As he departed on a flight last week to Japan to attend the G-20 summit, President Donald Trump took the time to dash off a tweet celebrating the fact that he had hit “54%” in a new poll.
The celebratory missive was notable only for the fact that no such poll appeared to exist. Public surveys done during that time period did not have the president’s approval rating—ostensibly what he was talking about—at 54 percent. One done early in June had 54 percent of the public saying they believed he would be re-elected, but that total undoubtedly includes doomsaying Democrats who don’t actually support him. The Trump campaign did not return a request for comment as to what poll he was, in fact, referencing.
But if that poll did exist it would be, undoubtedly, among the best ever that Trump has referenced. Since the dawn of his presidency, Trump has been tweeting out polls that, he believes, show the American public warming to his job performance. Except, if you add up the numbers, the picture that these polls paint is not all that splendid.
In all, President Trump has tweeted pictures of or references to 28 polls. The average approval rating of those polls is 49.07 percent. In other words, even the president’s cherry-picked data shows that he hasn’t broken through with the majority of the country.
These polls, of course, are hardly a scientific sampling of Trump’s job approval numbers. In fact, they skew heavily toward pollsters—one in particular—that tend to draw a more sympathetic result for the president.
Of the 28 polls that Trump has tweeted out, 22 of them were done by the firm Rasmussen and three of them were simply screenshots of the front page of the Drudge Report, the powerhouse conservative website. The other three included a July 2017 ABC/Washington Post poll that had the president at a 40 percent job-approval rating, which he deemed to be “not bad at this time” of his presidency; an August 2017 Zogby Analytics poll that had him at 45 percent job-approval rating; and a December 2017 Morning Consult poll that also had him at 45 percent job-approval rating.
Prior to the mysterious 54 percent poll that Trump tweeted about on his way to Japan, the highest poll he had mentioned was one conducted by the Georgetown University. That poll, Trump said, had him at 55 percent approval rating. Except, it didn’t. The actual number was 43 percent. And for that reason, The Daily Beast did not include it in the overall average.
Presidents have been re-elected heading into their re-election campaigns with approval ratings below 49.07 percent. At his 888th day in office (the rough equivalent of when Trump sent his 54 percent tweet), Ronald Reagan was at 47 percent in a Gallup poll; at his 900th day in office, Bill Clinton was at 48 percent in the Gallup poll; and at his 889th day in office, Barack Obama was at 43 percent in that poll.
But Trump, of course, is not actually hovering around 49.07 percent. His latest Gallup number (taken 877 days into office) is 43 percent approval. And the rolling average of all poll numbers—not just the selectively chosen Rasmussen surveys—has him in an even worse position. According to the 538 averages, Trump’s approval rating is at 42.2 percent as of July 1.
Just how grave those numbers actually are is a debate for the pundits. But, for Trump’s team, it may not matter. The president’s campaign manager Brad Parscale told CBS News last month that polls were the “the biggest joke in politics.”
“The country is too complex now just to call a couple hundred people and ask them what they think… The way turnout now works, the abilities that we have to turn out voters—the polling can’t understand that,” he said. “And that’s why it was so wrong in 2016. It was 100% wrong. Nobody got it right. Not one public poll.”