Polls are a means of gauging how the public feels at a given moment about a given topic. They’re great at measuring progress on public sentiment regarding different issues (the polls about gay marriage slowly grew in favor of allowing it).
But that’s also their biggest flaw – they’re only good for the here and now, especially when it comes to the popularity of political figures.
President Donald Trump is the latest example of this.
Trump’s critics love pointing to his low poll approval ratings. But these polls aren’t really meaningful. It’s over two years until the 2020 presidential election. In terms of politics and polling, that’s not just a lifetime. That’s hundreds of lifetimes.
Yes, Trump’s approval rating isn’t ideal. But there is simply too much time left before 2020 for it to matter right now. He has plenty of time to improve his poll numbers significantly. In fact, at the same point of their presidencies (14 months after they were elected) Obama and Trump had the exact same approval rating (44 percent), according to Rasmussen. Obama went on to get re-elected in 2012 with 332 Electoral College votes and 51 percent of the popular vote.
It also works in reverse.
In February of 1991 at the end of the Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush had an approval rating of 89 percent. But 18 months later, he lost his bid for re-election.
Remember that the next time you think a poll today has any bearing on an election tomorrow.