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Trump Job Approval Numbers Continue To Set Records, And Not The Good Kind

Trump East Room Press Conference

A new CBS News poll shows that Donald Trump’s job approval rating after one month continues to be at historic lows for incoming Presidents:

Just over a month after taking office, President Trump’s overall job approval rating is 39 percent — similar to what it was earlier this month. Fifty-one percent of Americans disapprove, and 10 percent don’t have an opinion.  Views continue to be strikingly partisan.

President Trump has described his administration as a “fine-tuned machine,” but 49 percent of Americans say it is more disorganized than previous administrations at this point in time. Forty-eight percent say the Trump administration is more organized (17 percent) or just as organized as previous administrations (31 percent).

Much of Mr. Trump’s campaign for president focused on jobs and keeping the country safe. Six in 10 Americans are very or somewhat confident that President Trump’s policies will create jobs, but they divide on whether his policies will keep the country safe from terrorism — 50 percent are very or somewhat confident his policies will keep U.S. safe from terrorism, and 49 are not very or not at all conifdent in those policies.

There continues to be some concern about Mr. Trump’s ability to handle an international crisis. Sixty-two percent are uneasy about his approach, and only 35 percent say they’re confident about his ability to deal with an international crisis. However, among Republicans, 75 percent are confident, and 22 percent are not.

The opposite is true for Democrats — 92 percent are uneasy with his approach, and only six percent are comfortable. Sixty-four percent of independents are also uneasy about the president’s approach to international crises.

A slim majority views President Trump as a strong leader but he gets more negative ratings on other characteristics. A majority (58 percent) of Americans don’t think he understands the complicated problems a president has to deal with and most (57 percent) don’t think he has a clear plan for solving the country’s problems. About eight in 10 Republicans think Mr. Trump does have a clear plan and that he understands the problems he faces, while about nine in 10 Democrats don’t think he does.

On empathy, 47 percent of Americans think Mr. Trump cares a lot or some about the needs and problems of people like them, while 52 percent say he cares not much or not at all.

These numbers are consistent with other recent polling from outlets such as NBC News and Survey Monkey, Quinnipiac, Marist College, Gallup, and Public Policy Polling. In fact, the only poll that shows something different is Rasmussen, which shows Trump’s approval rating as being on the positive side, with 53% approving of his job performance to date and 47% disapproving. The main reason for this appears to be the fact that Rasmussen is basing its poll on an undisclosed “Likely Voter” model that clearly excludes a whole host of Americans. As many pollsters would note, any “Likely Voter” model this far away from any election of national importance is generally seen to be as inappropriate and inexact since it’s far too early to tell what kind of group will make up the universe of voters in the 2018 midterms, and certainly far too early to be making that forecast for the 2020 election. This is why most pollsters who are polling on something as wide-ranging as a President’s job approval end up polling either Registered Voters or, more broadly, adults generally whether they are currently registered to vote or not. In any case, the fact that Rasmussen is so wildly out of balance with every other recent poll of the President’s job approval suggests strongly that it should be ignored, as does the fact that Rasmussen has been ranked low in pollster rankings for several years now.

Looking at the RealClearPolitics Average, we see that Trump is currently averaging an approval rating of 44.3% and a disapproval rating of 49.8%. According to Pollster, Trump’s numbers stand at 49.9% disapprove and 43.2% approve, a relatively minor difference between the two poll averaging systems despite their differences. By way of comparison, President Obama’s Job Approval on this same day eight years ago stood at 62.5% approve and 34.7% disapprove while President George W. Bush’s on this day in 2001 stood at  58.5% approve and 20.3% disapprove. No doubt, part of Trump’s historically high disapproval numbers are related in no small part that he received just 45.9% of the vote in the 2016 election, but that seems to be only part of the explanation. President Bush also received a smaller amount of the popular vote in the election than his opponent, but by the time he took office the country had rallied behind him as it tends to do for all newly incoming Presidents. Except, of course, Donald Trump. The fact that Trump’s personal favorable numbers continue to be in the negative range no doubt is also playing a role in all of this as well. However, I’d also suggest that a good part of the explanation for what’s going on here is that the public is seeing what the first month of the Trump Administration has been like, and they clearly don’t like what they see.

