Political News

Trump is facing historically bad numbers for re-election in 2020

Posted January 30, 2019 5:40 p.m. EST

— President Donald Trump is no stranger to bad poll numbers.

His net approval rating (approval rating minus disapproval rating) has consistently been negative.

But that figure on its own doesn't necessarily mean Trump will be defeated in 2020. As conservative commentators like Newt Gingrich and Hugh Hewitt have correctly pointed out, President Ronald Reagan had similarly low approval ratings at this point in his presidency before going on to a blowout victory in his 1984 re-election campaign.

New polling finds, however, the depth of the opposition against Trump is considerably deeper than it was against Reagan. This suggests Trump could have a much more difficult job turning around his bad ratings than Reagan or really any president in the modern polling era.

An astounding 56% of voters said they would definitely vote against Trump in the 2020 general election, compared with 28% who said they would definitely vote for him and 14% who would consider voting for him, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Compare that with a Garth Analysis Survey in February 1983 for Reagan (i.e. right around this same point in Reagan's presidency). Just 32% of voters said they would definitely vote against Reagan, 31% said they consider voting for someone else and 26% said they'd definitely support Reagan.

In other words, by a margin of 24 points, more of the public say now that they are definitely voting against Trump in 2020 than those who said they would definitely vote against Reagan in the 1984 cycle.

Interestingly, Reagan and Trump had similar-size core bases. The 26% who say they'd definitely vote for Reagan is only 2 points below the 28% who say they'd definitely vote for Trump.

Reagan, though, had a slew of potential supporters who Trump seems to be lacking. More than double the percentage of voters were at least open to voting for Reagan (31%) than say they are open to voting for Trump (14%). (Another 10% said they didn't know about Reagan, while just 1% say that for Trump.) Together, those who would definitely vote for Reagan and who would consider voting for him hit 57%. For Trump, it reaches only 42%.

Indeed, for all the presidents for whom this question was asked, Trump clearly has the firmest opposition.

Just 32% said in a January 2003 Ipsos poll that they would definitely be voting against George W. Bush. A plurality of 40% said they would definitely vote for him, with 25% considering voting for Bush. Combined, 65% said they would at least consider voting for Bush.

For Obama, the highest "definitely vote against" I could find for him in 2011 was 47% in a June ABC News/Washington Post poll. Even in his worst poll, 52% said they would either definitely vote for him (27%) or would consider voting for him (25%). Again, that number for Trump right now is 42%, 10 points lower.

Now before we get too carried away, I obviously should note we're still almost two years away from the 2020 election. A lot of things can potentially happen to change these numbers.

But these stats paint a very grim picture for the President. Anyone who thinks it will be easy for Trump to persuade his doubters is sorely mistaken.

The ABC News/Washington Post poll is just the latest to suggest that Trump's opposition is considerably more locked in than approval ratings alone would suggest.

As I noted previously, a record 47% of Americans already say they believe the Trump presidency will be unsuccessful. This means Americans don't just disapprove of Trump in the moment but believe they won't ever change their minds about him. That 47% is higher than any poll taken at any point for any presidency in the last 25 years. This includes well into the second half of George W. Bush's second term, after Hurricane Katrina, the bad 2006 midterms for Republicans and an Iraq War that had gone south in Americans' minds.

An earlier Marist College poll found that same percentage (45%) of Americans think Trump is doing a poor job (on a scale that goes from excellent to pretty good to only fair to poor) as President as thought Richard Nixon was doing a poor job two weeks before he resigned.