In the presidential popularity pageant, President Trump isn’t faring so well.

In fact, less than 40 percent of Americans approved of the job he was doing during first year in office, according to the Gallup polling agency. That’s more than 10 points lower than any other elected president’s first-year average since 1945, when the opinion-research firm began asking a scientific sampling of the American electorate the same question on a near daily basis: “Do you approve or disapprove of the way [name] is handling his job as president?”

In other words, Trump is so far the least-approved-of president in modern history.

Ever obsessed with ratings, Trump insists that he has a large and growing base of support, and has consistently called his low polling numbers a sham.  “Any negative polls are fake news,” he tweeted last February, after a CNN/ORC International poll found that he’d begun his presidency with an approval rating of just 44 percent (by contrast, George W. Bush started with 58 percent and Barack Obama with 76.)

Trump’s unprecedented level of unpopularity from the get-go is not entirely surprising. After all, he was elected president despite losing the popular vote; roughly three million more people voted for his opponent, Hillary Clinton. His inherently incendiary nature and wholly unconventional approach to the presidency also hasn’t done wonders for his popular approval, nor has his tendency to attract conflict and controversy.   

Low marks aside, Trump has scored some major victories and dramatically changed course from the one charted by President Obama. In just over a year in office, he’s slashed many of the environmental and financial regulations established by his predecessor and appointed industry lobbyists and staunch regulatory critics to head key government oversight agencies. He’s successfully pushed through an extremely unpopular tax bill that heavily favors the wealthy and guts a key part of Obamacare. And he’s also fundamentally impacted the judiciary branch, appointing a staunch conservative to the Supreme Court and placing four times as many federal appeals court judges than Obama had in his first year.

So how much does presidential popularity really matter?

As our latest Above the Noise video explains, popularity (or lack thereof) early in life may predict a lot about what kind of person you turn out to be in the long run. Can the same be said for presidential popularity?

Presidential Popularity: How Much Does It Really Matter? 12 March,2018Matthew Green


Matthew Green

Matthew Green is a digital media producer for KQED News. He previously produced The Lowdown, KQED’s multimedia news education blog. Matthew's written for numerous Bay Area publications, including the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. He also taught journalism classes at Fremont High School in East Oakland.

Email:; Twitter: @MGreenKQED

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