Trump's Popularity With Women Business Owners Dropped During Lockdown and Has Not Recovered

President Donald Trump’s job approval rating among men and women who own small businesses took a big hit at the height of the pandemic lockdowns.

He has won back a lot of approval mong men but women remain far more split when it comes to approving of the president.

Prior to the pandemic, Trump’s popularity with small business owners was riding high. His approval level rose to 64 percent at the start of the year, according to a CNBC-Survey Monkey poll taken in late January and early February.

Sixty-five percent of men and sixty-one percent of women approved of the president in that poll.

That changed quickly. In the April version of the poll, Trump’s approval rating fell to 58 percent overall. Approval by men fell to 61 percent and approval by women fell to 53 percent.

The reopening of the economy has restored approval by men but not women. In the late July version of the poll, Trump’s job approval rating among men rose to 64 percent. Among women, it ticked down to 51 percent.

Why did Trump’s job approval with women lag behind this summer?

The question is an urgent one for the Trump campaign because his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, is taking aim at women voters in his attempt to unseat the president.  Trump likely needs to win women business owners to succeed in November.

It is also a source of frustration for some in the administration because the growth of Trump’ s popularity with women business owners was an important — if largely unheralded — accomplishment of the latter half of his first term.

When Trump first took office, he had a 58 percent job approval rating, according to the CNBC-Survey Monkey poll of April 2017. But he scored much higher with men than women. Sixty-five percent of men approved of Trump in the early days, versus 47 percent of women.

Trump’s popularity with women small business owners took a big hit in the summer of 2017 as the president teamed up with then-House Speaker Paul Ryan in a failed fight to repeal Obamacare. The July 2017 poll saw Trump’s approval rating with women business owners fall to 40 percent as health care replaced the jobs and the economy as the top issue in the minds of these women.

Trump’s popularity with men, who continued to rate the economy as their top issue, slipped to 59 percent. Trump’s overall popularity with small business owners fell to 51 percent, the lowest job approval rating of his presidency.

But Trump’s popularity with women business owners jumped back during the tax cut debates, which resulted in big tax cuts for most small business owners. His approval rating with women jumped to 49 percent in the November 2019 poll and in the months following it averaged around 48 points, with a low of 45 percent in February 2019 and a high of 51 percent in November of 2019.

But then things jumped higher as 2020 began, with Trump’s approval rate among women jumping all the way up to 61 percent.

That record high now looks like a peak. And even though Trump’s approval rating among women at 52 percent is above the average of his presidency, it is not high enough to give the campaign confidence it has enough support among women to win in November.

Once again, the issues cited as important by business owners likely explain why Trump’s support from women once again lags support from men. Men are much more likely than women to say jobs and the economy are the most important issues, 47 percent versus 36 percent, according to the latest CNBC-Survey Monkey poll. Men and women now cite “other” as an important issue, presumably a stand in for the pandemic, but 22 percent of women cite it as most important versus 18 percent of men. Twenty-one percent of women say health care matters most, versus 17 percent of men.

Women business owners are also more pessimistic about sales growth, with only 40 percent expecting revenue to rise versus 50 percent for men. Women are also less likely to expect hiring growth, 18 percent versus 30 percent for men. And they are less likely to say their business was able to operate throughout the pandemic, 51 percent versus 63 percent.

It’s likely that some of those differences are due to differences in the types of businesses owned by men and women. Women owners were also more likely than men, 14 percent versus 9 percent, to say their business had shut down and been completely unable to reopen.