None of this bodes well for Trump in the time to come, of course. History shows us that there generally two points where a President’s job approval are usually at their highest. One comes at the beginning of their term in office when the public is, generally speaking, optimistic about the future and willing to give the new President a chance. The other comes at the end of their term when the fact that they will soon be leaving office usually leads the public to think more positively of them than they may have over the previous four to eight years. How long that period lasts depends largely on the President’s job performance and outside factors such as the state of the economy. For President Obama, it took roughly a year for the President’s numbers to collapse to the point where approval and disapproval were more or less equal. For President Bush, the positive ratings fluctuated over the years but didn’t really turn negative until the beginning of 2004, after which they became increasingly negative even though he managed to win re-election that year. For Bush, of course, the approval numbers were somewhat artificially kept high due to the public response to the September 11th attacks and the fact that there were two wars going on at the time. In both cases, Obama and Bush saw their job approval numbers drop and then fluctuate over time, but generally stay within the same range, something that had a real impact on their ability to get Congress to do what they wanted. If Trump can’t even get beyond 50% job approval in his first month in office, it’s likely that he’ll be far lower at some point, and at that point his Presidency will be even weaker and more ineffective than it already appears to be.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Scott says:

    So far, the accomplishments of Trump’s administration are high on assertions and low on actual accomplishments. Other than Executive Orders, most of which are aspirational rather than actionable, Trump has done very little. He can’t even get his administration up and running. He is working on his campaign threats but most of those do very little for the country and will actually hurt the economy. All hat, no cattle. All thrust, no vector. All talk, no walk.

    He has no where to go but down.

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  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    and at that point his Presidency will be even weaker and more ineffective than it already appears to be.

    It seems to me you just can’t recognize MAGAing when you see it.

    @Scott: @Scott:

    All hat, no cattle.

    I was speaking to a donor yesterday, and described Trump just this way (I think I used the term “cows.”) The donor owns a few thousand head of cattle. I can’t tell if I got the gift because of his dislike of Trump or because of my cute turn of phrase.

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  3. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Look…when you are left complaining because leakers leaked the fact that you wanted them to leak…you’re running a pretty dysfunctional operation.
    While I take a great deal of delight in schadenfreude, it’s little solace when you consider the damage that the clown-king will manage to do…in spite of himself.

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  4. Michael says:

    It doesn’t matter how well Trump is doing in the polls or whether he is a one term President. Chancellor Bannon has already wrought crippling damage to administrative state by nominating (you don’t think Trump gave much thought to the picks) people who are willing to decimate their departments. DeVos at Education, Perry at Energy, Pruitt at EPA …
    The Chancellor is hell bent on making the government dysfunctional. He may well be succeeding.

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  5. Scott F. says:

    Trump at CPAC today:

    — but the people that you’re watching [complain at townhalls], they’re not you. They’re largely, many of them are the side that lost. They lost the election. It’s like how many elections do we have to have?

    Trump won on November 8th, so as far as he’s concerned everything is a done deal until the next election. To the winner comes the spoils, therefore polling and bad press and WH chaos and dissent are immaterial.

    And they may well be. It will be interesting to see. If Trump hates the real job of POTUS as much as is being leaked, then the need to manage his approval numbers to set up reelection in 2020 becomes unnecessary. OTOH, he’s such a narcissist that his ego may need to respond to high unpopularity results when the polling is so consistently bad that even he can’t deny the polls fundamentally show the mood of the country.

    What will win out ego or laziness?

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  6. Pch101 says:

    @Scott F.:

    Trump will surround himself with sycophants and bad information, so he’ll find ways to feel good about himself.

