Trump starts term with divided ratings

January 26, 2017, 4:03 PM GMT+0

Donald Trump has a net approval rating of 6% in his first week as President

In some ways, the country has moved on from the election campaign, as Republicans and Democrats realign their thinking about government and the country to match the transfer of power from a Democratic to a Republican Administration. But the latest Economist/YouGov Poll also demonstrates that President Donald Trump has far to go to unite the divided country he inherited.

This poll, conducted after the first two days of the Trump Administration, finds overall public support for the new President less than overwhelming. His approval rating – admittedly based on only on his first two days in office – to be only 41%, with nearly as many expressing disapproval. This is much lower than approval ratings for Presidents in the first Gallup Poll measure taken in each of their terms. In addition, Mr. Trump’s disapproval rating is higher than that of any President going back to Dwight Eisenhower.

One in four Americans aren’t sure what they think about the President’s performance thus far. That’s especially true for independents, one in three of whom express no opinion yet. Partisans are more certain of their judgment.

The concerns that many Americans expressed during the campaign about the President’s qualifications continue. In this poll, just 42% say President Trump has the qualifications to be President. More say he does not. These results are at least slightly better than opinions during the middle of the fall campaign, when 35% thought he was qualified for the job. Just 36% now say he has the right temperament for the job (up from 30% last fall). On both questions, negative responses have declined, while those who are undecided have increased.

Trump’s rocky first few days have done little to bring about a turnaround in public perception of his honesty and integrity. By 44% to 35%, Americans say the President is not honest and trustworthy. But by 52% to 34% they do think what he says is what he really believes – though there are some things he has said that the public rejects as false. A YouGov Poll conducted for the Huffington Post the three days after the Inauguration found only 7% agreeing with Trump’s claim that there were more people at his Inauguration than at President Obama’s in 2009.

Even Trump’s own voters don’t believe that claim. But his supporters have been more accepting of his assertion without evidence (repeated just this week) that millions of illegal votes were cast in this election. In a late December Economist/YouGov Poll six in ten Trump voters said that statement was probably true. A majority of the public overall disagreed.

The President’s favorable rating is improving. Although a few more continue to be unfavorable than favorable towards him, this is the first time that the percentage expressing an unfavorable opinion of Mr. Trump has dropped below 50%.

But there may be a greater possibility for improvement in the President’s approval rating on some – though not all – of the issues he is working on this week. Despite media description of his inaugural address as dark, twice as many of those who watched found it optimistic rather than pessimistic (Republicans were more likely than Democrats to have seen it). And there were some statements in it that even Democrats agreed with: that there is a different reality for many in the country, and that a small group has reaped the “rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.”

As for some of the issues covered (or about to be addressed) by early executive orders:

  • Americans divide along party lines on building a wall on the border with Mexico. Overall 42% are in favor, 41% oppose.
  • They divide on repealing Obamacare. Overall 46% favor doing so, 35% do not.
  • More than a third are unsure of their position when it comes to the value of trade with other countries. But those with an opinion say trade is good for the average American.
  • There is also support for providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who pass a background check, pay taxes and have jobs. 74% of Democrats favor this, but so do a majority of Republicans and Trump voters.
  • By 46% to 28% the public opposes a ban on Muslim immigration – although Trump’s voters favor a ban by more than two to one.

The partisan changing of the guard has brought about one clear difference since the Inauguration – for the first time in years, a majority of Republicans think the country is on the right track. And the partisan movement since just last week is dramatic.