicate they “somewhat approves,” while only 10% of whites who disapprove of Trump’s performance only “somewhat disapprove.”

The implications of all this is that those who disapprove of Trump’s performance have more intense feelings about him than those who approve.  The question is whether this intensity implies a more readily available pool of voters willing to actively engage in the campaigns of 2018.

APPROVAL February March April* May
Approve of Congressional Democrats’ Performance 32% 30% 31.5% 34%
Approve of Congressional Republicans’ Performance 31% 29% 22.5% 22%
Differential 1% 1% 9% 12%

One of the issues with energizing supporters for congressional races is the low approval rate for the Congress.  But, something interesting may be happening with that.  Roughly two-thirds of voters disapprove of Congress. But, it seems that over time the approval rate for the performance of the Democrats is remaining largely stable, with more indications of a possible upward trend, while approval for Republicans’ performance in Congress is going down, moving from only one percent in February to 12% in May.

Whether that translates into more committed Democrats and fewer committed Republicans knocking on doors in congressional elections is anybody’s guess  and one of a number of dearest hopes held by progressives.

[NOTE: All results noted below come from the May 10, 2017 poll conducted by Quinnipiac University with over 1,000 respondents who were registered voters.]


1 Comment »

  1. Let’s hope the data are true indicators. NPR, this morning, had some anecdotal reports that Trumpites are sticking with him – on the Russia connection something like “I’m over it; I don’t care whether it happened.” The interview with the Senator (R) from Nebraska was a bit more encouraging!!! Let’s see what Trump does with the Texas request to defund Medicare support for all Planned Parenthood programs in Texas; if approved will we see a rush from other states? Yes! The gutter is running full of Trump ridiculousness! Every day every one of us is stepping in deeper and deeper Trump doo doo!


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