    The more opposition that he faces, the happier that Bannon will be. He seems to get off on being anti-everything.

    On the other hand, all of that town hall bellyaching is starting to get to elected Republican representatives. Indivisible has the right idea, so keep up the good work:

    http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/22/politics/indivisible-co-founders-town-hall-protests-erin-burnett-outfront-cnntv/

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  7. Kylopod says:

    You can count me as someone who’s skeptical of the idea that his low approval ratings will be so much of a problem for him going forward. We still need to keep in mind how we got to this place–Trump kept defying expectations, over and over and over, based on how low his ratings were. I believe one of the key factors is that a lot of people who said they disapproved of Trump ended up voting for him anyway. And listening to Republicans over the past year, I sometimes get the feeling there are no Donald Trump fans, just people who say “Yes, Trump is awful, but….”

    At least until the end of next year, the American people isn’t going to be standing directly in the way of his agenda. Furthermore, there’s a good chance his current ratings are closer to being a floor than a ceiling. By all means, Dems have a lot of opportunities here, and it’s already clear he might just fail to get his agenda passed through sheer incompetence. But we really need to work to eliminate any trace of the mindset of viewing his impending demise as somehow inevitable. It hasn’t helped us in the past.

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  8. Tony W says:

    Now Trump is banning mainstream media (BBC, CNN, Politico etc.) from press briefings. If improving job approval numbers is the goal, I’m not sure what the strategy is here.

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  9. Pch101 says:

    @Tony W:

    Trump is laying the groundwork for censorship. He’s going to see what he can get away with, then keep pushing unless there is resistance.

    He’s also trying to help Breitbart. I’m sure that Bannon would like to elevate Breitbart and other right-wing outlets to the status of mainstream news for the sake of both ego and cash.

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  10. Terrye Cravens says:

    @Kylopod: In the past Trump was all talk, now people actually have to live with the results. That makes a difference. If those jobs don’t come back, if people lose their health care, if there is a huge international crisis followed by embarrassing ineptitude on the part of the Trump people or if there are new damaging revelations about Russia, Trump could drop even further. It is one thing to beat expectations when people are just campaigning, but governing is a whole different thing. Of course, Trump’s people will do their best to make excuses for him but unless Trump is able to deliver on some promises and act like a President instead of a bad child I don’t think he will get all that far. But who knows?

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  11. CSK says:

    @Tony W:

    You may be missing the point of Trump banning the legit news agencies from his briefings. He only wants “reporters” who’ll say great things about him when “reporting” on him. That crackpot from The Gateway Pundit will praise Trump to the skies, and so will Alex Jones of Infowars and Breitbart.

    I’m waiting for him to select someone from The Crusader (the KKK rag) and The Daily Stormer (the Nazi rag) to be White House correspondents. They’ve all said wonderful things about him. It’s possible, though, that The Daily Stormer may retract its endorsement, since Trump appears to be taking advice from his Jewish son-in-law and Jewish-by-conversion daughter.

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  12. DrDaveT says:

    Forty-eight percent say the Trump administration is more organized or just as organized as previous administrations

    The same 48% also wear tinfoil hats to protect themselves from the Orbital Mind Control Lasers wielded by the Bavarian Illuminati.

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  13. Kylopod says:

    @Terrye Cravens:

    unless Trump is able to deliver on some promises and act like a President instead of a bad child I don’t think he will get all that far.

    Perhaps. And I don’t want to give the impression that I think Trump is a Teflon type. I never bought that for a second. For one thing, the country is overdue for a recession, and that’s something his economic policies could hasten. In that scenario, he’d probably be in trouble. My point isn’t that Trump is totally immune to the things that hurt other presidents. But the flip side is that if the economy continues to be at least okay, and if the country doesn’t get itself in a complete foreign-policy mess, a lot of voters may be more than willing to overlook his flaws.

