Saturday, December 23, 2017

BTRTN SaturData Review: A Sure Formula -- Trump Shuts Up and His Approval Rating Rises

Tom with the “SaturData Review,” which updates key political indicators and highlights other pertinent info from the week.

I have often said that the surest strategy for Donald Trump to improve his approval rating is to simply shut up.  He had a relatively quiet week and his approval rating, which hit a new low last week at 37%, climbed back up to 39% which, while still abysmal, is back to being in the same range that we have seen since June.  It is hard to prove cause and effect, but the “silence is golden” pattern, first noted in his campaign, appears to have happened again. 

(A note on methodology: BTRTN calculates our weekly approval ratings using an average of the four pollsters who conduct daily or weekly approval rating polls: Gallup, Rasmussen, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist. This provides consistent and accurate trending information and does not muddy the waters by including infrequent pollsters.  The outcome tends to mirror the RCP average but, we believe our method gives more precise trending.)

The tax bill dominated the news this week, as it wound its way from the House to the Senate back to the House again (due to a procedural error), ultimately securing each GOP Senator's vote, save John McCain, who sat it out for health reasons.  There is much debate on the ultimate impact of the bill.  Its passage certainly gives Trump and the GOP an accomplishment to talk about in the midterms, but it is, by any measure, a deeply unpopular bill.  A CNN poll showed that 55% of Americans oppose it, while only 33% are in favor, and other polls were also along these lines. 

While most Americans will see their take home pay increase (very modestly, but it will indeed increase) come January, there is no hiding the math that the bill’s benefits are wildly skewed to corporations and rich people (even on a percentage basis).  The bill also failed to “simplify” the tax code or the tax forms, and created as many special interest loopholes as it eliminated. The Democrats will be relentless in drumming these points home during the midterms, and Trump’s populist campaign rhetoric will be exposed, as this bill widens the income gap considerably.  The bill also increases the deficit dramatically, and thus the debt, which Trump promised to erase within the his presidency.

I am looking to see if the passing of the bill improves the GOP’s prospects in the midterms as measured by the all-important “generic ballot.”   The Democrat’s lead in the measure has skyrocketed from an already high +6 to an otherworldly +11 in the last two weeks, as the bill was debated.  Such a number almost guarantees a “Democratic wave” next year if it holds (and, of course, if the Dems put forward good candidates, raise adequate funds, make a good case for governing and get out the vote), enough to take back the House.

We’ll see what next week brings for both Trump's approval rating and the generic ballot.  One thing worth noting:  Trump wanted to hold a press conference for the signing of the tax bill, but his staff convinced him to forego it.  General Kelly certainly understands the "silence is golden" effect.

SaturData Review
Jan 2017   Post-Inaug.
Wk ending   Dec 16
Wk ending   Dec 23
Change vs. Last Week
Change vs. Jan 2017
Trump Approval
-2 pp
-9 pp
Trump Disapproval
+13 pp
Trump Net Approval
+4 pp
-19 pp
-19 pp
-3 pp
-22 pp

Generic Ballot Dem - Rep
D + 6
D + 8
D + 11
+3 pp
+5 pp

Unemployment Rate
Consumer Confidence
Price of Gas
Most recent GDP

The economic news continued to be solid, with little change in the key indicators, and the Trumpometer still at +20% versus Trump’s Inauguration Day (meaning, on average, five key economic indicators are up 20% versus their level back then, as detailed in the chart).  In the last week, the Dow reached new highs and gas prices fell, as they did the week before.  The only negative was a modest downward revision of the Q3 GDP, from 3.3% to 3.2%.

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