CNN's latest poll on President Donald Trump

By Harry Enten, CNN

Updated 7:12 p.m. ET, September 10, 2019
9 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
6:23 p.m. ET, September 10, 2019

Tldr: Trump's in 2020 trouble

Our new CNN/SSRS poll shows that President Donald Trump's approval stands at just 39%. That's its lowest level since the beginning of the year, and it's down 4 points since the beginning of the summer.

Importantly, the CNN poll is one of a number of recent high-quality polls that have Trump's approval dropping by mid-single digits since the beginning of the summer. That means it's less likely to be statistical noise.

Here are a few other takeaways from the poll:

  • It's not just that Trump has a low approval rating. His strongly approve rating of 28% is far below his strongly disapprove rating of 45%, which is a much wider gap than previous presidents saw and indicates an enthusiasm gap.
  • Once a strength, Trump's net approval (approval - disapproval) rating on the economy is down 14 points since the beginning of the summer. It stands at just +1 point now.
  • All of these seem to be driving 59% of voters to say that Trump does not deserve reelection, which is a significantly higher percentage than George W. Bush or Barack Obama had at this point.
  • Thanks to a large sample size, we could break down Trump's approval rating to a microscopic level and saw that Trump's about as unpopular with Generation Z (29% approval) as he is with Millennials (31% approval).
  • A sort of silver lining for Trump: His approval rating on gun policy is the highest of his presidency, but still low, at 38%.

6:19 p.m. ET, September 10, 2019

Trump gets his best rating ever on guns. It's still bad.

Trump has generally dragged his feet when it comes to gun control. You might expect that to hurt him, given that Americans are in favor of stricter gun laws. Indeed, his approval rating on gun policy in our latest poll is only 38%.

Yet that 38% is actually the highest it's ever been. It's a statistically insignificantly higher than the 36% it was last month and 5 points higher than he was at the beginning of the year.

I find that notable because gun control and Trump's mostly inaction on it has been in the news a lot recently, after mass shootings in Texas and Ohio. Despite that, his approval rating on the issue isn't going down.

Moreover, gun policy is the only issue on which Trump's approval actually went up over the last month.

While I wouldn't put too much on this, I do think it's notable. It suggests perhaps that gun control isn't the driver of public opinion perhaps some Democrats hope it is heading into 2020.

6:12 p.m. ET, September 10, 2019

Trump's reelection problems

One of the big questions for 2020 is whether Trump's bad approval ratings will translate into problems at the ballot box. Our new poll suggests that they may very well, if current trends hold.

In our poll, only 39% of voters say Trump deserves to be reelected. That compares to 58% who say he does not deserve to be reelected.

Again, it's not unusual for a president to be underwater on these questions. But Trump is far into negative territory.

The percentage of voters who said Obama didn't deserve reelection on this question was usually under 50%. Even at its height, it never got above the mid-50s. For Trump it has never gotten below the high 50s.

The same holds true when you at George W. Bush's reelection ratings. They were usually below 50% at this point in the campaign. They never got above the mid 50s even at their peak.

Perhaps more troubling for the president is these generic questions seem to be matching up with what we're seeing in the ballot test against potential Democratic contenders. As I noted previously, Trump's deficit against them is higher than it's been for any president since World War II.

5:56 p.m. ET, September 10, 2019

The big enthusiasm gap against Trump

Beyond the topline of Trump's approval rating, CNN also asked how strongly Americans approved or disapproved of Trump's job performance. The percentage who moderately approve (11%) is similar to the percentage who moderately disapprove (10%).

The real nugget is that the 45% who strongly disapprove is significantly higher than the 28% who strongly approve. That 17-point gap is wider than the 7-point gap we found in April of this year.

What's so interesting about that is some form of enthusiasm gap on approval exists across age, gender, race and even education levels.

Now, it's not unusual for there to be an enthusiasm gap in which more people strongly disapprove than strongly approve of a president. We saw it with George W. Bush and Barack Obama at roughly this point in their presidencies.

The difference is that Trump's is much larger. Obama's strongly disapprove rating in CNN polling was never more than 10 points higher than his strongly approve rating through his first three years in office. The same held true with Bush.

Coming into 2020, it's easy to imagine that Trump may lack the enthusiastic supporters he will likely need to overcome what looks to be an unpopular standing overall.

5:46 p.m. ET, September 10, 2019

The economy is likely driving Trump's approval rating down

The big question is why is Trump's approval rating down. The simple answer may be "it's the economy, stupid."

The economy has generally been Trump's strongest issue, but it's not even that strong for him now. Trump's net approval rating (approval - disapproval) on the economy stands at just +1 point in our latest CNN poll. It hasn't been that low since February 2018, when it stood at -1 point.

