Monday, April 17, 2017


A new Gallup poll says that Donald Trump's approval numbers are down since early February:
President Donald Trump's image among Americans as someone who keeps his promises has faded in the first two months of his presidency, falling from 62% in February to 45%. The public is also less likely to see him as a "strong and decisive leader," as someone who "can bring about the changes this country needs" or as "honest and trustworthy."
Kevin Drum has put the Gallup numbers in graph form and compared them to Trump's overall approval numbers. Drum writes:
Views of Trump Down, But Job Approval Is Up

According to Gallup, views of President Trump's have plummeted since February:

On the other hand, according to Pollster his approval rating has been improving for the past couple of weeks:

I guess a couple of high-profile bombings can do wonders even if people don't really trust you much anymore.
But note that the earlier Gallup survey was taken February 1 through February 5. Now look at the Pollster numbers. Trump's numbers have improved in the past two weeks, but compared to early February, they're worse. On February 5, according to Pollster, Trump's approval was 2 points higher (44.9) and disapproval was nearly 2 points lower (49.1). Trump was at -4.2 then; he's at -8 now. So he's still down.

Drum may be right, however, when he says that military action helps Trump. The Korea situation is being referred to as a "Cuban missile crisis in slow motion." What happened to presidential polling during the actual Cuban missile crisis? Gallup has the answer:
The "16 days in October" that have become known as the Cuban missile crisis began ... on Oct. 15, 1962, when U.S. spy planes documented that Soviet missile bases were under construction in Cuba. The American public was first informed of the discovery a week later, when President Kennedy made a televised address to the nation, outlining his plan for encircling Cuba with U.S. Navy ships to prevent any further missile buildup. Within hours following Kennedy's speech on Oct. 22, The Gallup Poll conducted a special reaction survey and found what Gallup analysts at the time called "overwhelming support" for the president's decision to impose a blockade on Cuba.

Of course, the crisis ended peacefully in late October, starting with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev's agreement on Oct. 28 to withdraw Soviet missiles from Cuba -- a resolution generally seen as a victory for the United States. Gallup trends on President Kennedy's job approval rating suggest that the public responded positively to Kennedy's leadership during this crisis. Prior to the blockade, in a late September 1962 survey, 63% of Americans approved of his job performance. Gallup saw little change in this in the initial days of the missile crisis (JFK's job approval was 61% in a poll conducted Oct. 19-24). However, in November, that figure jumped to 74%, and it remained in this range for several months.
So Kennedy's numbers went up, though only after a few weeks -- and then they remained strong for months. But they gradually dropped, though they remained positive. Kennedy's approval rating was below 60% a year later, at the time of his death.

Other war-driven approval spikes have dropped more dramatically. Here are the numbers for George H.W. Bush ...

... and his son:

But can Trump juice his poll numbers with mostly tough talk? Mike Pence, in South Korea, is using phrases like "strength and resolve," but he's also saying, "we're going to redouble our efforts to bring diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on North Korea. Our hope is that we can resolve this issue peaceably."National security adviser H.R. McMaster is saying it's time for the U.S. “to take action, short of armed conflict, so we can avoid the worst.” Our Asian allies don't want a preemptive strike. And a top congressional Republicans thinks the tactic that's really likely to make a difference is one that's not going to be satisfyingly bellicose:
... a senior Republican member of Congress on Sunday suggested that, behind the scenes, the administration is working on a different option that would be much more confrontational.

In an appearance on CNN, House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) said that ... there are plans being put in place to hit 10 Chinese banks that do business in North Korea with crippling sanctions to cut off funding to the Kim regime....

Asked by host Jake Tapper if he knew of any plans within the Trump administration to implement such sanctions, Royce said, “I do” and added that he and his colleagues in Congress are exploring other economic penalties as well.
Upside of that, if it happens and it's successful: crisis contained. Downside: no huge presidential poll spike. Hard to imagine Trump making this choice, but he has been leaving most of the decision-making to his generals and his plutocrats, and he's been deferring to members of Congress and foreign allies. In this situation, the vast majority of those people want to avoid a nuclear conflagration, or at least the destruction of Seoul or Tokyo, even if they think the polling would be awesome. So we'll see.

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