Two years into Donald Trump’s presidency and after a month-plus partial shutdown, a wide deficit of confidence marks public views of the government in Washington: Americans give poor marks to Trump’s work across a range of issues – yet broadly mistrust the opposition as well.
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Only 35 percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll express confidence in Trump to make the right decisions for the country’s future; 64 percent don’t trust him in this central task. But it’s no better for the Democrats in Congress: 34-65 percent; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: 30-62 percent; or the Republicans in Congress: 30-69 percent.
That said, Trump leads the pack in negative intensity: Nearly half of Americans -- 48 percent -- say they have no confidence “at all” in the president compared with 37 percent who say that about Pelosi. Thirty percent have no confidence in Republican lawmakers in Congress versus 29 percent for the Democrats.
The poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds Trump underperforming the tepid expectations that greeted him when he took office. In the biggest gap, 50 percent of Americans expected him to do a good job handling the deficit; just 33 percent say he’s in fact doing so, a 17-point deficit. He likewise trails expectations by 12 percentage points on handling the economy, 11 points on health care and four to nine points on a range of other issues.
Trump’s challenges extend to his personal ratings as well. Just 32 percent see him favorably as a person (59 percent unfavorably), a scant 2 points from Bill Clinton’s record low favorability at the height of the sex scandal that led to his impeachment.
Even then, Clinton’s job approval at the time was 64 percent. Trump’s is 37 percent, as reported Friday, the lowest on record for a president at this point in office in polls back 72 years.
The public divides about evenly on whether Trump is a strong leader – then goes sour on other scores. Majorities from 56 to 65 percent rate him negatively on having brought “needed change” to Washington, having the right personality and temperament for the office, being a good political dealmaker, being honest and trustworthy and understanding the problems of people like them.
That last item, empathy for others, can provide cushioning for a politician when the chips are down, as it did for Clinton and Barack Obama alike. Numerically, it’s Trump’s weakest attribute.
Demonstrating the importance of perceived empathy, among those who think Trump understands their problems, 91 percent also approve of his work in office, compared with just 9 percent of those who don’t think he understands them.
Still, even parts of his base find Trump unlikable: 29 percent of evangelical white Protestants, 24 percent of strong conservatives and 22 percent of Republicans see him unfavorably as a person. Unfavorably soars, of course, among his political detractors.
Then there’s the gender gap. As reported Friday, a new low of 27 percent of women approve of Trump’s job performance, compared with 49 percent of men, a vast gender gap. It holds on other measures as well. Men rate Trump more positively than women across personal attributes; in the biggest split, 48 percent of men say Trump is good at making political deals, while 25 percent of women agree.
Similarly, 43 percent of men have confidence in Trump to make the right decisions for the country’s future, vs. just 28 percent of women. Indeed, 57 percent of women have no confidence in him at all, compared with 39 percent of men.
And – in the most basic measure of personal popularity – 42 percent of men but only 24 percent of women see Trump favorably as a person. Instead 55 percent of women see him “strongly” unfavorably vs. 35 percent of men.
Gender divisions exist even within party lines. Among Democratic men, for instance, 21 percent see Trump favorably as a person. Among Democratic women, it’s 5 percent. (There’s also a 16-point gap between independent men and women.)
On issues, as noted, Trump’s underperformance vs. expectations when he took office is biggest in terms of handling the federal deficit and the economy – and his shortfalls on these reach across party lines. While 87 percent of Republicans expected him to do an excellent or good job on the deficit, 67 percent now think he’s done so, a 20-point gap. (It’s 25 points among independents and 12 points among Democrats.) On the economy, he trails expectations by 12 points among Democrats, 18 points among independents and 8 points in his own party.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Jan. 21-24, 2019, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 32-24-37 percent, 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.
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