The longer term trend should worry the President. Back in April, his net approval on the economy was +15 points. It dropped to +11 points in May, +6 points in June, +4 points in August and now stands at +1 point. In other words, Trump's net approval rating on the economy is down 14 points in less than half a year.

Faith in Trump on the economy is declining at the same time that our polling and other polling finds that Americans feel less secure about their economic future.

And while Trump hasn't seen much movement in his approval ratings overall, his hope has generally been that the economy would lift him. That seems less likely now.

5:19 p.m. ET, September 10, 2019

CNN poll is latest to show Trump's approval down

When you want to know if something is statistical noise or whether it's real movement is to, look at other pollsters. If all pollsters are showing the same thing, it's far more likely to be statistically significant.

The other live interview pollsters who meet CNN's standards and released numbers over the last two weeks are showing similar movement to what CNN is showing when it comes to Trump's approval rating.

  • ABC News/Washington Post has Trump with a 38% approval rating. Their prior poll released in early July had him at 44%.
  • Gallup has Trump with a 39% approval rating. They too had him at 44% in early July.
  • Quinnipiac University had him at a 38% approval rating. He was at 40% in late July and 42% in early June.

That's an average decline in Trump's approval of 4 points from these pollsters comparing their latest poll to their earliest poll released in July.

Our latest CNN poll compared to our poll released in early July (and conducted in late June) shows Trump down 4 points from 43% to 39%.

In other words, there's very good reason to think Trump's approval rating is down.

4:49 p.m. ET, September 10, 2019

Millennials and Gen Z feel similarly about Trump

Usually high-quality phone polls don't allow for deep dives of age groups beyond normal breakdowns (e.g 18-34 or 18-29). Younger people are especially hard for pollsters to reach. We had big subsamples in our poll so we could go deeper.

When it comes to Generation Z (roughly below the age of 25 in our sample) and Millennials (roughly those ages 25 to 39), we find that they actually feel pretty similarly on some key questions. Just 29% of Generation Z approve of Trump's job performance, while 31% of Millennials do. On partisan identification, a mere 22% of Generation Z say they are Republican. It's 21% for Millennials.

Millennials, though, do seem somewhat more conservative on other questions. Millennials are less likely to call themselves liberal (26%) than Generation Z (39%). Millennials are also more likely to say Trump deserves reelection (31%) than Generation Z (22%).

Of course, neither group can remotely be described as friendly to Trump. About two-thirds of Millennials (65%) and three-quarters of Generation Z (75%) say they don't think Trump deserves reelection.

4:32 p.m. ET, September 10, 2019

Trump's immigration policies split Midwest voters

Pictures of children in cages litter the television, and polls show Americans want a pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally. Yet, we know a hawkish immigration policy was a main factor in Trump becoming president.

Our poll indicates why Trump may have more Americans behind him than is assumed. No, it's not a majority, but 44% of Americans say Trump's policies on immigration are about right or don't go far enough in restricting immigration. Among voters, this creeps up to 45%. That's right near Trump's vote share in the last election.

Only a bare majority of voters, 52%, say Trump's immigration policies go too far. A -7 point gap may not seem like good thing for Trump, but it's less negative than his overall net approval rating.

When you break it down by region, the numbers become a little friendlier to Trump. Midwest voters are split 48% to 48% on whether the President's immigration policies go too far or about right/don't go far enough in restricting immigration. Trump, of course, counts on the Midwest to aid him in the Electoral College.

Don't be surprised if Trump leans more on immigration in the coming months, if he feels the economy is going south.

4:33 p.m. ET, September 10, 2019

Donald Trump is quite unpopular

Our new CNN/SSRS poll finds that President Donald Trump has an approval rating of 39% and a disapproval rating of 55%. Compared to our last poll, his approval rating is down a statistically insignificant 1 point (from 40%) and his disapproval rating is up 1 point (from 54%).

Still, a look at the longer term trend suggests a more worrisome trend for the President. The President's approval rating also declined in our previous poll compared to the poll conducted before it. Comparably, Trump's approval rating had been steady at 43% in three consecutive polls taken between April and June.

The 39% he earned in this poll is the worst approval rating he's recorded since early January of this year, when the federal government shutdown occurred. Meanwhile, his disapproval rating is now tied for its highest level since our poll taken in late January and early February.

You might say that a 4-point drop isn't a huge one. Recall, though, that Trump's approval rating has stayed between 35% and 45% in every CNN poll taken during his presidency. In other words, the president was firmly in the top half of his approval range in the middle part of this year. Now he's in the lower half of his approval range.