President Donald Trump is questioning the accuracy of an ABC News/Washington Post poll that found his approval rating is at 36 percent.
“The ABC/Washington Post Poll, even though almost 40% is not bad at this time, was just about the most inaccurate poll around election time!” Trump wrote on Twitter on July 16.
It’s well-known that many pollsters simply got it wrong and didn’t predict Trump’s strength over Hillary Clinton in the electoral college. However, how accurate was the ABC News/Washington Post poll before the 2016 presidential election? A chart published by ABC News before the election shows the poll predicted Clinton was ahead in almost every poll it conducted in the race.
The poll did register a tightening in the race as the election loomed. Many other polls were also wrong. Still, not all of them were wrong. Trafalgar Group, a Republican pollster out of Atlanta, the Los Angeles Times/USC poll, and the IBD/TIPP poll did better at predicting the election’s final outcome, in which Trump prevailed in the electoral college (306 to 232), but Clinton won the popular vote (48.5% to 46.4%).
Polling models that used polling averages consistently found Clinton ahead. USA Today’s national polling average on November 7, 2016 had Clinton at 45.5%, Trump at 42.2%, Gary Johnson at 4.7%, Jill Stein at 1.9%. That’s pretty close to the final ABC News/Washington Post poll right before the election. Yes, the poll didn’t predict the election right. In that, it was in line with many, but not all, other polls.
First, more about the new poll on approval ratings. ABC News reported of the new poll that it shows Trump has “the lowest six-month approval rating of any president in polls dating back 70 years, punctuated by questions about his competence on the world stage, his effectiveness, the GOP health care plan and Russia’s role in the 2016 election.”
According to ABC, Trump’s approval rating dropped 6 percent from where it was after 100 days in office and is most comparable to that of Gerald Ford in 1975. Harry Truman had the best approval rating at this stage; Barack Obama’s was 59% and George W. Bush’s was also 59%, reported ABC. The poll was produced for the news outlets by Langer Research Associates of New York, with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt Associates of Cambridge, Mass.
ABC News/Washington Post Poll on Trump Approval Rating
On November 4, 2016, right before the presidential election, pollster Gary Langer wrote on ABC News’ website, “Support for Donald Trump has slipped to its lowest in 10 days and enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton has recovered from its apparent damage by the latest FBI email investigation. Yet the race between them remains close in the latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll.”
Here are some examples of what the poll predicted before the presidential election, according to RealClearPolitics:
November 3-6, 2016
October 31-November 3
October 29-November 1
The poll showed Trump leading rarely. A story about a poll that showed him ahead in late October explained, “Strong enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton has ebbed since the renewal of the FBI’s email investigation.”
It did show the election tightening, with predictions for a much more commanding Clinton lead in early October when Trump was fighting off allegations about sexual groping of women and the Billy Bush tapes.
Published October 23, 2016
You can read an analysis of why so many presidential polls were wrong here: