(CN) – Most Americans believe President Donald Trump routinely fails at one of the most important aspects of the presidency: uniting and consoling the nation in the wake of unspeakable tragedy.
The latest example comes via the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll Monday, which found just 36% of the American public approve of the way Trump handled the response to the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings that resulted in the deaths of more than 30 people.
The two shootings, which occurred within 24 hours of one another, prompted more soul-searching and outrage from Americans on both sides of the gun control debate.
Trump garnered criticism from gun control advocates for refusing to put an assault weapons ban on the table as a potential solution to the mass shootings problem. Meanwhile, fierce Second Amendment proponents expressed frustration the president was willing to consider background checks for gun purchases.
The president also weathered condemnation for giving the “thumbs up” sign in a photo with a baby orphaned by the shooting in El Paso, with critics contending it was inappropriate and unfeeling.
But poll results show the particulars of the latest response to tragedy aren’t as determinative as Trump’s overall inability to unite the American body politic.
He received 20% approval for his response to Charlottesville, 29% for his handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, 37% for the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and 39% for his response to pipe bombs sent to Trump critics by one of his ardent supporters in 2018.
By contrast, President Barack Obama’s approval rating soared to the high-water mark of his presidency in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in 2012.
Eighty-seven percent of the American public approved of the way George W. Bush handled the response to 9/11. Similarly, a large majority (84%) approved of Bill Clinton’s response to the Oklahoma City bombing.
The poll exposes other problems for Trump as he prepares for a re-election campaign that will begin in earnest next year.
His approval rating continues to hover around 43%, while nearly half of the public approve of the way the president has handled the economy.
The results indicate a broad sliver of the American public willing to tolerate Trump’s shortcomings as long as the economy is strong, jobs plentiful and unemployment rates low.
But the national economy has shown signs of turbulence in recent days, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by 800 points on Aug. 14 as investors expressed fears of a recession.
Monday’s poll was taken a few days before that event and does not reflect the most up-to-date views of the public’s sentiments on Trump’s management of the economy.
Many experts blame Trump’s attack on free trade, his protectionist instincts and his protracted trade war with China for a potential slowdown in the national economy. Germany’s economy, long considered the powerhouse of Europe, actually contracted in the second quarter.
The president continues to insist that the American economy is strong despite the struggles of other nations and even bragged as investors put their money into U.S. Treasury bonds when the market fell.
The markets have since recovered somewhat, but the jitters remain and some economists continue to predict a recession will come sooner rather than later.