April 17, 2017

Public Dissatisfaction With Washington Weighs on the GOP

1. Views of Trump

Ratings of Trump’s job performance remain more negative than positive: 54% say they disapprove of the job he is doing, while 39% approve. Public evaluations of Trump’s job performance are about the same as they were in February.

Ratings of Trump continue to trail those of recent presidents at similar points in their presidencies. In April of their first years, a larger share of the public approved than disapproved of each of the last five presidents, beginning with views of Ronald Reagan in 1981.

The lack of movement in Trump’s early ratings is not unusual, when compared with recent presidents. For example, both George W. Bush and Barack Obama saw only modest shifts in their approval ratings between February and April of their first years.

As was the case in February, just 6% of the public does not offer a job rating for Trump – this is a smaller share than for his recent predecessors at this point in their presidencies.

There remain stark demographic differences in ratings of Trump’s job performance, with wide gaps in assessments of him by race and ethnicity, gender, age and education.

Half of whites (50%) approve of Trump’s job performance; 44% say they disapprove. By contrast, large majorities of blacks (81%) and Hispanics (78%) disapprove of the job Trump is doing.

By 60%-33%, more women disapprove than approve of Trump’s job performance. Men are about evenly divided (46% approve, 48% disapprove).

And while most of those under age 50 disapprove of the job Trump is doing, those ages 50 and older are roughly divided in their assessments.

A 71% majority of those with a postgraduate degree disapprove of the job Trump is doing. Smaller majorities of those with a college degree (57%) or some college experience (55%) also disapprove. Those with no more than a high school diploma are split in their assessments: 44% approve of Trump, while 48% disapprove.

For more on demographic differences in ratings of Trump’s job performance, see the detailed tables.

The partisan gap in ratings of Trump is wider than for any of the last five presidents at similar points in their presidencies. Overall, 82% of Republicans and Republican leaners approve of the job Trump is doing, compared with just 7% of Democrats and Democratic leaners – a 75-percentage point gap.

Republican support for Trump is comparable to the levels of early support recent presidents received from members of their own party. For example, 86% of Democrats approved of Obama in April 2009, and 84% of Republicans approved of George W. Bush in April 2001. Trump’s ratings among Republicans are actually somewhat more positive than the ratings Democrats gave Bill Clinton in April 1993, when 71% said they approved of the way he was handling his job.

Trump’s approval ratings among Democrats are considerably lower than the ratings any of the last five presidents received from the other party at this stage in their administrations. In April 2009, 28% of Republicans said they approved of the job Obama was doing as president, and 24% of Republicans approved of Bill Clinton’s performance at this point in his presidency. Republican presidents George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan fared even better among Democrats at similar points: 37% approved of George W. Bush in April 2001, 41% of Democrats approved of George H.W. Bush in May 1989 and 52% of Democrats approved of Reagan in April 1981.

There are differences in Trump’s approval ratings by ideology. Nine-in-ten conservative Republicans say they approve of Trump (including 73% who approve very strongly), compared with 68% of moderate and liberal Republicans (including 50% who approve very strongly). Among Democrats, 94% of liberal Democrats disapprove of Trump, compared with 81% of conservative and moderate Democrats. Intense opposition is widespread among liberal Democrats: 85% say they disapprove of Trump very strongly; 64% of conservative and moderate Democrats disapprove of Trump’s job performance very strongly.

While Trump’s approval rating remains more negative than positive, most say that he has done about as they expected as president. Overall, 59% say Trump has done about as they expected, while 20% say he’s done worse than they expected and 19% say he’s done better. These views of Trump at this early stage of his administration are generally similar to those of recent presidents; majorities also said that Bill Clinton (73%), George W. Bush (67%) and Barack Obama (61%) had performed about as they expected in surveys conducted in April of their first year. Nonetheless, the share saying that Trump has been worse than expected (20%) is slightly higher than for each of these three previous presidents.

While Republicans and Democrats differ dramatically in most assessments of Trump, both say his performance is in line with their expectations. Among Republicans, 53% say he has performed about as they expected; 38% say he has done better than they expected, and just 7% say he has done worse. Among Democrats, most also say he has done about as they expected (63%); 32% say he has been worse than expected, while just 3% say he has done better.

Among those who approve of his overall job performance, 55% say he has performed about as expected, 43% say he has done better (just 1% say he has done worse). Among those who disapprove, 59% say he has done about as they expected, while 36% say he has done worse (just 2% say he has done better).

When asked to compare Trump with previous presidents, 51% say they trust what Trump says less than they trusted what previous presidents said while in office, compared with 30% who say they trust him more and 16% who say they trust what he says about the same as what previous presidents said.

Many of the demographic patterns in views on this question mirror patterns in Trump’s overall job approval. For example, women, blacks, Hispanics, young adults and those with a postgraduate degree are especially likely to say they trust what Trump says less than other previous presidents. Evaluations of Trump’s trustworthiness are less negative among men, whites, older adults and those without a college degree; however, fewer than half of all of these groups say they trust Trump more than previous presidents.

Fully 83% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say they trust what Trump says less than what previous presidents said in office. By contrast, 66% of Republicans and Republican leaners trust what he says more than other presidents. There is a significant divide in views among Republicans: Three-quarters of conservative Republicans say they trust Trump more than past presidents, compared with 50% of moderate and liberal Republicans.

Majority continues to say Trump’s decision making is ‘too impulsive’

The public continues to have concerns about Trump’s decision making. Overall, 63% say that Trump is too impulsive in making important decisions, while 32% say his approach is about right; just 2% say he is too cautious in making important decisions. Views on this question are similar to those shortly before he took the oath of office: In January, 58% said they thought Trump would be too impulsive in making important decisions.

