Why Donald Trump's Approval Rating Is So High Among Republicans

As the U.S. experienced mass unrest over police brutality and racial inequality, a huge spike in unemployment, and on the current count more than 116,000 coronavirus deaths, President Donald Trump's approval rating took an unsurprising turn for the worse.

But there is one group of voters who have remained squarely in Trump's corner in spite of the triple crises facing the nation: Republicans.

Over the past few months, the president has frequently gloated about his high party-approval figures. Tweeting about his approval rating among Republicans on Tuesday night, Trump wrote: "96% Approval Rating in the Republican Party. Thank you!"

As The Washington Post reported at the end of May, the president's evidence-free claim to have a 96 percent approval rating among GOP voters is not grounded in actual polling data.

Nevertheless, his rating among the Republican base has been consistently high over the last three months.

A new Morning Consult/Politico poll of 653 Republicans found 83 percent approved of Trump's record, a fall of only 5 percentage points from the pollster's March survey. The latest poll, conducted between June 12 to 14, has a 2 percentage point margin of error.

Further polling data released by Scott Rasmussen on Monday found that 84 percent of Republicans either strongly or somewhat approved of the job the president was doing. Just 15 percent disapproved. The Rasmussen/RMG Research poll of 1,200 registered voters took place June 11 to 13.

So how has the president's approval rating among Republicans stayed so high, even amid unrest over race relations, unemployment, and public health?

Despite suggestions that Trump's high ranking among GOP voters is at least partly the result of a decline in the number of registered Republicans, some experts are skeptical of the theory and point to numbers that show little overall decline in affiliation with the party.

"Although we have seen some high-profile 'Never Trump' conservatives renounce their GOP membership cards, the numbers suggest that identification with the Republican Party hasn't changed much, at least on net, since Trump entered the White House," Thomas Gift, a political scientist at University College London, told Newsweek.

"That's not to say there haven't been ebbs and flows over the last three and a half years. Republican identification has been as low as 22 percent and as high as 33 percent."

But he also noted that Gallup data on party affiliation showed little long-term shift in the number of Americans identifying as Republican. Twenty-eight percent called themselves Republican in January 2017 and the same share identifies as GOP voters today.

"It's important to point out, however, that the Gallup numbers could mask variation in the strength of partisan identification," Gift said.

"The raw numbers don't indicate, for example, whether there have been changes in the share of Americans who consider themselves 'strong' versus 'moderate' Republicans. That matters because more voters might be on the fence politically going into 2020."

Morning Consult's senior editor Cameron Easley told Newsweek that while some suggest Trump's approval rating may be "artificially inflated" because he has driven so many Americans away from his party since taking office, "that's not what the data says."

If the president's high approval rating among Republicans is not owed to a decline in GOP affiliation, what has kept it afloat? Experts pointed to two simpler answers: Trump's appeal to the Republican base, and long-held party loyalty.

"Perhaps more than any other president in modern history, President Trump has governed and spoken almost exclusively to his base," Easley said. "That is a big reason why his support among Republicans is so high and his numbers among the broader electorate are so poor."

Easley cited Morning Consult's June 6 to 7 survey that found 39 percent of all voters approved of the president's job performance, his worst figure since December.

UCL's Gift said Trump's "laser-like focus on maintaining loyalty among his base—through reliably right-leaning policies like tax cuts, conservative judicial appointments, and a tough stance on immigration—have appeased at least a core group of supporters."

Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy also said Republican Party loyalty under Trump was "solid." But that could still change.

"Party loyalty remains solid but with the economy still very much on the ropes, a second wave of the virus predicted, tension palpable on the streets and the president's tendency to hurl invective via Twitter there are small cracks showing in party unity," Malloy said.

Trump's popularity begins and ends with the Republican Party.

According to the FiveThirtyEight poll tracker, Trump's average disapproval rating has reached its highest level since the peak of the impeachment inquiry in November. More than 55 percent of Americans are now unhappy with his performance in the Oval Office.

At the same time, his average approval rating slid from 45 percent at the end of March to a little over 40 percent today.

One poll published by Reuters on Wednesday found that Trump had a net disapproval rating of 19 percentage points, with 57 percent of U.S. adults telling pollsters they disapproved of the president's record as 38 percent approved.

The poll of 4,426 American adults, including 2,047 Democrats and 1,593 Republicans, took place between June 10 to 16 and had a credibility interval of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

The Morning Consult/Politico poll released on Wednesday found that a majority of voters across all age brackets and genders disapproved of Trump's performance in the White House.

Unhappiness with the commander-in-chief also cut across income groups, with majorities of those earning less than $50,000 and more than $100,000 telling pollsters they disapproved of Trump.

Breaking down the results along party lines, pollsters also found that more than six-in-ten Independents (61 percent) were not content with the president and just 33 percent approved of his record in office thus far.

By comparison, 91 percent of Democrats said they disapproved of the job Trump was doing, while just 7 percent were happy with his record.

Donald Trump Steps Off Air Force One
Donald Trump pumps his fist as he steps off Air Force One upon arrival in Dallas, Texas, on June 11, 2020. Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images