Most Trump Job Evaluations Are Strongly Held Opinions

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The FINANCIAL — Since mid-February, 42% of all Americans have approved of the job President Donald Trump is doing, while 53% have disapproved. Substantially more Americans disapprove strongly (41%) than approve strongly (27%).

In the 80 times Gallup has asked strength of presidential job approval from 1965 through 2014, an average of 49% of those approving of the president and 62% of those disapproving of him have done so strongly. The fact that more people who disapprove of Trump have strong opinions than do those who approve of him is consistent with historical patterns. However, both the proportions of strong approvers (64%) and strong disapprovers (77%) of Trump far exceed historical norms based on available data, according to Gallup.

Americans have tended to have stronger opinions of the most recent presidents, but Trump’s early figures still exceed the averages for George W. Bush and Barack Obama. On the occasions when the strong/not strong follow-up was asked during Bush’s and Obama’s terms, an average of 57% of those who approved did so strongly, and an average of 72% who disapproved did so strongly.

Gallup does not have comparable data on strength of job approval for presidents this early in their presidency. Prior to Trump, the earliest in a presidential administration that Gallup asked intensity of approval was in mid-March 1977. At that time, Jimmy Carter had a solid 75% job approval rating and only a 9% disapproval rating. Slightly more than half (56%) of those who approved of the job Carter was doing did so strongly; while slightly less than half (44%) of the relatively small proportion of those who disapproved of Carter strongly disapproved.

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Three-Quarters of Democrats Strongly Disapprove of Trump

Democrats are more likely to strongly disapprove (75%) of the job Trump is doing than Republicans are to strongly approve (65%). Twice as many independents strongly disapprove of Trump as strongly approve of him, 40% to 20%.

Among other key subgroups, the data show:

Eighty-five percent of those who describe their political views as “very liberal” strongly disapprove of Trump; 69% of those with “very conservative” views strongly approve of Trump.

Women are nearly twice as likely to strongly disapprove (47%) as to strongly approve (24%) of the way Trump is handling his job as president. Meanwhile, men tilt slightly more to strong disapproval (35%) than to strong approval (29%).

More than half of college graduates, 53%, strongly disapprove of Trump. That compares to slightly more than one in three non-college graduates (35%) who have the same opinion.

Nearly two in three blacks and nearly half of Hispanics strongly disapprove of the job Trump is doing.

Equal proportions of whites strongly approve (35%) and strongly disapprove (35%) of Trump’s performance as president.

Whites without a college degree — a key constituency in Trump’s winning coalition — are one of the few subgroups in which strong approval exceeds strong disapproval. Among this group, 39% strongly approves, and 27% strongly disapproves of the way Trump is doing his job.

Americans over age 50 are about equally likely to strongly approve as to strongly disapprove of Trump. Younger Americans are much more likely to strongly disapprove.

Implications

Trump won the presidential election even though more Americans had a negative opinion of him than a positive one. His approval rating has held below the majority level since he has been in office. Just over one month into his administration, more than two-thirds of Americans have strongly held opinions of the job he is doing.

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On Tuesday, Trump will deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress. And while that speech gives Trump an opportunity to improve his standing among Americans, it may be hard for him to enlarge his base of public support if opinions of him are already strongly held. Trump’s early job approval ratings already show high degrees of party polarization and may exceed the record Democratic-Republican differences seen under Obama.

As such, Trump, like Obama, may struggle to achieve and maintain majority approval from the public. Trump may have difficulty convincing congressional Republicans to support his legislative agenda if he is politically unpopular. With Democratic opposition to him appearing to be entrenched, it is critical that Trump maintain a high degree of Republican support in Congress.

 

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