Low Approval Ratings Could Speed Possible Trump-GOP Clash

President-elect at 40 percent in 2 polls, around half of Obama’s 2009 rating

President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that the opinion polls that show him with a lower transition rating than his predecessors were “rigged.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that the opinion polls that show him with a lower transition rating than his predecessors were “rigged.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted January 17, 2017 at 11:15am

President-elect Donald Trump tried to cast doubts Tuesday on his low approval ratings, but the numbers — around half of those of his predecessor in 2009 — could accelerate an emerging collision with his own party. 

Two new polls put Trump’s approval rating at 40 percent just three days before he will be sworn in as the 45th president. At the same point in President Barack Obama’s transition period eight years ago, one of those polls, conducted by CNN/ORC International, had his approval rating at 84 percent.

Both that poll and one by The Washington Post/ABC News came up with the same number for Trump’s approval rating. But, perhaps more tellingly, both surveys had the businessman and former reality television star’s disapproval numbers above 50 percent. The Post/ABC survey put it at 54 percent, while the CNN/ORC survey found 52 percent of those polled have an unfavorable view of how Trump is handling his transition to the Oval Office.

[Obama Doubts Trump Can Govern Via Twitter, Admits Some Missteps]

At this time in 2009, the two surveys put Obama’s negative ratings at 14 percent (CNN/ORC) and 18 percent (Post/ABC).

As he often does, Trump fired back on Twitter. He called the polls “rigged,” saying they were conducted by the same organizations that conducted general election polls that Trump and other Republicans have said were inaccurate.

Gallup, however, has pointed out that pre-election polls predicted Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would win the popular vote.

Trump’s approval ratings are much lower than any previous incoming president in the modern era, suggesting that behind his public — and social media — bluster is a weak president-in-waiting.

The numbers could complicate his ability to enact his policy agenda. In a list of print media interviews over the weekend, Trump appeared to break with congressional Republicans on major issues like how to replace Obama’s signature health care law and overhaul the country’s tax system.

As GOP lawmakers try to discern what exactly is Trump’s ideology and the kinds of policies he wants to sign into law, higher approval ratings would make them feel more pressure to follow his lead.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said in a Tuesday morning television interview that he hopes Trump will begin striking more of a leadership tone.

Such a move could help drive up his approval ratings. But he gave no indication shortly after McCain’s comments that he intends to change his brash approach, firing off new tweets about Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon who said last week that he does not view Trump as a legitimate incoming president.

Trump’s criticism of Lewis as “all talk” over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend caused a rush of lawmakers, including some Republicans, to come to the congressman’s defense.