In our most recent poll, we asked NC State undergraduate students how they felt Donald Trump was handling his job four weeks into the presidency. The verdict? Guilty of low approval ratings.
Along with us, most national polls are collecting these approval ratings to track over time, whether in monthly or even daily increments. The practice of collecting presidential job approval ratings has been going on since the late 1930s when George Gallup started asking people, “Do you approve or disapprove of the way ——— is handling his job as president?” Pollsters still use this phrase verbatim today to compare approval ratings without question wording effect. So not only do we have the data to see the rising and falling of ratings throughout a presidency, but we also have the ability to compare these ratings to that of other presidents.
Trump began on a rocky start nationally, receiving approval ratings that dropped from 50% to 42% in his first week. It’s not uncommon for presidential approval ratings to drop within the first week. Obama’s rating lowered a couple percentage points, but unlike Trump, he started from the upper 60s. How bad are Trump’s approval ratings? For historical context, no other president has received ratings as low as Trump has in March of the their first year — the next closest was 53% approval during Bill Clinton’s first term. In addition, the Washington Post reported that approval of Obama by conservative Republicans in 2009 was higher than Trump’s approval now from people under 30, those with a post-graduate degree, Democrats, and people on the east and west coasts. And conservative Republicans were Obama’s worst performing group.
In our poll last fall, we found that 49% of students identified themselves as Democrat, 38% as Republican, and 15% as Independent or other. If party identification informs presidential approval, NC State students would be consistent with current national presidential approval ratings. But there are other factors to consider as well. By breaking down national approval ratings by age range, we see that 18 to 29 year olds responded lower than all other age groups with 31% approving of how Trump is handling the presidency and 63% disapproving. Taking this into account and the strong negative reactions to Trump’s travel ban, it would not be unlikely to see approval ratings among NC Students lower than 38%.
How do NC State students view Trump?
Looking at the results of the poll, students responded overwhelmingly with a negative view of Trump. Only 26% of students approve of the way Trump is handling the presidency with 69% disapproving and 5% with no opinion. The intensity of disapproval is noteworthy: 55% of respondents disapprove of Trump strongly and 14% disapprove less strongly. At no point in our tracking of Obama’s presidency did NC State students give him an approval rating as negatively as this (Pack Poll started tracking Obama’s approval rating in the fall of 2010). At his lowest point, Obama received 28% approval from students in the fall of 2013, and at his highest point, 60% approval in the fall of 2016.
Students are crossing party lines
Students do not support Trump’s social policy agenda. In separate questions, 69% of students disapprove of the travel ban, 69% believe abortion should be legal in most cases, and 66% support federal funding of Planned Parenthood. The consistency between approval rating and opinion of policy issues might explain the inconsistency between approval rating and party identification. With 21% of Republicans on campus that disapprove of Trump, stances on policy issues are impeding on the normally dominant prism of party identification.
A topline report for all survey questions and results is available here: Big Poll Spring 2017 Toplines
NOTE ON METHODOLOGY: This semesters’ “Big Poll” took place February 14-18, 2017. The survey was administered over the internet to a random sample of 4,500 NCSU undergraduates and 876 completed the survey, generating a 19.5% response rate. Assuming a 50-50 division in opinion calculated at a 95 percent confidence level, the margin of sampling error for this survey is +/-3.25% when questions were answered by the full sample; sampling error increases for estimates when three or more choices were offered, when fewer respondents were asked a version of a question, or when analyzing the opinions of sub-groups, such as when looking just at how females responded to a question.
In addition to sampling error, other forms of non-sampling error occur in surveys, such as confusion about question wording or the order of questions, and non-response bias (low response rates), but these types of error are not precisely quantifiable. We do not apply post-stratification sample weights for the slight demographic imbalance in gender because weighting the data would not have noticeable effects on the results.