WASHINGTON - This week brought another wave of good economic news for American workers – more jobs and less unemployment – and the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows just how important those numbers are to the Trump White House with 2020 approaching.
And of course, those figures are just the latest in a long string of good economic numbers during President Donald Trump’s time in office. The first few years have been marked by large jumps in the major stock indices and sustained GDP growth. The economic expansion that began during the Obama Administration is nearing record length.
And yet, the latest NBC News/WSJ poll shows Donald Trump’s job approval rating at only 46 percent – five points lower than his 51 percent disapproval rating.
Yes, that 46 percent approval number is an improvement over last month when the president was at 43 percent approval, but in reality, it is more a marker of consistency than anything else. In the last six NBC News/WSJ polls, going back to November, Trump’s approval has been at either 46 percent or 43 percent. In the last year, he’s only broken out of that numbers range once, when he hit 47 percent approval in October.
Those figures aren’t great, of course. Politicians would always rather be above the 50 percent approval line than below it. But in Trump’s case, one could argue that 46 percent approval is something of a win.
When voters are asked to rate their personal feelings about the president, the numbers get much worse. Only 39 percent of Americans say they have positive feelings about the president versus 49 percent who have negative feelings about him.
That’s a net negative of 10 points on the feeling scale, twice the negative Trump gets for his job performance. And a lot of those with negative feelings about Trump are strongly opposed to him – 41 percent of those polled said they had “very negative” feelings about Trump.
So what’s keeping Trump more-or-less afloat at 46 percent job approval? Remember those economic numbers.
When the poll asked about Trump’s handling of the economy, the president’s approval numbers bumped up to 51 percent and his disapproval number dropped to 41 percent.
That’s a pretty remarkable shift – from a net negative five for overall job approval to a net plus 10 on economic job approval – and the impact was felt across the board with some notable groups standing out in the data.
Upper-class respondents went from 48 percent job approval to 55 percent approval in how Trump is handling the economy. Hispanics went from 29 percent job approval to 41 percent economic approval. And independents, a crucial group of voters, went from 38 percent job approval to 48 percent economic approval.
For the Trump White House, these numbers are a mix of good and bad news.
On the bright side, the good economy clearly seems to be lifting the president’s overall job approval, particularly considering his high personal negatives. But at the same time, these poll numbers suggest Trump’s overall job approval rating could be higher if he could somehow lift those personal negatives. People seem ready to give him credit for what looks and feels like a very good economy, but he’s not getting as much as he could.
And then there is the question of timing.
These poll numbers might be comforting for the White House after this week’s strong economic numbers. A good economy seems to have set a pretty solid floor for Team Trump. But good economies don’t last forever and November 2020 is still 20 months away.