Americans’ final verdict on Trump’s presidency

January 20, 2021, 4:15 PM UTC

One president leaves office as another while another takes on the job. His victory a surprise, Donald Trump never proved to be a popular president: his approval rating never reached 50% at any point during his term throughout his term. 

In public opinion terms, he did make gains in several areas - most notably the economy - on which his approval rating has always been positive. This week, as he exits the White House en route to Florida, 50% approve of his handling of the economy. 

Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov poll believe President Trump made progress improving the economy and cutting taxes, and to a lesser extent building the wall on the Southern border and heading towards peace in the Middle East. 

But there are other things the public views as unfinished – or not even begun.  

Most notably, nearly half the public thinks the President made no progress improving the way government works (45%), setting a high moral standard (49%), or improving the US image in the world (45%). In contrast, about half expect that incoming President Joe Biden will improve America’s image in the world (51%), and 44% think he will make improve U.S. relations with its allies. 

The outgoing president faces public criticism on a personal level, too, as has frequently been the case in the last four years. Less than a third (31%) see Trump as honest and trustworthy. Half the country (51%) say they don’t like him “as a person”. 

About half (52%) are uneasy about his approach to handling international crises. While he is credited by most Americans as saying what he really believes, that too can get him into trouble. Only one in four (26%) found his Twitter postings appropriate.  

Most believe this was not a scandal-free presidency. Half of Republicans agree that there were at least a few scandals during his time in office.  

Many, particularly Republicans, expect there will be scandals in the Biden Administration, too. However, only about half the total that consider there to have been “many” Trump Administration scandals say there will be many while Biden is president.  

Americans don’t think that history will remember Donald Trump fondly. He will go down as a “below average” (10%) or even a “poor” (43%) president for many Americans. Republicans believe he will be seen as “outstanding” (31%) or “above average” (27%) but one in five Republicans put him in the below average (10%) or poor (9%) category. 

Donald Trump, having served only one term, is eligible to run again. But a majority of the Americans don’t want him to. By 55% to 37% the public says he should not be allowed to run for President again. One in five Republicans agree. 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov poll.  

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between January 16 - 19, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3.8% for the overall sample.