Has Stormy Daniels Affected Trump's Approval Rating? A New Poll Says So Much
How men and women feel about President Donald Trump seems to have taken a big turn after news of his alleged affair in the last several weeks. Trump and the White House have repeatedly denied the affair. As for whether the scandal with Stormy Daniels has affected Trump's approval rating, the devil is in the details. According to a new Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll, Trump's ratings have changed significantly — and gender has everything to do with it.
Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, filed a lawsuit against the president in March seeking to break a non-disclosure agreement. Michael Cohen, an attorney for Trump, acknowledged that he'd paid Daniels $130,000 in the days just before the 2016 election in exchange for her keeping quiet about an alleged affair between her and Trump that took place in 2006, around the time Trump's wife Melania was pregnant with their son Barron.
The adult film star's interview with 60 Minutes, which aired March 25, garnered the highest ratings the show has seen in a decade. The interview revealed a handful of insights about the alleged affair, including alleged threats made against Daniels. Through a lawyer, Cohen has denied threats were made against Daniels.
The Harris poll was conducted March 27-29, just after the interview. Among the 1,300 Americans surveyed, including roughly a third of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, Trump's approval rating with women fell six points, from 41 to 35 percent. But for men, his approval rating actually went up three points, from 50 to 53 percent.
Mark Penn, co-director of the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll, cites the news of Trump's alleged affairs in examining the ratings change among gender. "While President Trump's overall ratings are stable, his support increased among men and dropped among women," Penn told The Hill. "This poll was taken right after the stormy Daniels interview and so I think this increased gender polarization is the 'Stormy Effect'." Though Penn isn't explicitly saying that the news of the alleged affairs caused his ratings to change, the timeframes are certainly in alignment.
Of course, it's not just Daniels' alleged affair — and her jaw-dropping interview — that may be playing into the ratings. Trump has also been implicated in an alleged affair with former Playboy model Karen McDougal. McDougal brought a lawsuit before American Media, Inc., the parent company of The National Enquirer, in March, seeking to get out of an agreement she signed with the company regarding her rights to speak publicly about an affair she allegedly also had with Trump. In fact, per McDougal and Daniels' accounts, both women alleged having sexual encounters with Trump in the same weekend at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe in 2006. As with Daniels, McDougal spoke with CNN about the alleged affair in March prior to the Harris poll. As with Daniels, Trump and the White House have stood by their denials of any affair.
It may not come as a shock to some to learn that Trump's standings among women have taken a blow amidst the allegations of adultery. And in the same turn, the fact that the opposite outcome was seen among men may not be all that far-fetched.
Soraya Chemaly, an activist and director of the Speech Project at the Women's Media Center, links Trump's increased rating among men to a similar effect observed after sexual harassment trainings. Some studies have shown trainings to have the reverse effect: Rather than making men more sympathetic and aware of the impact of unintended actions, some researchers found that training caused men to become defensive. Or as University of California, Berkeley psychology professor Lauren Edelman said, per a 2016 article in The Guardian, such training may even "provoke backlash in males."
Trump's ratings weren't exactly high to begin with, hovering around 44 percent since the end of 2017, per The Hill. But other polling in the last couple of months has shown Trump's approval numbers going up despite the negative press around his love life. A CNN poll released on March 27 found that Trump's approval percentage had increased to 42, the highest it had been in nearly a year. That uptick came largely from Republicans and Independents, and was still behind pace of his predecessors. But on the whole, most people still disapproved of most aspects of the president's performance. "Only the economy is where he's in positive territory," said CNN political director David Chalian.
And over the course of his first year in office, Trump's approval ratings state by state show that many areas of the country that originally approved of him have in the last 12 months shifted to disapproving of him.