GRINNELL, Iowa — Despite being impeached and his early handling of the coronavirus crisis, President Donald Trump’s approval rating has improved over the past six months.
However, the Republican incumbent trails his chief Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in a head-to-head match-up, according to a Grinnell College National Poll conducted by Selzer & Co. March 27-30.
Trump’s 48 percent approval rating is higher than in October, and his disapproval numbers have fallen five points to 45 percent. The poll of 1,009 adults contacted by landline and cellphones, including 777 likely 2020 election voters, has a 3.1 percent margin of error.
Trump received his highest rating, 54 percent, for his handling of the economy, but only 43 percent believe the United States economy is in better shape than when he took office in 2017 — a drop of 12 percentage points from October.
Grinnell College National Poll Director Peter Hanson, who teaches political science, attributes that, at least in part, to the toll COVID-19 is taking on America.
“Historically, presidents who govern during difficult economic times are vulnerable to defeat,” he said. “The sharp decline of public confidence in the economy will make it harder for the president to convince Americans that he deserves a second term.”
In fact, when asked “if the election were held today,” the poll found Trump would lose to Biden 47 percent to 43 percent, putting the race within the margin of error.
“The president is buoyed by his traditional voter constituencies — older, rural and evangelical,” said J. Ann Selzer, founder of Selzer & Co. “Joe Biden benefits from a big gender gap, and he is especially popular among suburban women, winning more than two in three of that segment.”
The GOP base has solidified around Trump, with 82 percent of Republican voters saying their minds are made up — they’re voting to reelect.
“The president’s path to reelection is narrow,” Hanson said. “While we’ve seen an increase in his approval ratings as the crisis has unfolded, the real question is how Americans will evaluate his leadership as the human and economic costs of COVID-19 continue to mount.”
In the poll, 50 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When matched up against Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, Trump has a one-point lead, 44 percent to 43 percent.
Asked who they would support in races for the U.S. House, half of likely 2020 voters say they would vote for the Democratic candidate and 41 percent for a Republican. Among independent likely voters, it is 43 percent for the Democrat and 32 percent for the Republican. For likely voters, the poll’s margin of error is 3.5 percent.