As we learned on Election Day 2016, national polling numbers only tell you so much about American politics, which is largely state-based. Gallup’s compilation of a massive sample to give us Donald Trump’s approval rating in all 50 states is extremely useful.
The basic news is that Trump, the least-popular president at this point in his term on record, is unpopular in most places. But he’s not unpopular everywhere. And in particular, he’s above 50 percent in West Virginia, Montana, and North Dakota, where incumbent Democratic Party senators are running for reelection. He’s also above 50 percent in Tennessee, where Democrats have a strong candidate for an open seat.
But mostly he’s unpopular.
This has to count as very good news for Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s long-shot effort to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas. (Though a word of caution that Texas Latinos have historically turned out at a very low rate, so this poll may not reflect the views of the electorate.) The news here is also pretty good for Democrats hoping to make inroads in traditionally red, but not especially Trumpy, states like Arizona and Georgia.
But it also captures what both the endless series of “Here in Trump Country, Trump Voters Still Love Trump” stories and the satirical counterpoints from Clinton Country both miss: There’s no way Trump’s numbers could be this low without there being some remorseful Trump voters. Trump got 56 percent of the vote in Ohio, Indiana, and Kansas, but his approval rating is below 50 percent now. That’s still going to mean that most Trump voters in those states like him, but evidently a healthy minority of people have changed their minds. They just may not be eager to stop in the diner and chat with visiting reporters about it.