So now that we’re one year into the Trump era, let’s take a step back and put Trump’s approval rating in a historical context.
Based on approval ratings one year into a first term, Trump is the most unpopular president since at least Harry Truman (as far back as we have data).
Trump’s approval rating is 22 percentage points lower than the average modern president’s. Meanwhile, his net approval rating (approval rating minus disapproval rating), -15 percentage points, makes him the only president in negative territory one year through his first term. Trump’s closest precedent is Gerald Ford, who had a net approval rating of just +5 points one year in.
Of course, Trump’s historical unpopularity has been true for a while. His approval rating started in the mid-40s (still his high-water mark), dropped as low as the mid-30s, and has rebounded to somewhere in between. He’s abnormally unpopular for a first-year president, but the movement in his approval rating has been pretty normal. Back in July (about six months into his presidency), Trump was an unpopular president whose approval rating had experienced an average drop from the term’s beginning to its halfway mark. That’s still true: Trump is an unpopular president whose approval rating has moved a roughly average amount from the halfway mark of his term to now.
Excluding Trump, the average president since Truman saw his approval rating rise by less than a point from halfway into his first year through the end of it.