An overwhelming majority of Democrats view Trump as too impulsive: 87% say this, compared with just 9% who say his decision-making approach is about right and only 1% who say he is too cautious. Among Republicans, most (65%) say Trump’s approach is about right, though 30% say he is too impulsive (only 4% say he is too cautious).

Declining confidence in Trump to work with Congress, prevent scandals

In the wake of a failed effort by Trump and Republicans in Congress to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law, the public expresses less confidence in Trump’s ability to work effectively with Congress than they did on the eve of his taking office. Currently, 46% say they are either very or somewhat confident in Trump’s ability to effectively work with Congress; somewhat more (52%) say they are not too or not at all confident in his ability to do this. In December, 60% said they were confident in Trump’s ability to work effectively with Congress.

Confidence in Trump also has declined when it comes to his ability to prevent major scandals in his administration. The public was not particularly optimistic about Trump’s ability in this area in December when 44% said they were very or somewhat confident in his ability to prevent major scandals. The current survey finds that confidence in Trump to prevent major scandals in his administration has fallen 8 points, to 36% — the lowest level of confidence across the five items tested in this question.

There has been little change in confidence in Trump to use military force wisely: 45% are very or somewhat confident in his ability in this area; 44% expressed confidence in his ability to use force wisely in December. Similarly, confidence in Trump’s ability to handle an international crisis also has not changed much (48% confident now, 45% in December). Most of the survey was completed after the U.S. launched missile strikes against Syria on April 6. A majority of Americans (58%) approved of the strikes.

In addition, half of Americans say they are very or somewhat confident in Trump’s ability to manage the executive branch effectively, while about as many (49%) say they have little or no confidence in Trump’s ability to do this.

Overall, the partisan gaps on most of these measures of confidence are little different than they were in December. Roughly three- quarters or more Republicans and Republican leaners say they are at least somewhat confident in Trump’s ability to handle these aspects of the presidency, while  no more than a quarter of Democrats express this level of confidence on any of these measures.

But confidence in Trump’s ability to work effectively with Congress has declined among both Republicans and Democrats. In December, 40% of Democrats and Democratic leaners said they were at least somewhat confident in Trump’s ability to work with Congress; since then, Democratic confidence in Trump on this measure has dropped 16-percentage points to 24%. And while a 79% majority of Republicans and Republican leaners continue to say they are either very or somewhat confident in Trump’s ability to work effectively with Congress, this reflects a nine-point decline since December.

And the already wide partisan gap in confidence in Trump to handle an international crisis has widened over the last several months. Fully 85% of Republicans now say they are at least somewhat confident in Trump’s ability to handle an international crisis, including 57% who say they are very confident. In December, just under half (45%) said they were very confident in him on this measure.

By contrast, Democrats – who already expressed little confidence in Trump to handle an international crisis – express even lower levels of confidence in him in this area today. Currently, 85% say they are not too or not at all confident in Trump’s handling of a future international crisis, including fully 64% who say they are “not at all” confident in him to do so. In December, though about eight-in-ten (79%) expressed little or no confidence in him in a global crisis, only about half (53%) expressed no confidence at all.

Impact of Trump’s policies on terrorism, international standing

Early in the Trump administration, the public has mixed views on the impact of his policies on the country’s security from terrorism. When asked to compare Trump’s policies to those of the Obama administration, 31% say Trump has made the U.S. safer from terrorism, while about as many (33%) say his policies have made the U.S. less safe; another 33% say they haven’t made a difference.

Most Republicans and Republican leaners (63%) say Trump’s policies have made the U.S. safer from terrorism compared with those of the Obama administration. A quarter say they haven’t made a difference and just 7% say they have made the U.S. less safe. Conservative Republicans (70%) are significantly more likely than moderate and liberal Republicans (50%) to say Trump’s policies have made the U.S. safer.

Democrats take the opposite view. Fully 57% say the country is less safe from terrorism as a result of the Trump administration’s policies. Only 7% say they have made the U.S. safer, while 36% believe they have not made much difference. As with Republicans, there are differences in views among Democrats by ideology: 71% of liberal Democrats say Trump’s policies have made the U.S. less safe, while about as many conservative and moderate Democrats say his policies haven’t made a difference (47%) as say they have made the U.S. less safe (45%).

In June 2009, a plurality (44%) said that Barack Obama’s policies, compared with those of the Bush administration, hadn’t made a difference in the country’s security situation; 28% said Obama’s policies had made the country safer, while 21% said they had made the country less safe.

Partisans are more likely to say Trump’s policies have had an impact on the country’s security (either positive or negative) than they were to say this about Obama’s policies in 2009.

Eight years ago, 43% of Democrats (the party that controlled the White House) said Obama’s policies had made the country safer from terrorism. In the current survey, fully 63% of Republicans say Trump’s policies have made the country safer from terrorism.

Similarly, the share of Democrats who say Trump’s policies have made the country less safe (57%) is greater than the share of Republicans who said this about Obama in 2009 (47%).

While the public is evenly split over the impact of Trump’s policies on the country’s security, many say Trump’s policies have put the U.S. in a weaker position internationally. Overall, 45% say that, compared with the Obama administration, Trump’s policies have put the U.S. in a weaker position internationally; fewer (31%) say they have put the country in a stronger position internationally and 20% say the country is in about the same position as it was.

Republicans and Democrats hold opposing views on this question. Seven-in-ten Republicans and Republican leaners say Trump’s policies have strengthened the country’s international position, compared with the policies of Obama; 21% say the country’s position is about the same and just 6% think Trump has weakened the country’s international standing. By contrast, 73% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say Trump has weakened the country’s position internationally, while 17% say it’s in about the same position (6% say Trump has strengthened U.S. global standing).