Friday, May 12, 2017

Listen: update on Trump's approval and reversion to the mean.

A month ago, I wrote about how Trump's approval ratings were likely to go up, and that this shouldn't surprise anyone or be over-interpreted.
As far as I see it, then, the bottom line is this: the partisan reflex and cognitive dissonance in Trump's initial supporters is strong enough to suggest that his numbers will bounce back a little.  Particularly at a time when he's taking highly visible and Extremely Presidential actions such as bombing the Middle East (a perennial favorite past-time of American presidents), there's a lot of potential for President Trump to bolster his support among marginal supporters and the disillusioned.  His current levels of support are at extreme lows for this time in a presidency, and so we should expect some reversion to the mean of partisanship -- particularly when he still has some cards to play.

So when Trump's approval rating increases somewhat, don't be surprised or dismayed.  We should expect it and plan for it, and none of the underlying dynamics are likely to change.
Here's how it played out, so far:

My post arrived near the beginning of a four-point swing in the president's approval, which rose in the unsophisticated RealClearPolitics average a total of four points over the next month.  This nearly wiped out all of the losses sustained during a month of mistakes and brutal coverage.

It would have been very tempting, I'm sure, to start to panic during that period -- to wonder if the nation was suddenly starting to like their president.  But hopefully you remembered the likelihood of a reversion to the mean and the noisiness of polling.

And hopefully now you notice that, overall, his numbers remain in decline, and have dropped back down almost to those record-setting lows of April.  Stay skeptical and pay attention to context, and there will seldom be a reason to panic.

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