I’m Not Buying That President Trump’s Approval Rating Is “Barely Above Water” in North Dakota


President Donald Trump enters Scheels Arena in Fargo on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. David Samson / The Forum

Recently some members of North Dakota’s left-wing media – notably radio station KFGO, managed by the brother of former Democratic U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, and former KFGO employee Mike McFeely – have been giddily touting a Morning Consult poll which shows President Donald Trump with some discouraging approval numbers among North Dakotans.

Discouraging, that is, if you like Trump. If you don’t, you may be delighted by the news of this poll.

The survey was conducted by Morning Consult, which found 49 percent approval for the President among North Dakotans, and 48 percent disapproval. As a point of reference, in Minnesota, the President has a 43 percent approval rating.

I’m not sure that passes the smell test for several reasons. Among them that Trump could be only a little more highly esteemed in red-state North Dakota than in blue-state Minnesota.

I mean, it’s possible, but are we sure?

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]We do actually have some other somewhat recent polling which shows a very different picture of Trump’s approval among North Dakotans.[/mks_pullquote]

We do actually have some other, somewhat recent polling which shows a very different picture of Trump’s approval among North Dakotans. Back in July I wrote about a poll from DFM Research – a firm with a strong track record in North Dakota working for both Republican and Democratic interests – which showed Trump at 56 percent favorable rating and just 34 percent unfavorable.

That same poll showed Trump with a 54 – 39 percent lead in a hypothetical matchup with then-Democratic primary frontrunner Joe Biden.

In August, I also wrote about polling from the firm 1892, commissioned by Governor Doug Burgum’s re-election campaign, which showed President Trump with a 60 percent favorability rating against just a 35 percent unfavorable number. That poll also had Trump at 60 – 34 in a potential matchup with Biden.

Any given poll is just a snapshot in time. Public sentiments about politics, and about a public figure as exhausting and bizarre as Trump is, in particular, can be extremely fluid. There’s certainly a lot going on right now. Things are tough in farm country, for many reasons, at least some having to do with Trump-backed policies. That, combined with national-level scandals like the Ukraine situation, could be eroding support for Trump among North Dakota voters.

I’m just not buying that support in North Dakota has eroded that quickly from summer to fall. And I write that as someone with no particular love for Trump.

Also, I’m not sure how much Trump’s approval numbers are going to matter in North Dakota.

How unpopular does the guy have to get to make North Dakota voters – who haven’t supported a Democratic presidential candidate since LBJ – want to cast their ballots for someone like Senator Elizabeth Warren?

It’s one thing for red-state voters in places like North Dakota to sour on Trump. It’s another thing entirely to dislike him more than the left-wing, urban-centric candidate the Democrats will inevitably nominate to challenge him.

Yesterday New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote a piece which was a pretty accurate distillation of why “fly over” voters will continue backing Trump, even amid scandal and controversy, and why that will completely baffle urban, liberal voters.

It’s something those thinking Democrats might have a chance in North Dakota, for a change, should keep in mind.