Donald Trump is very unpopular in the polls

While Trump has never really left the political scene – thanks to his ongoing attempts to contest the 2020 election – his profile has recently taken a hit in the wake of the FBI’s search of his home in Mar-a-Lago, which turned up classified documents increased when he left the White House in 2021.

That’s a very bad thing for Republicans. While Trump remains extremely popular with the Republican base, he is decidedly unpopular with the general electorate.

The latest NBC News poll tells the story. Only 34% of registered voters nationally said they viewed Trump positively, while 54% said they had a negative opinion. But even these top-line numbers gloss over just how unpopular the former president actually is. While 1 in 5 voters said they felt “very positive” about him, nearly half (46%) said they felt “very negative” — a huge difference. (By comparison, 42% of voters viewed President Joe Biden positively, while 47% viewed him negatively.)
And NBC’s results are far from the only poll showing this reality for Republicans. An August poll by Quinnipiac University corroborated the NBC findings, with 34% of registered voters voting positively and 57% negatively.
The interesting thing about these numbers is that they are largely unchanged from where Trump publicly stood when he left office. For example, a Gallup poll conducted in January 2021 showed that 34% of Americans approved of Trump’s job performance, while 62% disapproved. (The poll was conducted during the Jan. 6 riots in the US Capitol.)

Typically, presidents’ poll ratings improve once they leave office — as people tend to remember the good things about their tenure and forget the bad things over time. That didn’t happen to Trump for two important reasons:

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1) He never really left the national stage.

2) January 6th was such a disaster that people have not forgotten it.

Given Trump’s poor poll numbers, it would be best for his party if his primary concern was for his party to keep a low profile for the next seven weeks. That would give Republicans the best possible chance to make the midterm a purely referendum on Biden and the Democrats, who control the House and Senate, rather than a choice between Biden and Trump.

However, there is little evidence that Trump will go down this route. Consider this story from The New York Times, which reported that Trump essentially invited himself to campaign events for Senate candidates in Ohio and Pennsylvania:

“The question of how to deal with Mr. Trump has been of such concern to some Republican Senate candidates that they have held private meetings about how best to take the inevitable calls from his team. …

“This awkward state reflects the contortions many Republican candidates go through as they leave the primary and turn to the general election as Democrats try to tie them to the former president.”

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The scramble to run away from Trump has caused some embarrassment. There was Blake Masters, who was a Senate nominee from the Arizona GOP and had scrubbed language about voter denial and abortion restrictions on his campaign website. And there was the abrupt about-face of New Hampshire Republican Senate nominee Don Bolduc, from an election denier to someone who, within a single month, declared Biden the legitimately elected president.

The problem for these candidates is that it’s almost impossible to win any kind of hard-fought Republican primary without pledging absolute allegiance to Trump and his misconception that the 2020 election was stolen. But being so closely associated with voter denial — and Trump — in a general election is a very hard sell to a general electorate.

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Trump is undoubtedly an anchor around the necks of Republican candidates right now. But we’re talking about Trump here. So stepping out of the spotlight on purpose isn’t really something he does.

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