President Trump’s job approval rating, 44 percent with a 48 percent disapproval rating in a new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, makes him “the first president of the post-World War II era with a net negative approval rating in his first gauge of public opinion.”
Trump’s most strident supporters will no doubt call the polls fake, but the fact is, Trump’s numbers are low.
But at the same time, there are signs of optimism — not for Trump’s political fortunes but for the country. More Americans say they are hopeful and optimistic about the future than have said so in several years. And, at least specifically where the economy is concerned, many attribute their optimism to having Trump in the Oval Office.
The Journal-NBC pollsters asked 1,000 adults, “When you think about the future of the country, would you say that you are mainly hopeful and optimistic or mainly worried and pessimistic?” Sixty percent said they feel hopeful and optimistic, while 40 percent said they feel worried and pessimistic. That hopeful number is higher than when the Journal asked in December 2016 (56 percent), and in August 2016 (54 percent) and September 2005 (53 percent).
Trump voters are the most optimistic. But if 60 percent of Americans think something, the number includes a significant number of people who didn’t vote for Trump.
Looking inside the poll, men (66 percent) are more hopeful than women (54 percent). People earning between $30,000 and $50,000 (63 percent) and between $50,000 and $75,000 (64 percent) are more hopeful than those who make more than $75,000 (59 percent) and under $30,000 (55 percent). On the other hand, all age and income groups are over 50 percent on the hopeful scale.
Looking at other groups, 52 percent of Hispanics are hopeful, versus 47 percent worried — that’s got to be a more positive number than many would have guessed. Among African-Americans, though, just 36 percent are hopeful, versus 63 percent worried. Among whites, 65 percent are hopeful, versus 35 percent worried.
Looking at political identification, there’s no doubt Democrats are bummed — 37 percent optimistic versus 63 percent pessimistic. Republicans are happy — 87 percent optimistic to 12 percent pessimistic. And independents are leaning toward the positive side — 56 percent optimistic to 41 percent pessimistic.
Other indicators suggest good feelings among Americans in the wake of Trump’s victory. Forty-one percent said they expect the economy to get better, 21 percent expect it to get worse and 36 percent expect the economy to stay the same. That 41 percent, plus 42 percent who expected better times are the highest expectation numbers in the Journal’s polling since October 2012, right before Barack Obama was re-elected.
The Journal then asked those who believe the economy will get better whether they believe that will be the case mostly because of new Trump economic policies, or mostly because of what Obama set in motion, or mostly because the normal business cycle is simply improving. Seventy-three percent credited Trump policies, while just 5 percent credited Obama and 20 percent cited the business cycle.
None of that adds up to Trump popularity. But Americans’ sense of hope, especially about the economy, is a hugely important factor in presidential support. And where that is concerned, there is, for Trump, a little light for the future.