Almost everything President Trump does has an impact on the economy, and on consumers. That includes national security, immigration, taxes, health care, budgets, treaties, government regulations, and international relations. If the public is optimistic about the economy, that is normally the same as having confidence in the president. At least on the big-ticket items.
The types of presidential actions that have lower impact on the economy include court appointments, opinions on confederate statues, NFL kneeling, transgenders in the military, birth control funding, unpresidential tweets, poorly-executed disavowals, hyperbole that fails the fact-checking, seemingly unnecessary political attacks, and all manner of obnoxious presidential behavior. The majority of citizens disapprove of President Trump on at least some of those topics.
I don’t think we’ve ever seen something like this before. A majority of citizens disapprove of President Trump while simultaneously having confidence he’ll get most of the big stuff right and the economy will reflect it.
During the 2016 campaign, my haters mocked me mercilessly on Twitter for predicting that a candidate with insanely low approval ratings could ever get elected president of the United States. I said it wouldn’t be the problem people thought it would be. And it wasn’t. Part of the reason is that Hillary Clinton also had low ratings. But I also suspected there were so-called shy Trump supporters who held private opinions that were different from what the pollsters could suss out.
Now we see a similar situation shaping up. I don’t know whether or not President Trump will seek a second term. But if he ran for reelection today, I expect he would win by a larger margin than the first time, no matter who ran against him. To put it another way, approval ratings aren’t as predictive as you would expect. But consumer confidence is probably close to 100% predictive. Ask Bill Clinton. He’ll tell you It’s the economy, stupid.
Prior to President Trump’s inauguration day I predicted we’d see this story arc play out in the media:
Spring 2017: “Trump is Hitler!”
Summer 2017: “Okay, Trump isn’t Hitler. But he’s incompetent!”
End of year 2017: “Crap. He’s effective. But we don’t like it.”
Consumer confidence is peaking while the president’s approval rating is in the cellar. That means people expect him to be effective on the big stuff. But they don’t like him because of the other stuff.
Right on schedule.
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