In first month, views of Trump are strongly felt, deeply polarized

February 16, 2017 9:03pm
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•  Opposition to refugee policy but improved views of economy

•  Just 37 percent view Mr. Trump as trustworthy

Less than a month after Donald Mr. Trump took office, the public’s initial impressions of the new president are strongly felt, deeply polarized and far more negative than positive, according to a new survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, conducted Feb. 7-12 among 1,503 adults.

It finds that Mr. Trump’s overall job approval is much lower than those of prior presidents in their first weeks in office: Just 39 percent approve of his job performance, while 56 percent disapprove.

The intensity of the public’s early views of Mr. Trump is striking, says the Pew report. Fully 75 percent either approve or disapprove of Mr. Trump strongly, compared with just 17 percent who feel less strongly.

Nearly half (46 percent) strongly disapprove of his job performance, while 29 percent strongly approve.

This level of strong disapproval already surpasses strong disapproval for Barack Obama at any point during the eight years of his presidency, according to the Pew data. The only occasion when strong disapproval of George W. Bush was higher than for Mr. Trump currently was in December 2008, near the end of his presidency as the nation was plunging into the Great Recession.

And while all presidents dating back to Ronald Reagan initially attracted at least modest support from the opposing party, Mr. Trump gets almost none. Just 8 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents approve of his job performance – by far the lowest rating for any new president from the opposing party in more than three decades, according to Pew.

By contrast, 84 percent of Republicans and Republican leaners approve of the way he is handling his job as president, which is in line with the support past presidents received from their own parties.

Opinion about Mr. Trump’s highest profile policy proposal to date – his executive order limiting entry to the U.S. by refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries – is similar to his overall job approval. About four-in-ten (38 percent) approve of this policy, while 59 percent disapprove.

The public has a more critical view of how this executive order, which has been blocked by the courts, was implemented. Just 28 percent say that, regardless of their view of the policy, they believe the administration did an excellent or good job of communicating the order and putting it into effect. While 17 percent say the administration did only a fair job of implementing the policy, 53 percent say it did a poor job in this regard.

Even Republicans, who overwhelmingly approve of Mr. Trump’s job performance and the policy behind the executive order, have mixed views about the way it was carried out. While 54 percent say the administration did an excellent or good job of putting the order into effect, 44 percent say it did only fair or poor, according to the Pew survey.

The survey finds that the public gives positive marks to Mr. Trump on keeping his promises (60 percent say he does this) and his ability to get things done (54 percent).

However, on seven other traits and characteristics – ranging from his temperament to whether he is a good manager – he is viewed more negatively.

Just 28 percent of Americans say Mr. Trump is “even-tempered,” while more than twice as many (68 percent) say this phrase does not describe him.

Mr. Trump’s ratings on the traits for which trends are available are lower than they were for Barack Obama, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. At similar points in their presidencies, majorities said Mr. Obama (76 percent), Mr. Bush (60 percent) and Mr. Clinton (63 percent) were trustworthy. Currently, just 37 percent view Mr. Trump as trustworthy.

While 39 percent say Mr. Trump is “well-informed,” nearly twice as many said that description applied to Mr. Obama in February 2009 (79 percent) and Mr. Clinton in January 1993 (also 79 percent). In early 2001, 62 percent said Mr. Bush was well-informed.

Mr. Trump fares better relative to past presidents in views of his ability to get things done. While 54 percent say this description applies to Mr. Trump, only somewhat more (60 percent) said it described Bush in 2001. In February 2009, 70 percent said Mr. Obama could get things done.

Other findings include:

• Improved views among Republicans help lift economic ratings. The public’s views of the nation’s economy – both current and future conditions – continue to be relatively positive. Currently, 42 percent rate economic conditions as excellent or good, up 11 percentage points since December. The share of Republicans who take a positive view of economic conditions has nearly tripled since then, from 14 percent to 40 percent, while holding more stable among Democrats. As in December, Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to expect economic conditions to improve (75 percent vs. 14 percent).

• Most continue to say Mr. Trump has little or no respect for democratic institutions. As was the case in October, during the campaign, a majority of Americans (59 percent) say Mr. Trump has not too much (25 percent) or no respect at all (34 percent) for the nation’s democratic institutions and traditions; 40 percent say he has a great deal (18 percent) or fair amount (22 percent) of respect for democratic institutions.

• Racial, ethnic diversity viewed more positively. Currently, 64 percent say having an increasing number of people from different races and ethnic groups makes the country a better place to live, up from 56 percent in August. About three-quarters of Democrats (76 percent) and 51 percent of Republicans think the nation’s growing diversity makes it a better place to live.


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