What (or Where) is Driving Trump’s Job Approval Increase?

by Dante Chinni July 05, 2018

In recent months President Donald Trump’s job approval numbers have been on the rise in most public opinion surveys. What’s driving those approval bumps? The cultural conservative base leads the way, with smaller improvement among more marginal supporters, according to an analysis the American Communities Project (ACP).

The ACP took Gallup monthly tracking data from April and May and looked at changes in the numbers through its 15 types. The biggest rise came from the Evangelical Hub counties spread across the south with smaller improvements in the blue collar Middle Suburbs and the wealthier Exurbs.

At the same time the urban communities that have comprised the core of Trump’s opposition, the Big City and Urban Suburb counties as well as the College Towns, remain deeply dug in against him. And the Hispanic Centers based heavily in southwestern United States, saw their numbers dip in May.

A look at the numbers below.

Exurbs 3% -4%
Graying America 3% -5%
African American South 3% -5%
Evangelical Hubs 7% -6%
Working Class Country -2% 3%
Military Zones 3% -1%
Urban Suburbs 2% -1%
Rural Hispanic Centers -5% 4%
Native American Lands NA NA
Rural Middle America 1% 1%
College Towns -3% 4%
LDS Strongholds NA NA
Aging Farmlands NA NA
Big cities 1% 0%
Middle Suburbs 4% -3%
TOTAL 2% -1%


Those counties remain the strongest part of Trump’s base. In May his approval in them was a remarkable 67%, 25 points above his national figure in Gallup’s data. (You can see them in the map below, in light purple)The jump in Trump job approval among those in the Evangelical Hubs is particularly noteworthy and may be tied to United States moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in May. That move was strongly supported by the evangelical voters that make up a large portion of the population in those communities, as many news outlets noted.

But the best news for Trump in the Gallup data is probably his improvement in the Middle Suburbs and Exurbs. He’s still below 50% approval in those communities, but they are both up at least a few points and the decline in his disapproval numbers in those places have at least pushed him above water in them.

Those counties are especially important to Trump because of where they are based. They make up large parts of important states with important Senate and gubernatorial races this year, including Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. (They are in gray and green on the map below.)

The Exurbs and Middle Suburbs merit particularly close watching in the next few months in light of the growing fight over tariffs and international trade. These two community types tend to lean Republican, but they are very different sorts of place in terms of education and income.

The educated Exurbs are the home of the GOP’s investor class – or at least the class that watches the markets closely and that tends to benefit from trade. The Middle Suburbs are home to the blue-collar workers who were once Reagan Democrats. Data from Simmons Research shows Exurbanites are more likely to own 401(k)s and that they tend to have more money in them.

In short, the Exurbs are inherently more likely to view tariffs with a side-eye, while the Middle Suburbs might welcome them, at least as an idea. If the trade war escalates, the opinion on President Trump in these communities may begin to move in different directions.

Vol. 1 October 2018

Health and Place in America

The American Communities Project releases its first report supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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