Trump Breaks the Statistical Model

In prior posts, I’ve shown estimates from a model predicting quarterly Trump approval. This is predicted using data on presidential approval from Truman through Obama. Using the estimated effect of economic growth, unemployment, and certain political conditions (e.g., positive or negative events for the president), we can use the model (on previous presidents) to estimate Trump’s approval and compare that to his average approval in the quarter.

For most of Trump’s term in office, the model has predicted that his approval should be higher than it is, suggesting he is generally less popular than he “should” be. No big surprise there.

However, in quarter 2 of 2020, the trend changes. Unemployment jumped over 9 points from the first to second quarter. GDP declined by over 9 points from the first quarter. I coded two negative events for Trump in the second quarter, his handling of COVID-19 and the George Floyd protests. This unusual set of conditions should lower Trump’s approval to below 40 percent. But Trump breaks the mold in many ways, and his average approval in the quarter is largely unchanged from earlier in the year (though this masks some declines in his approval in recent weeks).

This makes him currently MORE popular than the model predicts. We’ll see what happens in quarter 3, also the three months running right up to the election!

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