Six in 10 Americans say a recession is likely in the next year and as many are concerned about higher prices because of the trade war with China, helping to knock 6 points off President Donald Trump’s job approval rating in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.
Trump fell from a career-high 44% approval in July to 38% now, a point off his career average, with 56% disapproving. His average rating since taking office remains the lowest on record for any modern president at a comparable point in his term, and he is the first never to have achieved majority approval.
Trump has slipped by a slight 5 percentage points specifically on his handling of the economy, from 51% approval in midsummer to 46% now. Fewer -- 35% -- approve of his handling of trade negotiations with China, and 60% are concerned that the trade dispute will raise the price of things they buy.
Ratings of the U.S. economy overall, 56% positive, are down from 65% last fall in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. Most ominously, 60% see a recession as very or somewhat likely in the next year. That’s within sight of the 69% who said so in November 2007, in advance of the Great Recession.
In another measure, Trump gets far more criticism than credit for his economic stewardship. Americans by nearly a 3-1 margin, 43-16%, say his trade and economic policies have increased rather than decreased the chance of a recession in the next year.
Economic attitudes are related to Trump’s overall job performance rating. He gets just 20% approval from those who see a recession as likely and 19% from those who are concerned the trade dispute with China will cost them money. His ratings from those who are less pessimistic about the economy and the trade dispute are 50 and 51 points higher, respectively.
Economic attitudes include a high degree of partisanship. Ninety% of Republicans rate the economy positively, compared with 52% of independents and 33% of Democrats. One in three Republicans sees a recession as very or somewhat likely in the next year; that rises to 60% of independents and 83% of Democrats.
That said, looking just at Republicans and Republican-leaning independents – “leaned Republicans” – shows the risk that negative economic attitudes pose to Trump. His approval rating is 58% among leaned Republicans who are concerned that the trade dispute with China will raise the price of things they buy, compared with 90% among those who are less worried about that outcome. There’s a similar gap among leaned Republicans based on whether or not they think a recession is more or less likely in the next year.
A statistical analysis called regression backs this result. Controlling for demographics, partisanship and political ideology, seeing a recession as more likely independently predicts lower approval for Trump, as do both being concerned about paying more because of the trade dispute with China and holding more negative views of the economy overall. Indeed, each of these alone, in its respective equation, is the single strongest predictor of Trump’s approval rating – more so than the customary prime factors in presidential approval, partisanship, ideology and race or ethnicity.
In a further sign of political risk, economic anxiety is nearly as high in the red states Trump won in 2016 – 58% there see a recession as very or somewhat likely – as in the blue states, where it’s 63%. (Most in the red states, 57%, also are concerned that the trade dispute with China will raise the price of things they buy, as are 65% in the blue states.) Trump’s overall approval rating is underwater in the red states, 43%, if not so much as in the blue states, where he has 32% approval.
The president’s overall approval rating continues to vary widely among groups. Among the sharpest declines, he’s lost 10 points since July among urban residents, 9 points among college graduates and 8 points among women. (A broad gender gap remains; he has 47% approval among men, 30% among women.)
He’s also fallen just under 50% approval from whites – down a slight 6 points to 48%. That compares with 25% approval among Hispanics and just 10% among blacks, one of the country’s most Democratic-leaning groups.
Two other shifts this month make Trump appear increasingly isolated in a core support group, white men who don’t have a college degree. They give him 69% approval. But he’s lost 12 points among non-college white women, to 42%; and Trump is down 15 points among college-educated white men, to 34%, a new low. They’re now as critical of the president as are college-educated white women.
Lastly, Trump has 82% approval among Republicans, back near his career average after peaking at 87% in July. Marking the extent of polarization, his approval rating is 8% among Democrats. Among independents – often, though not always, swing voters in national elections – it’s 36%.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Sept. 2-5, 2019, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,003 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 28-24-37%, Democrats-Republicans-independents.
The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, New York, with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Md. See details on the survey’s methodology here.