A year after his surprise election victory, President Donald Trump is underperforming expectations and lagging behind his predecessors, with the lowest job approval of any postwar president at this point in office, broad distrust across a range of issues and majority belief that he’s not delivering on his campaign promises.
Yet for all his shortcomings, Trump runs a dead heat with Hillary Clinton among 2016 voters in a hypothetical rematch in this ABC News/Washington Post poll, underscoring Clinton’s own enduring unpopularity. Ninety-one percent of Trump voters say they’d support him again (albeit down from 96 percent in April). And marking a still-struggling opposition, 61 percent of Americans say Democratic leaders are mainly criticizing Trump, not presenting alternatives.
Democratic disarray, though, doesn’t negate Trump’s own challenges. Just 37 percent of Americans approve of his job performance, the lowest for any president at nine months in office in polling dating to 1946. Fifty-nine percent disapprove, numerically a new high for this president, but essentially unchanged since summer. Half disapprove “strongly,” another high — twice as many as strongly approve.
And Trump has big deficits on key issues and personal attributes alike. Consider these results from this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates:
Even with muted expectations when he took office, moreover, Trump’s falling short. At the time of his inauguration, for example, 61 percent expected him to do an excellent or good job handling the economy. Today just 44 percent say he’s doing so, a 17-point dropoff.
Similarly, 44 percent expected Trump to do well improving the health care system, while now just 26 percent say he’s delivering on this issue. He’s 13 points below expectations on dealing with terrorism — 56 percent expected good work, 43 percent say he’s delivering it. And while just 40 percent expected Trump to do a good job handling race relations, again many fewer, 28 percent, say he’s actually doing so.
As noted in previous analyses from this survey in the last few days, Americans by 56-34 percent give a negative rating to Trump’s efforts to improve the federal tax system. Further, only three in 10 think the full extent of wrongdoing in Trump’s presidential campaign has been disclosed, just 37 percent think he’s cooperating with investigators — and, in a sharply partisan result, 49 percent think it’s likely that the president himself committed a crime in connection with possible Russian attempts to influence the election.
Declines from expectations of Trump last January to his performance ratings now are broadly based, but steepest in a few groups. In the biggest shortfall, 66 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds expected him to do an excellent or good job handling the economy; just 34 percent say that’s now occurring. He’s also underperforming economic expectations by 25 points among independents, 23 points among suburbanites and 16 points among college-educated white women.
Trump’s troubles extend further. Fifty-five percent of Americans think he’s biased against women, including 59 percent of women; and 50 percent think he’s biased against blacks — including an overwhelming 73 percent of blacks themselves. His approval rating among blacks is just 11 percent; among women, 34 percent. But he’s underwater among whites (46 percent approval) and men (40 percent) as well. The gender gap indeed is it’s smallest of his presidency.
On another policy matter, moreover, 59 percent think he’s trying to make the current federal health care law fail — and 85 percent of them oppose his doing that.
Within his party, Trump has company from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has a mere 25 percent approval rating, with 51 percent disapproval (another quarter have no opinion). Regardless, Republicans and GOP-leaning independents don’t see it as a time to band together; 71 percent of them say Republican leaders should speak out when they disagree with Trump, up from 62 percent during the primary campaign.
The president’s difficulties also are reflected in comparison with the election. Most strikingly, he won 81 percent of conservative voters a year ago — but has just 63 percent approval from conservatives now, a career low. Trump won 61 percent support from working-class white women, versus approval from just 46 percent in this group now. His approval rating lags his 2016 vote share among political independents by 13 points, among men by 12 points and among whites by 11 points.
Trump’s 13-point decline on strong leadership since April also is particularly noticeable among a few groups: college graduates, down 20 points to 31 percent; moderates, down 18 points to 33 percent; and those with $100,000-plus incomes, down 17 points to 37 percent.
Those groups, among others, also have soured on Trump’s temperament. Among all adults, 31 percent see him as having the personality and temperament needed to be an effective president, down 7 points in the last six months. Again that’s fallen most steeply among college graduates and $100,000-plus earners.
By historical standards, Trump’s approval rating at nine months isn’t just weak, but glaringly so. He’s seen more negatively than positively by a 22-point margin, 59 vs. 37 percent. Next closest at about this point was President Gerald Ford, -3 points. All others in polls dating to President Harry Truman were in positive territory; Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, for example, had a 17-point net positive rating a year after he first was elected, with 57 percent approving.
Approval ratings can be situational; President George W. Bush stood at a lofty 92 percent approval at this point in 2001, as the nation rallied behind him after the 9/11 attacks. That said, the average job approval rating for the previous 12 presidents at about nine months is 64 percent, and the median is 61 percent. Trump lags those benchmarks by 27 and 24 points, respectively.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Oct. 29-Nov. 1, 2017, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,005 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 31-23-38 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.
The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts. See details on the survey’s methodology here.