About a month after Donald Trump won the election that earned him the right to be the 45th president of the United States, Fox News ran a poll in which it set some expectations. How will history judge a Trump presidency, it asked: Above average? Below?
The results broke out fairly cleanly by party. About three-quarters of Republicans figured that he would be considered above average. About three-quarters of Democrats, below. The gap in the expectations by party was wider than for any other recent president. Only 10 percent of Democrats and 20 percent of Republicans figured he would be average. Among independents, 39 percent figured he’d be subpar.
In that context, the new Washington Post-ABC News poll released Sunday offers bad news for President Trump. Sure, we still found a wide partisan split, with more than three-quarters of Democrats viewing Trump’s job performance as worse than most past presidents (including a staggering 62 percent saying it’s much worse). But only 57 percent of Republicans said he’s doing better than average — including 43 percent saying he’s doing much better.
Trump is meeting Democrats’ low expectations, it seems, more than he’s meeting Republicans’ high ones.
Overall, half the country thinks he’s performing worse than most past presidents, with nearly 4 in 10 saying he’s doing much worse. Twenty-three percent of Americans say he’s doing better.
Broadly, answers to this question map job approval, in that Democrats think Trump’s doing a poor job and Republicans a good one. But this also tracks enthusiasm, to some extent: Republicans may approve of the job he’s doing, but nearly a third, 30 percent, think it’s about the same as other past presidents.
That same gap appears by ideology, too. The conservative Republicans who are critical of Trump’s political stability are much, much more likely than Democrats to say that he’s doing better than past presidents. But the partisans at the other end of the political spectrum view him much more negatively compared with past presidents than conservative Republicans view him positively: 86 percent of them say he’s worse than other presidents, including 7 in 10 who describe Trump as much worse.
Trump’s presidency depends to a large extent on robust support from white men and women without college degrees, who flocked to support his candidacy in a way that they hadn’t done with the GOP candidate four years earlier.
Among those Americans, though, reviews are mixed. White men without college degrees view Trump’s tenure most favorably in comparison to past presidents, with about 4 in 10 saying he’s doing better than presidents in the past. The remainder are split between doing the same and doing worse. A bit more than 4 in 10 white women without degrees, though, see him as doing worse.
When asked how Trump’s doing in achieving his goals, though, something interesting happens. A majority of Americans say he’s not making much progress toward accomplishing his goals. But the expected partisan split here is more even. A bit fewer than three-quarters of Democrats say he isn’t making much progress; a bit fewer than three-quarters of Republicans say he is.
The belief that he’s making real progress is high among conservative Republicans, as you might expect: Within that group, 80 percent think he’s making headway. It’s not as high among white evangelical Christians, with 55 percent of that group saying he’s making significant progress.
A core group of Trump’s support, white men without college degrees, is also the only breakdown of education and gender in which a majority thinks he’s making significant progress in achieving his goals. In every other breakdown of education and gender among white voters, more think he’s not making significant progress than think he is.
The implication? Americans are skeptical of the dealmaker in chief’s ability to get the job done so far, with the exception of his core base of support.
More broadly, though, that base is less likely to see him as an exceptionally good president than his opponents are to see him as exceptionally bad. For other presidents, being seen by his base of support as simply getting the job done would probably be enough. For Trump? He may not have a choice but to accept that humbler verdict.