The FINANCIAL -- U.S. registered voters solidly believe that President Donald Trump does not deserve to be re-elected, by 59% to 37%.
The percentage of voters who say Trump deserves re-election is essentially identical to that of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama at the time of the 1994 and 2010 midterm elections, respectively. More voters said George W. Bush deserved re-election at the time of the midterm elections in his first term, in 2002.
The latest results are based on an April 9-15 poll of U.S. registered voters. Trump's re-elect number roughly matches his 39% job approval rating among all U.S. adults in the same week of Gallup tracking.
Trump's approval ratings have been significantly worse than those of his predecessors at similar points in their presidencies. And his re-elect figures do not match those of Clinton (40% in April 1994) and Obama (46% in March 2010) in the spring of their first midterm election years. However, by the time voters cast ballots in those presidents' first midterms that fall, the percentage of voters believing Clinton and Obama deserved to be re-elected had fallen to the same level Trump is at now, according to Gallup.
Midterm election outcomes are often a referendum on the incumbent president. Clinton and Obama both saw their party suffer huge losses in their first midterm elections, when fewer than four in 10 voters thought they deserved re-election. In 1994, Democrats lost 53 seats in the House, and in 2010, they lost 63 seats. Those losses were large enough to make Republicans the majority party in the House of Representatives. In contrast, the Republican Party gained six seats in the 2002 midterms, when a majority of voters thought Bush deserved to be re-elected slightly more than a year after the 9/11 terror attacks.
Unless voters' opinions of Trump improve significantly, the GOP could face a significant rebuke at the ballot box. Republicans currently enjoy a 44-seat majority in Congress -- 237 to 193 -- with five vacancies. A net shift of 23 seats in this year's midterm elections would make the Democrats the majority party in the House.
U.S. voters' opinions of whether members of Congress -- including their own representative -- deserve re-election are also more similar to what they were in 1994 and 2010 than in 2002, further supporting the idea of a difficult year for incumbents, particularly Republican incumbents.
Fewer Than Eight in 10 Republican Voters Say Trump Deserves Re-Election
As would be expected, Republican voters are much more likely than Democratic and independent voters to say Trump deserves to be re-elected. Currently, 78% of Republican voters think he should have a second term, compared with 32% of independents and 6% of Democrats.
According to the 2016 exit polls, 90% of Republican voters supported Trump, as did 48% of independents. Although that suggests Trump has lost a significant amount of support since 2016 among Republicans and independents, part of the gap could be accounted for by voter turnout, since many registered voters do not vote in a given election.
Trump's standing with independents and supporters of the opposition party is similar to that of Clinton and Obama at the time of the 1994 and 2010 midterm elections. About one in three independents believed each deserved re-election, and fewer than one in 10 Republicans did. Trump's numbers among Republicans are essentially the same as Obama's among his fellow Democrats in 2010, but slightly better than those of Clinton among Democrats in 1994. Trump would need to see a recovery in his support over the next two years to successfully win re-election, as Clinton and Obama did.
In the fall of 2002, 93% of Republican voters thought Bush deserved re-election, as did 60% of independents and 32% of Democrats. Bush, too, won re-election, though his political support was lower in 2004 than it had been two years earlier.
U.S. voters have consistently voted for "change" over the past two decades. In the 13 federal elections since 1992, voters have changed the party of the president or the majority party in one of the houses of Congress nine times. The exceptions were 1996, 1998, 2004 and 2012. Yet the resulting "change" seems to have done little to satisfy voters. Anti-incumbent sentiment is as strong today as it has been in the 25 years Gallup has asked whether incumbents deserve re-election.
Voters elected the ultimate outsider in Trump, a political novice whose anti-establishment stances may have channeled many voters' anger at the government and the men and women who run it. But most Americans have been displeased with his performance, as evidenced by his low job approval ratings and the majority opposed to his re-election at this point.
Republicans, whose party holds the presidency and controls both houses of Congress, are most vulnerable to voters' anti-incumbent feelings this year. Democrats' strong showing in off-year and special elections in 2017 and 2018 suggests the party has a legitimate chance of becoming the congressional majority party as long as the current political environment persists through the fall.