One theme of the the first year of the Trump presidency is the overall stability of his job approval rating despite turbulent times, at least as compared to other recent presidents during their first year.
The past week has been no exception. Trump’s rating has changed little, although the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida did produce a modest jump in volunteered concerns about gun control and gun violence.
We see reactions to the shootings in SurveyMonkey tracking, indirectly, in responses to the question that asks Americans to select (or volunteer) their biggest issue concerns. The percentage who selected “other” and volunteered a response not listed increased from eight to 12 percent over the past week.
SurveyMonkey tracking produced a similar result -- an increase to 13 percent “other” -- in late August immediately following the violent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville Virginia. In SurveyMonkey’s analysis of the volunteered “other” responses six months ago showed that comments about race and racism emerged as the most prevalent topic.
This past week, something very similar occurred with a jump in volunteered comments about gun control and the school shooting. A little over a quarter (28 percent) of those who volunteered their own issue over the past week used the words “gun”, “shooting”, “weapon”, “rifle” (or their plural forms) or the phrase “school safety.” Those responses alone amount to 3% of all adults, explaining nearly all of the increase in “other” responses over the past week (all interviews were conducted after the shootings on February 14).
Volunteered mentions of gun control and gun violence were significantly higher among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (6 percent) than among non-leaning independents (3 percent) and Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (1 percent).
The previous week, only 7 of 13,293 respondents (unweighted), or 0.03 percent (weighted), volunteered an issue concern using the same words.
Meanwhile, Trump’s approval rating has declined slightly over the past two weeks, after rising in January following the passage of the Republican tax reform bill in December. Currently, 42 percent of Americans say they approve of the way Trump is handling is job as president and 56 percent disapprove. That result represents a two percentage point drop in approval, and a two-point rise in disapproval, as compared to Trump’s approval peak two weeks ago.
The recent flutter aside, however, the President’s ratings have been generally stable, varying over the past eight weeks between 40 and 44 percent and over a generally narrower range – 39 to 41 percent for most of the latter half of 2017.
While Republicans generally drove the slight overall uptick in January, Trump’s numbers have ticked down by a point or two among all groups of partisans except independents who lean Democratic.
Intense opinions about Trump have also varied relatively little over the past year, with strong disapproval typically near double strong approval. Over the past week, strong approval ticked down to 24 percent and strong disapproval up to 44 percent, but both results within the range of recent surveys.
The uptick in volunteered concern about gun control, violence, and school safety only scratches the surface of the increased salience of these issues likely occurring among all Americans over the past week. Future surveys will better assess if their attitudes about gun control have changed, though the bigger question is how long the increased interest in these issues remains.
Methodology: This week’s SurveyMonkey Tracking poll testing President Trump’s approval rating was conducted online February 15 through 21, 2018 among a national sample of 14,211 adults. Respondents for this survey were selected from the nearly 3 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Data for this week have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States. The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 1.5 percentage points. More details on SurveyMonkey's methodology are available here.