January 18, 2019

Trump Begins Third Year With Low Job Approval and Doubts About His Honesty

1. Views of Trump

The public’s confidence in Trump to handle a number of key issues remains mixed. Trump fares best on issues related to economic conditions, where about half of Americans say they are at least somewhat confident in his ability. By contrast, only about a third express confidence in his ability to work effectively with Congress.

Public more confident in Trump on trade, economy than immigration and dealing with CongressOverall, 62% say they are not too or not at all confident in Trump’s ability to work effectively with Congress; far fewer (35%) say they are very or somewhat confident in him to do this.

When it comes to making wise decisions about immigration policy, four-in-ten say they are at least somewhat confident in Trump (including 29% who say they are very confident). Nearly six-in-ten (58%) express little or no confidence in Trump on immigration policy, including 45% who say they are not at all confident in him on this issue.

Narrow majorities also say they have little or no confidence in Trump to use military force wisely, handle an international crisis or manage the executive branch effectively. About half (51%) say they are not too or not at all confident that Trump can make good appointments to the federal courts, while 45% say they are at least somewhat confident in him in this area.

Trump garners the most confidence in his ability to negotiate favorable trade agreements with other countries (51% say they are at least somewhat confident) and to make good decisions about economic policy (49%). Still, close to half the public says they lack confidence in Trump to handle these two issue areas.

Republicans broadly confident in Trump on most issues, but rate him lower on working with Congress

Nearly nine-in-ten Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (89%) are confident in Trump’s ability to negotiate favorable trade agreements with other countries, compared with just 19% of Democrats and Democratic leaners.

The pattern is similar on most other issues. For instance, 89% of Republicans – and only 17% of Democrats – are very or somewhat confident in Trump to make good decisions about economic policy.

Trump gets his lowest ratings from Republicans on his ability to work effectively with Congress: Seven-in-ten say they are at least somewhat confident in his ability to do this, but just 31% say they are very confident. Across all other issues, at least 50% of Republicans say they are very confident in Trump.

Broad concern over possible influence of Trump’s business interests

Only about three-in-ten Americans (28%) are very confident that Trump keeps his own business interests separate from the decisions he makes as president, and another 13% say they are somewhat confident in this. A majority are either not too (16%) or not at all (41%) confident that Trump is keeping his own personal interests separate from his presidential decisions.

Fewer than half are confident Trump keeps business interests separateMost Republicans say they are very (55%) or somewhat (23%) confident that Trump keeps his business interests separate from his decision-making as president. Conservative Republicans are much more likely to say they are very confident in this (66%) than are moderate and liberal Republicans (39%).

Democrats are deeply skeptical that Trump is avoiding potential conflicts of interest. Nearly seven-in-ten (69%) say that they are not at all confident that Trump keeps his business interests and his presidential decisions separate, while another 20% say they are not too confident in this. Liberal Democrats are particularly skeptical: Fully 83% say they are not at all confident in Trump to keep his business interests separate.

Most say Trump should release tax returns

In surveys over the past two years, a majority of Americans have said that Trump has a responsibility to release his tax returns. Currently, 64% say he has this responsibility, slightly higher than the share who said this last year. About a third of the public (32%) says he does not have this responsibility.

Majority of Americans continue to say Trump has a responsibility to publicly release his tax returnsFully 91% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say that Trump has a responsibility to publicly release his tax returns, up from about eight-in-ten who said this in both January 2018 (80%) and January 2017 (79%).

By contrast, most Republicans continue to say that Trump does not have a responsibility to release his tax returns: Just 32% say he has this responsibility, while 64% say he does not.

Trump’s statements less trusted than those of previous presidents

A majority of the public (58%) says they trust what Trump says less than they trusted what previous presidents said while in office. Just 26% say they trust Trump more than previous presidents, while 14% say their level of trust in Trump’s rhetoric is about the same as for past presidents.

Most place less trust in Trump’s statements than in previous presidents’Distrust in Trump compared with other presidents has increased since April of 2017, when a somewhat smaller share (51%) said they trusted what Trump says less than previous presidents.

Almost all Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (94%) say they trust what Trump says less than they trusted what previous presidents said while in office.

Among Republicans and Republican leaners, most (58%) say they trust what Trump says more than previous presidents, while 25% say they trust what he says about the same as previous presidents; 15% say they trust his rhetoric less.

Low marks for ethical standards of top administration officials

Views of the ethical standards of top Trump administration officials remain at record lows compared with previous administrations dating back to the 1980s.

Trump officials’ ethics viewed less positively than predecessors’Overall, 39% rate the ethical standards of top Trump administration officials as either excellent (7%) or good (32%). A much greater share describes them as either not good (20%) or poor (39%). These ratings are about the same as they were in May 2018.