    Keep in mind that there’s a lot of evidence people’s perception of the economy and other things is influenced by their partisan beliefs. So, for example, many Republicans during Obama’s presidency were convinced everything was going to hell, that crime was rampant, that health care costs were soaring, that taxes were historically high, and so on. And in my experience, this often affected their interpretation of stuff going on in their own life: say, they have some expensive medical costs, so it must be the fault of Obamacare. Now that Trump is president, many voters will convince themselves of the opposite. If they wanted to believe Trump would bring the jobs back, they may start believing it. People see what they want to see. Is that really news?

    Trump’s greatest–and most underappreciated–weapon is his normalization. It’s cliche to invoke “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” but I really think it applies here: he’s clearly the most awful candidate in history, a deeply corrupt, incompetent, authoritarian psychopathic narcissist, and yet people seem to turn their brain inside out to avoid facing that reality and to place him within the context of normal politics. If he’s treated as a normal politician, he’s still vulnerable to the things that afflict normal politicians. But we need to be careful about assuming he’s going down due to his Trumpiness. That’s what I’m trying to warn people about.

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  14. Gustopher says:

    I think Doug is being very pessimistic with his title. Given the Trump presidency so far, record low job approval numbers are the good kind, for everyone but Trump.

    If people approved of Trump, that would be bad.

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  15. Hal_10000 says:

    The thing about those approval numbers: our economy is in decent shape right now and we’re not in the middle of an international crisis — the things that tend to depress numbers. Nor has he proposed any real legislation. In fact, his thirty days have mostly been ham-fisted executive orders. When the real stuff goes down, his numbers could plunge down to “George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina” levels.

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  16. DrDaveT says:

    @Kylopod:

    Trump’s greatest–and most underappreciated–weapon is his normalization. It’s cliche to invoke “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” but I really think it applies here: he’s clearly the most awful candidate in history, a deeply corrupt, incompetent, authoritarian psychopathic narcissist, and yet people seem to turn their brain inside out to avoid facing that reality and to place him within the context of normal politics.

    This.

    Trump has already done half a dozen things that would have brought any previous administration to a public crisis. He has said things that would have started impeachment proceedings against any previous president. He has called the free press the enemy of the people, and accused them of routine deliberate lies in everything they say about him.

    There are only two directions to go from here: he gets called on it, or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, America has implicitly accepted that everything they hear from a disliked source is false, and that Trump has access to a Private Truth that only he can know and deal with. Anyone who doesn’t want to end up there should be working hard to make sure Trump gets entirely discredited with a significant majority of the nation.

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  17. michael reynolds says:

    I’m feeling better, all things considered. I was at DEFCON 2, now I’m at DEFCON 3. The reassurance has come from the American people – the 54% that did not vote for the piece of rancid pork fat currently occupying the White House. People are doing exactly what I hoped they would do, in fact they are performing far better than I would have hoped.

    Trump has gained zero converts. In fact, he has lost ground among his own voters. When you look at polls on the creature himself you see that Democrats and Independents are lock-step in their distrust and lack of confidence. And, as I predicted, his problem is that he has no skills at anything but conveying anger. He has no capacity to broaden his appeal, no capacity to unite the country. Funny how an absolute lack of empathy handicaps you. Psychopaths make great predators, but if they aspire to be more they have to also be very smart, and smart Trump ain’t.

    Trump and his two-bit Nazis will definitely do some damage, but in important ways they’ve already lost. While he flounders, we organize. While he repels supporters, we gain support. I think we may well take back the House in two years. And then what will Mike Pence do after Trump is forced out of office?

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  18. JohnMcC says:

    I note that a couple of the comments above refer to an ‘international crisis’ as something that would likely lead to lower approval numbers for the Pres. Uh….actually, probably not. If some event in (for example) the SouthChinaSea were to lead to actual shooting or a collision between naval vessels the most likely response in the polls would be reflexive boost in Pres Trump’s numbers.

