In the wake of his surprise presidential victory, Donald Trump's favorability ratings have spiked upward. They're still underwater at 42 percent, but they're higher than at any other point of the cycle. How did he win despite being viewed so negatively? Another new poll gives the answer: a messy campaign against a Democrat nearly as unpopular.
Gallup has been asking for Americans' opinions on Trump for longer than you may realize — a function of his long tenure in the public eye. Before the election, Trump's favorability rating had never topped 38 percent while he was a presidential candidate (although it was slightly higher in years past). After the election, he saw a big jump.
That's thanks to increases across the board, with people across the political spectrum willing to view him more positively.
Republicans who resigned themselves at the last minute to vote for their party's nominee helped push Trump over the top and showed the biggest rise in favorability. But even among Democrats, Trump is viewed slightly more positively. Or, I suppose, viewed slightly less terribly.
What happened? How could a guy so poorly regarded end up as president? As Gallup notes, no candidate viewed more negatively than his opponent has ever won before. New research from the Pew Research Center offers some hints.
First and foremost, Trump's lower approval rating wasn't that much lower, as we've seen. Voters were much less likely to say they were satisfied with the major-party options presented to them.
And among Hillary Clinton voters, the number was shockingly low.
Only a quarter of those who supported Clinton thought the options on the ballot were very or fairly satisfactory. That's lower than at any point in the past 30 years — including among supporters of Republican nominee Robert Dole in 1996.
Overall, voters see the campaign as remarkably negative. People generally think that there was more mudslinging now than in the past, but this year nearly everyone — 92 percent of respondents — agreed that this was the case.
When Pew asked people to grade the candidates' conduct, one-third gave Trump an F and one-fifth offered the same grade to Clinton. The number of As and Bs given to Clinton were about the norm for a losing candidate, but the number of As and Bs given Trump were lower than nearly any other candidate since 1988, winning or losing.
There's a deep split in expectations for the new president. Trump supporters — understandably surprised by and excited about the election results — are optimistic about Trump making change in Washington. More than half think he should work with Democrats to get things done, according to Pew.
Clinton voters — understandably surprised and disconcerted by the results — want Trump to work with Democrats, but think that Democrats should stand up to him even if it means that less gets done. (Even among those Clinton voters willing to give Trump a chance, 51 percent say the Democrats should stand up to the president-elect.)
An interesting footnote is that Trump's election coincides with a shift to the left by the Democratic Party. Since November 2008, about 60 percent of Republicans have said that they want their party to become more conservative. In 2008 through 2014, Democrats largely said they wanted a more moderate party. This year, the percentage seeking a more liberal Democratic Party has neared 50 percent.
Over most of his tenure, President Obama faced entrenched opposition from a Republican-controlled Congress backed by a Republican base that consistently disapproved of his job performance. Trump was lucky to creep past an also unpopular opponent on his way to winning the electoral vote. But despite the uptick in his favorability among Democrats, it seems as though the opposition is approaching Inauguration Day with a skeptical eye toward him.