Donald Trump’s approval a year after election is lower than any president in 70 years of polling

Fewer than 4 in 10 Americans say they approve of the way the President is handling his job

Dan Balz,Scott Clement
Sunday 05 November 2017 11:48 GMT
Donald Trump (R) prepares to address US soldiers as his wife Melania looks on upon arriving at US Yokota Air Base in Tokyo
Donald Trump (R) prepares to address US soldiers as his wife Melania looks on upon arriving at US Yokota Air Base in Tokyo (Getty)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


A majority of Americans say Donald Trump has not accomplished much during his first nine months in office and they have delivered a report card that is far harsher even than the tepid expectations they set for his tenure when he was sworn into office, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News survey.

Approaching the first anniversary of his victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, Mr Trump has an approval rating demonstrably lower than any previous chief executive at this point in his presidency over seven decades of polling. Fewer than 4 in 10 Americans — 37 per cent — say they approve of the way he is handling his job.

Mr Trump’s approval rating has changed little over the past four months, which have included tumultuous events, from hurricanes to legislative setbacks to indictments in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the role Russia played in the 2016 campaign.

The president’s disapproval rating has reached 59 per cent, with 50 per cent saying they strongly disapprove of the job he is doing. While little changed since the summer, both represent the worst marks of his presidency.

He is the only president dating back to Harry S Truman whose approval rating at this point in his presidency is net negative — by 22 points. The next worst recorded in that time was Bill Clinton, who had a net positive of 11 points by this time in his presidency.

Donald Trump says 'Im the only one who matters'

Mr Trump began his presidency with only modest expectations on the part of a public that was divided coming out of last year’s contentious election. Roughly 100 days into his presidency, 42 per cent said he had accomplished a great deal or a good amount while in office. Today, that has declined to 35 per cent.

Meanwhile, 65 per cent say he has accomplished “not much” or “little or nothing.” This is up from 56 per cent last spring. Forty-three per cent of all Americans give him the lowest possible rating, saying he has accomplished “little or nothing.”

At the 100-day mark of Mr Trump’s presidency last spring, Americans were split almost evenly on the question of whether he was keeping most of his major campaign promises, with 44 per cent saying he was and 41 per cent disagreeing. Today the verdict is more severe, with a majority (55 per cent) saying he is not keeping most of those promises.

The public sees Democrats acting mostly as an opposition party, rather than offering ideas of their own. Asked whether the Democratic Party is presenting alternatives to Mr Trump’s proposals or mainly criticizing the president, 61 per cent said mainly criticizing, identical to the percentage who said this of Republican Party leaders one year after Obama’s election. Only a plurality of Democrats (47 per cent) say their leaders are offering alternatives to Mr Trump’s ideas.

Mr Trump’s actions and behaviour have drawn sharp criticism from a few members of his own party, most recently from Sensators Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona. Former president George W Bush delivered a recent speech that, while never mentioning Mr Trump by name, was seen as a rebuke of the way the president is conducting himself in office.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll asked self-identified Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP whether they believed their party leaders should speak out when they disagree with the president. Overall, 71 per cent said they should, with just 27 per cent saying those leaders should avoid criticizing him, including 65 per cent of Trump voters who say Republicans should air their disagreements.

On four key issues, Mr Trump has not matched the early expectations for his presidency, and today, majorities — in some case strong majorities — give him negative reviews. Those issues are the economy, dealing with race relations, improving the health-care system and dealing with the threat of terrorism. (Part of this survey was conducted before the terrorist attack on Tuesday that left eight people dead in New York.)

The president has pointed to what he sees as significant accomplishments in the area of the economy, with the stock market at record levels, unemployment at 4.1 per cent — a 17-year low — and growth in the two most recent quarters at 3 per cent.

But the public gives him little credit for the state of the economy. Last January, 61 per cent offered a positive assessment when asked how they thought he would handle the economy. Today, 44 percent give him positive marks, while 53 per cent say he has not done well.

President Donald Trump shouts to reporters as he and and first lady Melania Trump board Air Force One for travel to Hawaii
President Donald Trump shouts to reporters as he and and first lady Melania Trump board Air Force One for travel to Hawaii (REUTERS)

In January, a majority (56 per cent) said they believed he would do an excellent or good job dealing with threats of terrorism. Today, 43 per cent give him positive reviews.

Mr Trump receives even lower ratings on race and health care. Fewer than 3 in 10 say he has done a good job dealing with race relations, which is 12 points below the 40 per cent who said in January they thought he would handle race issues effectively. Half of all Americans say they believe Mr Trump is biased against black people and slightly more (55 percent) say he is biased against women.

