August 29, 2017

Republicans Divided in Views of Trump’s Conduct; Democrats Are Broadly Critical

2. In their own words: Likes and concerns about Trump

Asked in an open-ended format what they most like about Donald Trump, about a quarter of Americans (23%) mention Trump’s approach and personality, saying he “keeps his promises” or “tells it like it is.” Mentions of Trump’s approach are the second most common response to this question; only the share of Americans who say there is nothing they like about Trump’s job performance or respond to this question by citing things they do not like about Trump is higher: 37% of Americans say this.

And Trump’s personality ranks as the most common response to an open-ended question about concerns people have about him. Here, too, about a quarter of Americans (24%) mention aspects of his personality or conduct – in this case, frequently mentioning Trump’s temperament or saying that he has a tendency to speak “off the cuff.”

To be sure, in this separate survey conducted Aug. 8-21 online among 4,971 adults, mentions of Trump’s personality characteristics in positive terms are far more common among the 36% of Americans who approve of Trump’s job performance than among the 63% who do not. Mentions of his personality as cause for concern are more common among those who disapprove.

Among those who approve of Trump’s job performance, about half (54%) cite aspects of his personality or approach as what they most like about Trump’s job performance, including 25% who call out his leadership style, say that he is keeping his promises or that he is getting things done as president. As one 57-year-old woman who approves of Trump put it: “He is a fighter and loves America as much as I do.”

About one-in-ten (13%) of those who approve of Trump say they like that he speaks his mind, is direct and “tells it like it is,” or that he’s “not politically correct.” And 9% say they like that he isn’t a typical politician or that he’s challenging the Washington establishment or “draining the swamp.”

Trump’s policy positions or accomplishments are mentioned by 14% of those who approve of his job performance as the thing they like most about him: 4% specifically mention economic policies, including a respondent who says Trump “is promoting the economy,” and adds that “he pays no attention to the snowflakes and keeps his agenda.” A similar share mention foreign policy (3%) and immigration policy (also 3%), including a 30-year-old man who says that Trump is “cracking down” on immigration, and likes that he is “turning back the policies that the previous administration implemented.”

But those who disapprove have starkly different responses to the question about what, if anything, they like about Trump: Nearly six-in-ten (58%) say there is nothing they like about Trump – or take the question as an opportunity to list things they do not like about him. One says there is “absolutely nothing” he likes, adding that “every word, action and tweet is an embarrassment that likely imperils our freedom and safety.”

Others say they like that he isn’t getting more done. A 30-year-old woman likes most that he is “too incompetent and reactive to successfully implement his destructive agenda.”

Still, even among those who disapprove of Trump’s job performance, there are some who cite his approach or his policies as things they like. One says she “disagrees with his views,” but “appreciates the attempt at following through his word.” Another likes how Trump “handled the Trans Pacific Partnership deal,” but adds “that’s about it.”

Trump’s conduct – and Twitter use – cited by the public as a concern

Asked what, if anything, concerns them about Trump’s job performance, 24% of the public mentions concerns about his personality, including 8% who mention his temperament or lack of tact and 7% who say he is not deliberate enough with his speech; 6% characterize their concern as Trump lacking in presidential traits, while 5% think the president is narcissistic or self-focused.

While these types of concerns are more likely to be cited by those who disapprove of Trump (32% do so), about one-in-ten of those who approve of Trump mention concerns about his personality or conduct, including a 67-year-old woman who says “his undignified way of speaking and not listening to those who could help him communicate better” is cause for concern.

About two-in-ten Americans (19%) mention policies as a concern about Trump. Again, those who approve of Trump are less likely than those who disapprove of Trump (10% vs. 25%) to say this. And though there is some overlap in the kinds of concerns cited by those who approve and disapprove of the president (“the situation in North Korea”), in other instances the concerns are mirror images of one another (for instance, when it comes to health care, a 56-year-old man who disapproves of Trump is concerned about “his attempts to dismantle the ACA [Affordable Care Act],” while a 63-year-old woman who supports Trump is concerned about Trump “not being able to repeal Obamacare”).

Trump’s competency or intelligence is mentioned by 12% of Americans as a concern, though very few who approve of him say this (just 1%), while roughly two-in-ten (19%) who disapprove of Trump do: A 46-year-old woman who disapproves of Trump says “people elected a less than smart guy to do the job.”

Also mentioned by 12% of Americans, including 17% of those who approve Trump, is his behavior on social media – particularly Twitter. A 30-year-old man who approves of Trump’s job performance overall exemplifies a common thread in these responses when he says, “I wish he would stop tweeting.” This critique is sometimes more pointed, even among his supporters: A 63-year-old woman says “his constant, immature tweets make him sound like a twit and just provide ammunition for the opposition.”

But about one-in-ten Americans either explicitly say they have no concerns about Trump (4%) or that their only concerns about Trump are about the opposition he faces from others, including Democrats, Republicans and the media (6%).

These sentiments are nearly exclusively seen among those who approve of Trump, 16% of whom say their concern about Trump is the obstruction he faces. As one puts it: “Nothing really concerns me about Trump. It’s all the overwhelming opposition to Trump that concerns me.”