    This in fact is something that authoritarians have always known and is (IMHO) one of the chiefest reasons to fear this present administration. It never occurred to anyone (except I suppose Alex Jones) that Pres GWBush made a political calculation that allowing AQ to attack the US as he had been warned they were planning would be good for his reelection prospects.

    If Mr Bannon is the man we all fear he is, that might well be something to consider in the wake of an ‘international crisis’.

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  19. al-Alameda says:

    @Scott F.:

    Trump won on November 8th, so as far as he’s concerned everything is a done deal until the next election. To the winner comes the spoils, therefore polling and bad press and WH chaos and dissent are immaterial.

    I truly believe that the only things that could potentially change the conservative reactionary course we’re on will be (1) the 2018 mid-terms, and (2) some unforeseen external event.

    The GOP controls the entire federal government and even if approval ratings crater at 27%, for now they have the votes to do as they please.

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  20. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    It seems to me you just can’t recognize MAGAing when you see it.

    Millionaire Authoritarians Golfing Again ?

    Yeah… I seen it.

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  21. michael reynolds says:

    Darrell Issa apparently just called for a Special Prosecutor.

    Darrell Issa, Republican, but from the swing CA-49 which is heavily military.

    The noose tightens.

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  22. Jim Brown 32 says:

    Pssssssst. Hey….Dems. Maybe next election you’ll nominate change candidates. “Steady-hand” politicians are floating fish in this political climate. Change candidates who can weaponize their humor when need be are the winning pattern. Policy positions are an afterthought. You’ve got a year or so to find these people and introduce them to the public. Go!

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  23. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Eternal Washington, or what some commentators refer to as the “Deep State” will have more to do with DT’s success or failure as a president than his poll ratings. He’s squandered his best opportunity to get control of the government, largely because he’s obsessed with his critics. While 2018 is unlikely to see the Democrats regain control of Congress, it will mark a tipping point in his ability to influence events.

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  24. michael reynolds says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Depends which next election you’re talking about. In presidential elections we tend to look for “not that last guy.” We had smart, elegant, eloquent and thoughtful, so we traded it in for stupid, crude and ignorant. Four years from now people will likely be looking for some peace and stability.

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  25. wr says:

    @Jim Brown 32: Yes, because the one thing we absolutely know for certain is that political climates never ever ever change! If the American people elect one incompetent outsider and he turns out to be a complete disaster, they can only turn to another incompetent outsider to replace him. You can never go from, say, an ignoramous driven by Christianist ideology to a cool strategist and then to a flaming TV star. American voters just don’t work that way!!!!!!

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  26. panda says:

    @Pch101:

    Trump is laying the groundwork for censorship. He’s going to see what he can get away with, then keep pushing unless there is resistance.

    I am sure he would love to move in direction of censorship, but I fail to see how he has the tools to do so. Even the most conservative justices nowdays tend to be First Amendment absolutists.

    He’s also trying to help Breitbart. I’m sure that Bannon would like to elevate Breitbart and other right-wing outlets to the status of mainstream news for the sake of both ego and cash.

    Thing with Breitbart is that it is for people who are addicted to politics and love Trump. It can never replace news that normal people actually watch/read. (There was some poll this week showing that only 12% of public views it as major and reliable information source).

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  27. panda says:

    @al-Alameda:

    The GOP controls the entire federal government and even if approval ratings crater at 27%, for now they have the votes to do as they please.

    Yes, but with major 2 caveats
    1. The Senate refused to even discuss abolishing the legislative filibuster – mostly because Senators don’t want to be in position of passing every insanity that House throws at them.
    2. The one thing that united the GOP was hatred of Obama. Now that he is gone, its not easy to cobble policy that satisfied, say, insurance companies, the Koch Brothers, Louis Gohmert and Susan Collins.

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  28. panda says:

    @JohnMcC:

    I note that a couple of the comments above refer to an ‘international crisis’ as something that would likely lead to lower approval numbers for the Pres. Uh….actually, probably not. If some event in (for example) the SouthChinaSea were to lead to actual shooting or a collision between naval vessels the most likely response in the polls would be reflexive boost in Pres Trump’s numbers.