The racial assessment follows a backlash to Mr Trump’s comments about the white supremacist rally in August in Charlottesville, where marchers chanted Nazi slogans and the ensuing violence left one woman dead and others injured. Two state police officers also died when their helicopter crashed after assisting in the unrest. Mr Trump was slow to condemn the marchers and at one point said there were “very fine people” among the neo-Nazi demonstrators.

In January, 44 per cent said they expected him to handle the issue of health care effectively, including 87 per cent of Republicans. Optimism has faded sharply, with 26 per cent of Americans and 59 per cent of Republicans giving him positive marks today. The overall percentage offering a negative assessment has jumped from 51 per cent in January to 70 per cent today, including 47 per cent who give him the lowest rating, “poor.”

Adorned with lei, President Donald Trump walks towards the motorcade with first lady Melania Trump in Honolulu
Adorned with lei, President Donald Trump walks towards the motorcade with first lady Melania Trump in Honolulu (Jamm Aquino/The Star-Advertiser via AP)

Political independents have soured the most considering Mr Trump’s pre-inaugural expectations and current ratings. The percentage of independents saying Mr Trump is doing a good job on the economy, race relations and health care is more than 20 points lower than the percentage that expected him to perform well in January. On terrorism, today’s ratings are 17 points below early expectations among independents.

Congressional Republicans were stymied in their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, despite years of promises to do so. The House, after first failing to pass a bill, eventually approved a measure and sent it to the Senate. Senate Republican leaders struggled to get a health bill to the floor for consideration. When they did, they fell short of the necessary majority needed to keep the process moving.

Throughout that process, Mr Trump prodded the Republican leadership, principally Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with demeaning tweets demanding action. Ever since the effort broke down, Mr Trump has attempted to focus the ire of disappointed conservatives on those congressional Republicans, but the failed effort also appears to have taken a toll on him.

A solid majority (59 per cent) also see Mr Trump as trying to make the federal health law fail. Less than one-tenth of the public says they support those efforts to scuttle the law through executive actions, while overall, 50 per cent of the public opposes what they see as Mr Trump undermining the existing program.

As tensions mount over North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon and delivery system capable of hitting the United States, the public has little trust in the president to handle the problem responsibly. A majority (51 per cent) say they trust him “not at all” on this national security issue and 16 per cent say they trust him “just some.” Meanwhile, 32 per cent say they trust him “a great deal” or “a good amount.”

President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before departing the White House for a trip to Asia, in Washington
President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before departing the White House for a trip to Asia, in Washington (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Other measures highlight the degree to which Mr Trump is governing with the support of a minority of the population. Four in 10 say he is a strong leader. That’s 13 points below the level in April. On this question, he has gone from a net positive of eight points to a net negative of 19 points. Roughly twice as many Americans say that under Mr Trump, US leadership in the world has gotten weaker rather than stronger, 53 to 26 per cent.

Mr Trump campaigned on his dealmaking ability, but the public doubts his ability to forge political agreements. Almost 6 in 10 say he is not good at making political deals while under 4 in 10 say he is good at making deals.

One-third say he is honest and trustworthy, down only marginally since April. On the question of whether he has the temperament and personality needed to serve as president, 31 per cent say yes, while 66 per cent say no. That is the lowest since August 2016, when Mr Trump was embroiled in a controversy with a Gold Star family.

A minority of 37 per cent say he understands the problems “of people like you,” unchanged since last spring, while 42 per cent say he has brought needed change to Washington, marginally better than when last measured two months ago.

Of those Americans who say they voted in 2016, 46 per cent say they supported Clinton, and 43 per cent say they backed Mr Trump. If an election were held today, with the same candidates, 40 per cent of those 2016 voters say they would back Mr Trump, and 40 per cent say they would support Ms Clinton.

Mr Trump has succeeded in satisfying voters who elected him president but few others. Voters who supported Mr Trump continue to be overwhelmingly supportive, with 91 per cent approving of his performance, including 69 per cent “strongly.” A still larger 95 per cent of Clinton voters disapprove of him, with 88 per cent who feel that way strongly. Among those who supported neither candidate — or did not vote — 24 per cent approve of Mr Trump while 68 per cent disapprove.

The Washington Post-ABC poll was conducted 29 October to 1 November among a random national sample of 1,005 adults reached on cell and landline phones with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 per cent.

Washington Post

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