In early September, something odd happened. President Donald Trump's approval rating actually started ... getting better.
Polling averages showed Trump's approval rating rising by about 3 points in the opening weeks of September — up to a peak of 41.7 percent in the RealClearPolitics average and 39.6 percent in the FiveThirtyEight average.
To be clear: Trump's approval rating is still quite bad, particularly for a president in his first year in office. Plus, an improvement of 3 points is a relatively small amount. But after a year when Trump's approval has consistently either stagnated or declined further, it was worthy of note.
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But Trump couldn't keep it going. In the closing days of September, his rating started to fall again, and throughout October it had been either stagnant or slightly declining.
So what changed? It's of course difficult to disentangle what causes overall polling trends in a crowded news environment. And again, this is a relatively small change.
But one potential explanation is that the opening weeks of September more often showcased a President Trump who was reasonably effective, open to compromise, and not embroiled in petty feuds — while October has shown the exact opposite.