At the G7, Trump Is One of the Popular Ones

Justin Fox

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Donald Trump is an unpopular president. According to the Real Clear Politics polling average as of Friday afternoon, only 43.3% of Americans approve of his performance. FiveThirtyEight, which weights polls by quality, sample size and partisan lean, puts the average at 41.6%.

But as the president meets with leaders of the other G7 countries in the French resort city of Biarritz this weekend, he can take solace in the fact that he’s more popular than almost all of his peers. The lone exception seems to be Japanese premier Shinzo Abe, whose cabinet’s approval rating is 48.8% (to only 35% disapproval) in the Japan Political Pulse poll aggregator maintained by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA.

Only 32% of Germans polled for broadcaster ARD a few weeks ago said they were satisfied with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government. In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval rating was 41% in one recent poll and 39% in another (and in the second poll, by Ipsos, only 33% agreed that he “has done a good job and deserves to be re-elected”). In the U.K., only 31% have a positive opinion of brand-new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, according to YouGov. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte just resigned, so while he remains in office until a new government is formed and the current governing coalition still has a majority in polls, I don’t think he can really be counted as riding on a wave of approval.

Then there is French President Emmanuel Macron, the one other more or less directly elected head of state (as opposed to leader of a parliamentary government) coming to Biarritz. In so many ways, he’s the diametric opposite of Trump: young, cosmopolitan, well-spoken, technocratic. He’s the least popular of the lot, with a 28% approval rating in the most recent poll listed by the diligent editors of the “Opinion polling on the Emmanuel Macron presidency” Wikipedia page and 22% percent in the one before that.

Trump’s approval rating has of course been remarkably stable, stuck since early 2018 in a narrow band between 40% and 45%. This may be the result of extreme partisan polarization — Trump remains very popular, if not quite as popular as he says he is, among Republicans — or of the personalization of the presidency. Or maybe it’s just that a reasonably healthy economy and a chaotic presidential performance have so far mostly canceled each other out. In any case, approval ratings seem to be less stable in other countries, and with the world and Europe in particular in the midst of an economic slowdown, their common direction at the moment seems to be down. Macroeconomic fluctuations aside, there also seems to be a more general dissatisfaction afoot in many rich, Western democracies that makes it tough for incumbents to remain popular.

In the U.S., Trump has enjoyed both economic good times and a seemingly inalienable base of about 25% of Americans — that is, the people who say in polls that they “strongly approve” of his performance. There’s another 40% or so who “strongly disapprove” of him, though, and recent signs of economic sputtering seem be dragging Trump’s overall approval rating down at least a little. By all appearances, this is rattling the president. While in Biarritz he might want to consider chilling out and enjoying the fact that, relative to that crowd, he still counts as quite beloved.

To contact the author of this story: Justin Fox at justinfox@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sarah Green Carmichael at sgreencarmic@bloomberg.net

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Justin Fox is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He was the editorial director of Harvard Business Review and wrote for Time, Fortune and American Banker. He is the author of “The Myth of the Rational Market.”

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