Many Americans simply don't see the world the way Trump does

March 02, 2017, 5:57 PM GMT+0

For the first time since he took office, President Trump's disapproval rating has risen to 50%

Donald Trump’s address to Congress this week could not have occurred at a more propitious time. He was facing a country that sees the world quite differently than they believe he does, and his approval rating was heading south. For the first time since the Inauguration, half the public held a negative opinion of how President Trump was handling his job.

But all that may change following what was seen as an optimistic and understated presentation by the President to Congress on Tuesday. While the latest Economist/YouGov Poll was completed prior to Trump's address, the YouGov/CBS News Poll conducted after his speech found that 61% of viewers were left more optimistic about the Trump Presidency. Before the speech, Americans leaned toward pessimism in assessing the next four years: 44% in the Economist/YouGov Poll were pessimistic; 38% optimistic. (It should be noted, however, that, historically, supporters of a President are more likely than opponents to view a Presidential address to Congress.)

A difference in worldview is clear when comparing how Americans assess several foreign countries with how they think their President does. One major difference arises when judging Russia. The public sees Russia as unfriendly, while they think the President is more likely to view it as friendly. Twice as many declare Russia an enemy than believe President Trump sees Russia that way. The opposite is true when it comes to Mexico. The public judges Mexico to be friendly, while most believe Donald Trump sees it as an unfriendly country.

The public puts itself on the same side as they put the President when it comes to countries like Germany, Israel, and Australia, which are all seen as friendly countries. When it comes to China, Americans are closely divided, but say the President views China as an unfriendly country.

Trump has managed, in the first few weeks of his still-young presidency, to reach out to conservatives — many of whom were dubious about his conservative credentials. Before the Inauguration, fewer than half of conservatives agreed that he was one of them; nearly the same percentage saw him as either a moderate or even a liberal. Now, though nearly a third still see him that way, a clear majority of conservatives say he is one of them.

It is worth noting, however, that few conservatives describe the President as “very conservative.” But those who personally think of themselves as very conservative are among the President’s strongest supporters. More than eight in ten in that group approve of the way he is handling his job.

Looking ahead, the President also gets positive assessments when conservatives — and Republicans — are asked whether they trust him or the Republican-controlled Congress on several issues. That’s not necessarily the case for the public overall. In all the examples asked about, four in 10 say they trust neither of those two branches of government. Among those who choose between the two, the President has only a narrow edge (and sometimes no edge) over Congress on all issues, save immigration.

Any conflicts with the GOP Congress are yet to come, but many recognize that there may be difficulties ahead. For example, fewer than half the public expects Obamacare to be repealed this year, with Republicans only somewhat more optimistic. Less than one in ten overall think a repeal will happen in the next two months — 14% think it will never happen. As in previous polls, majorities of the public, whether they voted for or against the President, don't want Obamacare repealed unless a replacement for it is put in place at the same time.

See the rest of this week's YouGov/Economist Poll

YouGov/Economist Poll archives