The Post-ABC News poll has mostly bad news for President-elect Donald Trump. He starts his presidency at a stunning, low approval rate of 40 percent of adults, with 54 percent having an unfavorable opinion. Of the 54 percent, 41 percent have a strongly unfavorable opinion of him. By an identical margin of 54 percent to 40 percent, Americans don’t like the job he has done during the transition. A remarkable 52 percent still don’t think he is qualified to be president; a much larger share of Americans (61 percent) have “just some” or “no” confidence he can do the job. He gets bad marks on his Cabinet picks (48 percent negative, 40 percent positive).
The better news comes when respondents are asked if he will perform well on individual issues, especially the economy (61 percent) and jobs (59 percent). Here he gets his worst marks for how he might handle international crises (53 percent are negative, 44 percent are positive). The again, when asked whether they agree with a number of positions he has stated, large numbers of voters are negative. Building a wall gets 60 percent disapproval, banning Muslims is rejected by 63 percent, and pulling out of climate control agreements draws a rebuke from 56 percent. He has plenty of support for renegotiating NAFTA and stopping companies from sending jobs overseas — which spells trouble if you think he doesn’t have a ghost of a chance of accomplishing these. The idea of giving tax breaks to developers to build infrastructure gets thumbs down from 66 percent. Tax cuts for the rich are hugely unpopular (61 percent). In a similar finding, a poll for Harvard and Politico found that “only 39% of Trump voters and 22% of the general public believe corporate taxes should be lowered. Only 18% of Trump voters and 13% of the public think taxes on upper income Americans should be lowered.” That’s going to be a problem when voters find out his plan disproportionately benefits the rich.
When it comes to Obamacare, the public is evenly divided between wanting to repeal (47 percent) and wanting to keep (46 percent) it. However, Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to repealing it before a new plan is in place. (Sixty-six percent want repeal and passage of a new plan simultaneously.)
There is a mixed bag for Trump on Russia. An overwhelming number think Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic National Committee and John Podesta; of those, 71 percent say the hacking was done for Trump’s benefit. When it comes to how Trump has handled it, 54 percent disapprove, perhaps a sign the intelligence community is a lot more popular than he is. A slight plurality (43 percent) think he is too friendly with Russia, and 40 percent do not — although the poll was taken before he kicked NATO in the teeth and suggested unilaterally lifting sanctions on Russia.
A large percentage of voters think he needs to release his tax returns (61 percent), but a majority don’t think he needs to sell his business. If critics want to argue he should, they will need to do more to educate the public about corruption, self-dealing and the emoluments clause.
The big surprise: A plurality think the media is treating Trump fairly (49 percent to 47 percent), but a large majority think Trump is being unfair to the media (38 percent to 57 percent). Maybe it took Donald Trump to get Americans to appreciate the press. In all seriousness, Trump’s bully-boy routine may be getting old.
From all this we can say Trump is on rather thin ice with voters. They expect great things but are gloomy about his ability to govern and do a good job. They don’t like him concealing his taxes and they are pretty sure Russia helped him out in the election. Trump may find out that expectations about his conduct and ethics rise once he becomes president. If he doesn’t rise to the occasion, Republicans will be less inclined to follow him and the midterms could prove dicey.