March 5, 2020

Few Americans Express Positive Views of Trump’s Conduct in Office

80% of the public describes Trump as ‘self-centered’

President Trump speaks to supporters during a rally on March 2 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
President Trump speaks to supporters during a rally on March 2 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

Republicans largely agree with Trump on issues, but only about a third say they like his personal conductThe American public has long expressed negative views of some of Donald Trump’s personal traits and behaviors, including his temperament and his tweeting. A new national survey finds that just 15% of U.S. adults say they like the way he conducts himself as president. A far larger share (53%) say they don’t like how he conducts himself, while another 30% say they have mixed feelings.

For the most part, Americans also do not agree with Trump on most of the important issues facing the country. Fewer than half (42%) say they agree with Donald Trump on many or nearly all of the top issues facing the country today; nearly six-in-ten (58%) say they agree with him on few or almost no issues.

The national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted Feb. 4-15 among 6,395 adults using the Center’s American Trends Panel, finds deep partisan divisions in agreement with Trump on major issues and in views of his personal conduct.

Republicans are largely in sync with the president on major issues: 80% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they agree with Trump on many or nearly all important issues facing the country. Yet only 31% of Republican and Republican leaners say they like the way Trump conducts himself as president; 50% say they have mixed feelings and 16% say they don’t like his conduct.

It is important to note that, despite the reservations many Republicans have about Trump’s personal conduct, they continue to overwhelmingly approve of his job performance. In January, 80% of Republicans and Republican leaners approved of the way Trump was handling his job as president, including 64% who strongly approved.

Democrats are sharply critical of Trump’s conduct. Fully 85% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say they don’t like the way he conducts himself as president, while 12% have mixed feelings and just 1% like Trump’s personal conduct. Only 10% of Democrats agree with Trump on many or nearly all issues.

Partisan differences in views of Trump’s conduct and agreement with the president on important issues are similar to those expressed in 2018 and 2017. The current survey is the first time these questions have been asked on Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel; previously, they were asked on telephone surveys.

Majorities of Americans say Trump is self-centered, prejudiced

Republicans widely view Trump as a fighter, but also self-centered The public is broadly critical of Trump in assessing a number of his specific traits and characteristics. A sizable majority of Americans (80%) say the phrase “self-centered” describes him very or fairly well, while 59% view him as prejudiced.

Among positive traits, half say Trump is very or fairly well described as intelligent, while nearly as many (47%) say he “fights for what I believe in.” Only about a third each say Trump is honest (36%) and morally upstanding (32%).

Just 27% say the description “even-tempered” applies to Trump. Views of Trump’s temperament have been widely negative since he took office: In a telephone survey last year, which asked about different personal traits, 28% said he was even-tempered.

In evaluating Trump’s personal traits, Democrats are critical of the president across all dimensions, while Republicans make some distinctions, evaluating him very positively on some characteristics and offering more mixed evaluations on others.

Nearly nine-in-ten Republicans (87%) describe him as someone who “fights for what I believe in,” while about as many (86%) say Trump is intelligent. A smaller majority of Republicans (71%) say “honest” describes Trump very or fairly well, while 62% say morally upstanding describes him at least fairly well.

About a third of Republicans (35%) view Trump as prejudiced. Yet by far their most negative assessment is in perceptions of Trump as self-centered: 73% of Republicans say this describes Trump very or fairly well.

Democrats overwhelmingly view Trump as self-centered (87%) and prejudiced (79%). Only 19% say Trump is intelligent and 14% say he “fights for what I believe in.” Fewer than 10% of Democrats describe Trump as even-tempered, honest or morally upstanding.

A detailed look at Republicans’ views of Trump

Among Republicans, Trump gets his highest ratings on personal conduct among those who are older, conservative and have not completed college. And these same groups of Republicans are among the most likely to say that Trump “fights for what I believe in.”

Republicans who have not completed college express more positive views of Trump’s conduct in officeWhile there is no subgroup of Republicans in which a majority says they like Trump’s personal conduct, those who have not attended college are about twice as likely as those with four-year degrees to express positive views of his conduct (40% vs. 19%).

Similarly, while 38% of conservative Republicans, who make up about two-thirds of all Republicans and GOP leaners, express positive views of Trump’s conduct, only 20% of moderate and liberal Republicans do so. And older Republicans, especially those 65 and older, are more likely than younger Republicans to say they like Trump’s conduct as president.

Older Republicans especially likely to see Trump as fighting for their beliefsThere also are sharp differences among Republicans in the shares saying Trump “fights for what I believe in.” Sizable majorities of Republicans ages 65 and older (94%) and 50 to 64 (92%) say this phrase describes Trump well – with majorities in both age groups saying it describes him very well.

Most Republicans under age 50 view Trump as someone who fights for their beliefs, but fewer than half say it describes him very well.

While majorities of Republicans, regardless of their level of educational attainment, view Trump as a fighter for their beliefs, those who have not completed college are more likely than college graduates to say this describes him very well.

And while 94% of conservative Republicans say Trump fights for what they believe in – including 63% who say this describes him very well – fewer moderate and liberal Republicans say this (75% say it describes him well, 32% very well).

Among Republicans, conservatives express greater issue agreement with Trump than moderatesThere is a similar pattern in views of agreement with Trump on issues among Republican subgroups. While majorities of Republicans across demographic and educational categories agree with Trump on many or nearly all (or all) issues, half or more of self-described conservatives (50%) and those 65 and older (54%) say they agree with Trump on all or nearly all issues.

That is higher than the shares among other groups of Republicans. For example, among Republicans under age 30, just 21% say they agree with Trump on all or nearly all of the important issues facing the country.