Half the public, 51%, say the events of the past week in Washington, D.C., left them less confident in the stability of democracy in the United States. That said, just 20% are pessimistic about the future of the U.S. system of government, about the average in polling back to the 1970s.
Further, while Trump’s claims of widespread fraud have raised fears he would undermine confidence in U.S. elections, Americans by 2-1, 62-31%, see no solid evidence for these claims. And the public by 63-36% expresses confidence in the electoral system overall. At the same time, confidence in the electoral system dives to 35% among Republicans, and, following their leader’s line, 65% of Republicans say they think there’s solid evidence of fraud.
The poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds Trump leaving office with a 38% job approval rating; 60% disapprove, matching (but not exceeding) his peak disapproval in August 2018. His career average approval rating is the lowest for any president in modern polling, back to 1939, and he is the first president in that time never to achieve majority approval at any point.
Fifty-nine percent expect him to be seen in history as a below-average president, including nearly half, 48%, who rate his tenure as “poor,” the most in polling dating to Gerald Ford in 1976. As noted, 56% favor Congress removing him from the presidency and barring him from holding elected office again – exceeding the 47% who supported his removal from office in his first impeachment last year.
Looking ahead, Americans by a wide margin say Republican officials should lead the party in a different direction rather than follow Trump’s leadership, 69-26%. But just among Republicans, a majority, 60%, wants to continue to follow Trump -- sharply fewer than in the past (83% in a similar question in 2018), but still marking the risk of a Trump/no Trump schism within the party.
Indeed, while 52% of all Americans say Republican leaders who supported Trump’s effort to overturn the election “went too far,” just 16% of Republicans say so, compared with 81% of Democrats and 54% of independents. And Trump maintains a 79% job approval rating in his own party, with 64% approving strongly.
The challenge for the Republicans, in what may or not be their post-Trump era, is how to straddle that continued in-party approval for the president with views outside the base. Among the predominant political group, independents -- often swing voters -- approval of Trump plummets to 35%, with 62% disapproving.
Given the sharp differences on most political issues between partisan groups, one result in the survey stands out for its level of agreement: Eighty-nine percent of Americans oppose the actions of the people who stormed the Capitol, including 80% who are strongly opposed. Eight percent are in support, with strong support at 5%.
Support for those who stormed the Capitol reaches 15% among conservatives and Republicans alike, and 19% among people who approve of Trump’s job performance. Still, even among Trump approvers, 76% are opposed, including 60% strongly opposed.
Partisan and ideological gaps widen on other issues. Sixty-six percent of Republicans think Trump has acted responsibly since the election; 26% of independents and 5% of Democrats agree. Similarly, 65% of Republicans think there is solid evidence for Trump’s claims of voter fraud, falling to three in 10 independents and 4% of Democrats.
When it comes to the events of the past week, 42% of Republicans think Trump bears at least some responsibility for the attack on the U.S. Capitol; that rises sharply to 72% of independents and 93% of Democrats. Many fewer Republicans, 12%, think Congress should remove Trump from office and disqualify him from holding elected office in the future, vs. nearly six in 10 independents and nine in 10 Democrats.
In terms of Trump’s legacy, three in 10 conservatives and a quarter of Republicans think he’ll go down in history as a below average president. That compares with 60% of independents, 71% of moderates, 86% of liberals and 89% of Democrats.
Even with his comparatively higher support among Republicans, fewer respondents report having voted for Trump than actually did in November, suggesting that some one-time supporters are shying away from him -- further evidenced by 19% disapproval in his own party, near his career high. Indeed, in recalled vote, Trump’s support is comparatively low among non-conservative Republicans, who also are more critical than their conservative counterparts of his post-election actions. (Note, though, that the sample size of non-conservative Republicans is a small one; 72% of Republicans identify themselves as conservatives.)
Those who report having voted for Trump two and a half months ago, by contrast, by and large are not expressing buyer’s remorse: Ninety-one percent in this group say if the election were rerun today, they’d vote for him again.
Trump’s approval rating is down 6 points from the last national ABC/Post poll in October. In contrast, most recent outgoing presidents have seen a bump in approval in their final days -- +5 points for Barack Obama in the last ABC/Post survey of his presidency, +5 for Bill Clinton and +7 for George Bush. Approval of George W. Bush, struggling with economic crisis and the unpopular war in Iraq, was just +3 points from December 2008, but +10 from the previous October.
Several elements of Trump’s closing approval rating stand out:
Whatever Trump’s role in the nation’s political future, the results make clear that his presidency -- and especially the events of last week -- have left deep divisions, not only in political attitudes, but also in views of American democracy. While, as noted, just 20% are outright pessimistic about the U.S. system of government, only 30% are optimistic -- near the low, and well off the average in polls back 46 years, 43%. The plurality, 48%, is uncertain.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Jan. 10-13, 2021, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. Results have a margins of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points, including design effects. Partisan divisions are 31-25-36%, Democrats-Republicans-independents.
The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Md. See details on the survey’s methodology here.