Views of Trump administration officials are lower than those of officials in the previous five administrations, often measured at times of specific ethical controversies.

Partisans remain deeply divided on this question, with 76% of Republicans and Republican leaners saying that ethical standards of top administration officials are excellent or good (although only 16% say they are “excellent”), and 90% of Democrats and Democratic leaners saying that ethical standards of top Trump administration officials are not good or poor (with 67% saying they are “poor”).

Trump’s impact on economy seen as positive, on balance

While the public is critical of Trump and his administration in multiple areas, they see Trump’s impact on the economy in a positive light. Overall, 40% think that Trump’s policies have made economic conditions better since taking office, compared with fewer (28%) who say they have made conditions worse; 29% say they have not had much of an effect.

More say Trump’s policies have made the economy better than worseSince October 2017, the share saying Trump’s economic policies have not had much of an effect has declined 20 points. There have been comparable increases in the shares who say his policies have made things better (+11 points) and worse (+10 points).

Partisan views of Trump’s economic policies have become more polarized since the fall of 2017. Nearly eight-in-ten Republicans and Republican leaners (79%) say that his economic policies had improved conditions in the country (up from 63% in October 2017). Democrats and Democratic leaners, by contrast, have grown more negative in their views of Trump’s economic policies. Almost half (46%) of Democrats now say his policies have made the economy worse, up from 28% in October 2017.

How will Trump’s presidency be viewed in the long run?

When asked if they think Donald Trump will be a successful or unsuccessful president in the long run, 47% say he will be unsuccessful, while about three-in-ten (29%) say he will be successful; 23% say it is too early to tell whether Trump will be successful or unsuccessful. Since last year, the share saying Trump will be successful and the share saying he will be unsuccessful have both increased by 6 percentage points.

The share who say it is too early to tell if Trump will be successful is much lower than at comparable points for previous presidents. At the start of Barack Obama’s third year in office, nearly half of the public (47%) said it was too early to tell whether he would be successful; 38% said this about George W. Bush and 43% about Clinton at comparable points.

The nearly half of Americans (47%) who now say Trump will be unsuccessful is far higher than the share who said this about his three most recent predecessors at comparable points in their first term.

More think Trump will be an unsuccessful than successful president in the long run

About two-thirds of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (65%) say Trump will be a successful president in the long run.

Partisans more likely to offer view on Trump’s success than prior presidents

An even larger share of Democrats and Democratic leaners (80%) think that Trump will be an unsuccessful president.

Republicans are slightly more likely than Democrats to say it is too early to tell whether Trump will be successful (25% vs. 16%).

In January 2011, about half of Republicans (47%) said Obama would be unsuccessful, while nearly as many (45%) said it was too early to tell. Among Democrats, 43% said Obama would be successful and 47% said it was too early to tell.

Republicans’ views of Trump’s long-term outlook are similar to how they viewed Bush in his third year. In December 2003, 69% of Republicans thought Bush would be successful; just 28% said it was too early to tell. Democrats’ views of Bush were not as fully established: 37% thought he would be unsuccessful, while 43% said it was too early to tell.

Views of Mueller investigation

Overall, 55% of the public says they are very or somewhat confident that Robert Mueller is conducting a fair investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election. A smaller share (41%) says they are not too or not at all confident in Mueller.

More confidence in Mueller investigation than in Trump to handle inquiry appropriatelyThere is less public confidence in Trump to appropriately handle matters related to the special counsel’s investigation. Just 37% are very or somewhat confident in Trump to handle matters related to the investigation appropriately, compared with 60% who say they are not too or not at all confident in Trump to do this.

Views of the Mueller investigation – and Trump’s handling of the matter – remain deeply partisan.

About seven-in-ten Democrats and Democratic leaners (72%) are at least somewhat confident in the fairness of Mueller’s investigation. Among Republicans and Republican leaners, a larger share says they are not too or not at all confident in Mueller (58%) than says they are very or somewhat confident in him (39%).

When it comes to Trump’s handling of matters related to the investigation, fully 92% of Democrats express a lack of confidence in Trump, including 70% who say they are not at all confident in him. Three-quarters of Republicans say they are confident in Trump to handle the inquiry appropriately, including 42% who say they are very confident.

Public confidence in Mueller investigation has changed little over the course of the past yearConfidence in the Mueller investigation has not changed much over the course of the past year. In January and September of 2018, an identical 55% said they were at least somewhat confident that Mueller was conducting a fair investigation in to Russian involvement in the 2016 election.