    This is that most presidents get that support because
    – They have a presumption of good faith
    – They know how to do and say the right things that draw Americans to the flag
    – They can manage at least the initial stages of a crisis competently.

    Trump has no presumption of good faith, bat Twitter habits, and is not so good at the whole management thing.

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  29. JohnMcC says:

    @panda: From your keypad to God’s ears (eyes? screen?).

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  30. panda says:

    @Kylopod:

    Now that Trump is president, many voters will convince themselves of the opposite. If they wanted to believe Trump would bring the jobs back, they may start believing it. People see what they want to see. Is that really news?

    For sure, but it works both ways: if people disapprove of Trump, they might convince themselves that everything goes badly even if things go on decently. This is why the fact won with a minority vote matters: he can’t just convince his supporters that he is #winning. He needs converts, because in the next election, a lot of people who voted Stein, or wrote in Bernie, or stayed home because Hillary corruption, will vote Dem.

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  31. panda says:

    @JohnMcC: Yeah it’s a tough one. On the one hand, a serious fuckup will bring Trump to late W territory. On the other hand: a major fuckup is going to kill people. Which is why even though Flynn was political gold, I am happy the new NSA is McMaster.

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  32. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @michael reynolds: Actually Obama and Trump are 2 sides of the same coin. They were change candidate with a sense of humor that can deflect attacks and go on the offensive. Obama made Republicans look silly for 8 years with his dry wit and sense of timing: “Proceed Governor”. I mean–at times it just wasn’t fair for the Republicans.

    Trump is funny–the Rosie O’Donnell parry was hilarious despite being inappropriate. Small hands? God I laughed even I didn’t want to. The guy is witty to most people. Probably the only President that wasn’t a change candidate since Reagan was Bush I–he wasn’t witty either.

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  33. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @wr: All those people you mentioned shared a common thread. They are witty, have a sense of humor, and offered the public a “change”. Yes, they had different ideologies and personalities– but when you get down to base-level human interactions they each use self depreciating and offensive humor well. Politicos tend to believe that people care as much as they do about policy positions, etc. They don’t–they make judgements about politicians based on how they make them feel. Its hard to feel bad about a person that makes you laugh.

    The only President since Jimmy Carter that wasn’t funny was Bush 1

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  34. Kylopod says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    All those people you mentioned shared a common thread. They are witty, have a sense of humor, and offered the public a “change” … The only President since Jimmy Carter that wasn’t funny was Bush 1

    …who just also happened to be the only president since Carter who didn’t come to office running against the incumbent party.

    The idea that if your own party is already in office you need to run on “change” is ridiculous. It’s especially so since in at least two of the cases in this period, the incumbent president was popular: Bill Clinton in 2000 and Obama in 2016. George W. Bush, despite being witty (actually, he wasn’t, really) and running on “change,” lost the popular vote to Al Bore and won the electoral college under very questionable circumstances. Donald Trump also lost the popular vote, and he won the EC decisively, but by a hair.

    In the 1950s, Adlai Stevenson was many things, but nobody would have accused him of lacking in wit or a sense of humor. And he was in the unique position of having run both as a status quo and as a change candidate.

    One of the least charismatic politicians in recent memory was Nixon, the man who managed one of the biggest landslides in history, with a larger popular-vote margin than Reagan in ’84. And he sure as hell didn’t do it running on “change.”

    This speaks to the whole problem with making generalizations with such a limited data set. Election outcomes happen due to a variety of factors. Very little fundamentally would have had to change for Hillary Clinton or Al Gore to have become president. That’s not to say being witty or likable or entertaining (the only adjective from that bunch I’d apply to Trump) isn’t a plus. But it isn’t some be-all, end-all quality that pushes everyone who has it invariably into the White House.

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