According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, Donald Trump is the second most unpopular president to ever run for reelection in American history, followed by President Gerald Ford in 1976. Specifically, only 42.1% of Americans approve of the president as of Jan. 1. On the same day in 1976, Gerald Ford had an approval rating of 39.3%.
The approval rate of a sitting president at the beginning of their reelection year isn’t necessarily indicative of how the public will feel about the president come November. According to FiveThirtyEight, there is no dominant trend in the data, as five out of 11 presidents saw their approval ratings rise and six saw their ratings drop.
However, with the U.S.-sanctioned assassination of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s head of the Qud military force, much is left to be determined. Escalation with Iran might very well critically alter the president’s approval ratings, positively or negatively. But Trump’s ratings haven’t fluctuated wildly since he’s been president, so any drastic change could allude to Trump’s chances at reelection.
Despite the seemingly damning title, the likelihood of Trump winning another term is ambiguous at best. The third most unpopular president to run for reelection was Obama, and his approval rating shot from 45.7% on Jan. 1 of his reelection year to 49.5% by election day—and that felt like a nail-biter at the time!
So we can take our time to point and laugh for a minute, but ultimately we should be gearing up to fight until the very bitter end—which might be just that.