Donald Trump remains popular with Republicans after a year of upheaval

Donald Trump remains popular with Republicans after a year of upheaval

Donald Trump remains popular with Republicans after a year of upheaval

Updated 19 January 2018, 9:20 AEDT

Donald Trump's first year as US President has been filled with turmoil, but Republican voters remain firmly behind his unconventional tenure.

United States President Donald Trump's overall approval rating is plumbing depths he'd rather not tweet about, but his conservative base remains firmly on side.

In fact, Mr Trump finishes his first year in office more popular with his own party than Barack Obama or Bill Clinton were at the same point.

Support within Mr Trump's own party drifted lower across much of 2017, but has roared back to almost 90 per cent after Congress passed a sweeping tax overhaul.

"Republicans love his unconventionality," said Professor Simon Jackman, chief executive of the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. "Democrats and Independents detest it, are embarrassed by it."

At the same stages in their presidencies, the two most recent Democrat presidents — Mr Obama and Mr Clinton — also had strong support within their party, but not to the same extent.

American voters are poles apart

Supporters of the opposition party are by nature less likely to approve of the sitting president, but Democrats living in Trump's America are taking his approvals to lows not seen in recent US history.

As of this month, just 5 per cent of Democrats approve of Mr Trump's work thus far, which is far lower than any other recent president.

Approximately 18 per cent of Republicans approved of the job Mr Obama was doing in January 2010 and nearly 30 per cent of Republicans voiced approval for Mr Clinton at the one-year mark.

Professor Jackman attributes the decline to increased polarisation in American public opinion.

He says Americans are more likely than before to consume media in an echo-chamber and that politicians play it safe by pandering to their base instead of trying to convert undecided voters.

So, overall support is low

Mr Trump's overall approval ratings appear to support that view, with only 38 per cent of American adults approving of his job performance.

Mr Trump is the first president to fall below a 40 per cent approval rating within the first year of presidency since Gallup began tracking public opinion on this issue in the late 1950s.

Presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush enjoyed comparably high approval ratings: 84 per cent for Mr Bush (following a huge surge in support after the September 11 terrorist attacks) and 55 per cent for Mr Clinton.

On the first anniversary of his inauguration, 49 per cent of American adults approved of the job Mr Obama was doing as president.

Professor Jackman says the effect of the Trump phenomenon on overall public opinion should not be underestimated.

"Trump is shocking the world again, reminding us that there is nothing in the US constitution requiring American presidents to be as conventionally magnanimous, gracious, even-tempered [at least publicly] as we've come to expect," he said.

While many Australians may not understand the Trump phenomenon, it is clear that his grip on the Republican base is solid.

Zoe Meers is a Google News Lab Fellow with ABC News.