The chart shows the most frequent words used, grouping together similar categories. The top group at 9 percent described Trump as “strong,” “determined” or “bold.” But three of the top five categories include far harsher words including “arrogant,” “incompetent” and “idiotic,” each chosen by between 6 and 8 percent of adults.
Another 6 percent praise Trump as “good,” “great” or the “greatest,” but the rest of the top 10 categories tilt more negative, going from “bad” to “buffoon” to a word that starts with “a” and ends with “hole.” Some 2 percent call Trump a racist or a Nazi. While a small percentage, these still rank among the most common single-word descriptors.
The prevalence of intense, personal one-word insults of Trump are somewhat more acidic than criticisms of Barack Obama in the run-up to his 2012 reelection bid. Then, the most common negative words Americans offered included “failed,” “incompetent,” “disappointing,” “liar” and “socialist.” In another contrast, Trump’s biggest positive relates to strength, while Obama’s included “good” and “tries” at that time.
Turning back to Trump, the rest of the top 20 one-word descriptions is filled with more positive or neutral terms, including those complimenting Trump’s “honesty” or “patriotism.” Others describe Trump as “outspoken” and say the word “change,” relatively neutral terms but more often cited by his supporters.
Altogether, 51 percent of Americans’ one-word descriptions of Trump have a traditionally negative connotation while less than half as many are clearly positive, 23 percent, and 18 percent offer a neutral one-word term for Trump.
The negative margin is more lopsided than Trump’s approval rating in the Post-ABC poll, which was 39 percent with 57 percent disapproving. But the margin is not far from the margin of “strong” views of Trump — 26 percent “strongly approve” of his job performance while 48 percent “strongly disapprove.”
The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted Sept. 18-21 among a random national sample of 1,002 adults reached on cellular and landline phones. Overall results carrying a plus or minus 3.5-point margin of sampling error.
Emily Guskin contributed to this report.