Is Trump Getting a Bump?

One of the largest factors in the various political science models that predict the outcome of presidential elections—models that have been largely correct over the last half-century, though the sample size is admittedly too small—is economic growth in the first half of the year. With Goldman Sachs and other forecasters now predicting that GDP might shrink by as much as 25 percent in the coming months, it would seem that President Trump’s re-election prospects are doomed. Liberals who have been hoping for a recession to take down Trump look like their wish has come to pass.

But a funny thing appears to be taking shape. According to two polls taken this week, Trump is enjoying a small but statistically significant bump up in his public approval. The Harris Poll conducted two samples a few days apart earlier this week, and noted an improvement in Trump’s public standing from the first to the second “wave.” Here’s the relevant slide from the Harris Poll report:

And an ABC News/Ipsos Poll out yesterday finds much the same thing:

As a deepening public health crisis rocks the nation, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday shows a far different portrait of a country than from only one week ago, as nearly three in four Americans now say their lives have been upended in some way by the novel coronavirus and President Donald Trump’s approval for his handling of the outbreak is on the rise.

In the new poll, 55% of Americans approve of the president’s management of the crisis, compared to 43% who disapprove. Trump’s approval on this issue is up from last week, when the numbers were nearly reversed. Only 43% approved of Trump’s handling of the pandemic and 54% disapproved in last week’s poll.

These numbers are already driving liberals crazy judging from what I see on Twitter.

Of course a lot can change between now and November, and these gains could be swept away by any number of factors. As Harold Macmillan famously described what makes for political success or failure, “Events, dear boy, events” (though as usual there are doubts he ever actually said this). And we’re clearly having one of the most extraordinary events in the nation’s history.

Right now there is huge uncertainty about how long the nation’s lockdown is going to last, how severe the economic contraction will be, and how fast we will recover once the all-clear is sounded. But already survey data show that the most of the public understands that the virus is not Trump’s fault, and likewise that the economic calamity that has befallen us is not his fault either. The usual rules of politics may not apply to this episode, and my hunch is Trump might come out of this stronger.