Slim majority approves of Trump's handling of the economy

September 13, 2017 9:01pm
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•  Shows improvement from June

•  But public divided on Trump's handling of the North Korea situation

When one is steering a boat it often helps to have a rising tide. As the tide of the U.S. economy continues to rise from the depths of the Great Recession, a slim majority of Americans, 51 percent, now says they approve of the way Donald Trump is handling the economy.

That is up from 45 percent in June and is his best rating among four issues tested in the latest Gallup poll.

Mr. Trump's economic approval rating in the September 6-10 survey marks the first time he has earned majority approval on any issue Gallup has asked about, including four issues measured in February and 10 in June.

The September poll also finds that 45 percent of Americans approve of his handling of North Korea, 41 percent rate his handling of foreign affairs positively and 39 percent give him favorable reviews on immigration. His rating on immigration has changed little in recent months, while his foreign affairs rating is up slightly in Gallup's polling.

Mr. Trump's overall job approval rating has yet to hit the majority approval level, however, topping out at 46 percent just after he took office in January. In Gallup Daily tracking, his job approval rating has been below 40 percent since early July. It has improved slightly over the past two weeks after falling to personal lows the last full week of August. His most recent weekly average approval rating is 37 percent, based on September 4-11 Gallup tracking.

Since Gallup last asked about Mr. Trump's handling of issues in June, the stock market has reached new record highs and economic growth has picked up, while unemployment remains low. The Presiden appears to be receiving credit for these positive economic developments, evidenced by his 91 percent approval rating on the economy among Republicans, 48 percent among independents and 15 percent among Democrats. Each of those partisan approval ratings for his economic performance is significantly higher than his overall job approval rating among the same groups.

Unlike Mr. Trump and the younger George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama came into office during challenging economic times. Nevertheless, each enjoyed relatively high economic approval ratings prior to the eight-month mark, during the honeymoon phases of their presidencies. This included 60 percent approval for Mr. Reagan's handling of the economy in April 1981, 49 percent for Mr. Clinton in March 1993 and 59 percent for Mr. Obama in February 2009. However, these approval ratings quickly waned, falling 10 or more percentage points by the late summer or early fall of their first year in office.

Gallup has asked Americans to assess presidents' handling of the economy periodically since 1971, including more frequent updates beginning with Mr. Reagan's presidency. Mr. Clinton has the record-high economic approval rating of 81 percent in 1999. The elder Mr. Bush has the record low of 17 percent in 1992. The average rating is 43 percent.

Trump's Foreign Affairs Rating Worse Than Other Presidents'

While Mr. Trump's rating for his handling of the economy compares favorably with those of other recent presidents, his 41 percent approval rating for handling foreign affairs is the lowest among this group. George W. Bush's 81 percent rating for handling foreign affairs shortly after 9/11 is the best for any recent president roughly eight months into his presidency. Messrs. Reagan and Obama had approval ratings above the majority level, while Mr. Clinton's was slightly below it.

In contrast to the current situation for Mr. Trump, Gallup says, presidents generally tend to receive higher ratings for handling foreign affairs than for handling the economy. The average foreign affairs approval rating for presidents since 1974 is 50 percent, including a high of 84 percent for the elder Mr. Bush in 1991 after the U.S. won the Persian Gulf War. The record-low rating of 29 percent, held by the younger Mr. Bush, was recorded in August 2007 -- four years into the Iraq War and before Americans saw the "surge" in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq as working.

Mr. Trump's job approval ratings generally have been poor, but evaluations of his handling of the economy are a relative bright spot for him, Gallup says. Buoyed by many positive economic reports, and perhaps Americans' belief that the former businessman would handle the economy well as president, a majority of U.S. adults now approve of Mr. Trump's economic stewardship, the polling company says.

Mr. Trump's overall ratings, then, may be held down by his lower ratings on other issues, including foreign affairs and immigration, as well as fundamental concerns about his character. “Indeed, perceptions of Trump's character have gotten worse since he took office,” says Gallup.

Survey methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 6-10, 2017, with a random sample of 1,022 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70 percent cellphone respondents and 30 percent landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

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