Rising presidential approval ratings and a softening of support for Democrats, revealed by a Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll, indicate that all bets are off when it comes to where control of Congress will land after the 2018 midterm elections.

The poll shows Donald Trump’s job-approval ratings shifting upward to 43 percent from 38 percent in a Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll published in March. The president’s disapproval dropped from 60 percent in March to 51 percent today. More than half of voters still view him unfavorably today (52 percent), down seven points from the unfavorable ratings in March (59 percent), while his favorable rating has risen from 34 percent in March to 40 percent today.

Party preferences

In a generic ballot test for the House of Representatives, 45 percent of voters preferred Democrats, down from 47 percent in March. The preference for Republican House candidates rose from 32 percent in March to 39 percent today.

“A rising tide for Donald Trump could have an impact on the midterm elections,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “Our previous polling in states like Ohio had shown that many voters are making candidate choices based on their desire for better checks and balances on the president. But if approval of Trump continues to rise, voters may not care as much about electing a Congress that will stand up to the president.”

While more than half of registered voters (55 percent) want the midterm election to yield a Congress that mostly stands up to Trump, this is a slight downward trend from March, when 58 percent wanted an oppositional Congress. This week’s poll shows that 34 percent prefer to elect a Congress that mostly cooperates with the president, compared to 32 percent in March.

Relations with adversaries & allies

When it comes to handling relations with North Korea, 51 percent of voters approved and 34 percent disapproved of the job the president is doing. Forty-five percent of voters believe that the June 12 summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un reduced the North Korean nuclear threat, and 35 percent saw no change. Yet 55 percent of voters doubt that North Korea will deliver on its promise to eliminate its nuclear weapons, and 19 percent think that North Korea will live up to this pledge.

“Trump is a president who personifies the concept of disruptive innovation, and his recent outing with his North Korean counterpart—the first by a U.S. president—was received positively,” said Paleologos. “The scales tipped in his favor in regard to the summit and may have boosted voters’ perceptions of his performance, but he’s already on to the next issue, which could swing perceptions in another direction.”

Voters’ reactions flip when it comes to Trump’s dealings with traditional U.S. allies: 51 percent disapprove of the job the president is doing, and 39 percent approve. More than half (54 percent) of voters are concerned that relations with our traditional allies are eroding, while 36 percent are not concerned.

US-Mexico Relations

Poll respondents indicated that they disagreed with the Trump administration’s aggressive stance with Mexico; 50 percent of registered voters said that the imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs and attempting to force the renegotiation of NAFTA was the wrong approach, while 35 percent supported the administration. More than 1.5 million U.S. citizens live in Mexico, and the country is the first export market for 27 states, facts that 58 percent of respondents did not know.

Presidential self-pardon

While Trump has claimed he could pardon himself, nearly 64 percent of voters say they believe the president doesn’t have that power, and nearly 58 percent said that if Trump did pardon himself they would support a move to impeachment. Thirty-one percent of Republican respondents supported the impeachment option in the event of a Trump self-pardon.

Methodology

The nationwide survey of 1,000 voters was conducted June 13 through June 18 using live telephone interviews of households where respondents indicated they were registered to vote. The margin of error is +/-3 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence. Results are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, dpaleologos@suffolk.edu.