With fewer than 25 days remaining in the 2020 election cycle, Former Vice President Joe Biden has maintained a consistent national lead over the incumbent president ever since the general election match up was locked in back in April. But as we know all too well from 2016, national polling is not always the best indicator of who will actually be sworn into the presidency in January 2021.
The next few weeks will be filled with constant predictions from commentators, campaigns staff, presidential historians and everyday voters, but we already have access to the best data predictor of who will serve as the nation’s next Commander-in-Chief: the president’s job approval rating.
At this year’s virtual Democratic Convention, former President Bill Clinton began his speech with a description of the current campaign as “the world’s most important job interview.” He continued, “At the end we hire a leader to help us solve problems, create opportunities, and give our kids better tomorrows.”
As an incumbent running for reelection in 1996, Clinton tracked his job approval numbers very closely in the lead up to his electoral battle with then-Senator Bob Dole (R-Kan.). In the Fall of 1996, his job approval fluctuated slightly between 53 percent in the August before the election and wound up ticking up slightly to 56 percent in October. Ultimately, the 42nd President would go onto to defeat Dole, 49.2 percent to 40.7 percent in the November match up, with Reform Party candidate Ross Perot taking 8.4 percent of the vote.
Just four years earlier, then-candidate Bill Clinton was facing incumbent President George H.W. Bush, in a heated general election match up. In the 1993 campaign season — despite Bush having successfully managed the end of the Cold War and roundly defeating Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War — Americans were rapidly turning inward towards domestic issues. With the early 90’s economy struggling, President Bush had just a 34 percent job approval rating in the weeks leading up to the election and earned 37.5 percent of the vote on Election Day 1993.
In the lead up to both the 2004 and 2012 elections, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama each enjoyed a job approval ratings between 48 percent and 52 percent during the October of their reelection bids. On Election Day 2004, Bush received 50.7 percent of the vote against Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.). Similarly, Obama received 51.1 percent of the vote share against former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) in 2012.
Unlike his two most recent predecessors, President Donald Trump’s job approval rating remains markedly and stubbornly underwater. Indeed, if the president is unsuccessful on Nov. 3, he will be the first president in modern history never to crack a majority positive job approval rating during the entire course of his four year presidency. Trump’s highest approval rating topped out at 49 percent (with between 45 percent and 50 percent disapproving) between January and early May 2020, when Americans were still giving the president relatively high marks in the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis.
In the wake of the president’s COVID-19 diagnoses and first debate performance against Vice President Biden, Gallup has his job approval at 46 percent. The most recent CNN poll has it at just 40 percent. In the CNN poll, 57 percent of respondents disapproved of Trump’s overall job performance, which is the highest disapproval rating for Trump over the last two years of tracking. When it comes to COVID-19, just 37 percent of Americans approve of the president’s handling of the pandemic — and that is extremely problematic for the president.
Americans are already voting in record numbers, with The Hill noting that more than 6 million votes have already been cast in the 27 states that allow for early voting. “Demographic modeling by one prominent Democratic firm, TargetSmart, estimates that almost 3 million of all votes cast have come from Democratic voters, compared to about 2.1 million from Republicans.”
These numbers spell real danger for President Trump with just three weeks left in the 2020 election cycle. The closest parallel to his current job approval standing in recent memory is President George H.W. Bush, who would go on to lose to a challenger promising a different direction. If history is our guide, Trump’s job approval rating and his standing with the American voter will make him a one-term president.
Special thanks and courtesy of THE HILL https://thehill.com/