A majority of Americans say President Trump has not accomplished much during his first nine months in office and they have delivered a report card that is far harsher even than the tepid expectations they set for his tenure when he was sworn into office, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News survey.
Approaching the first anniversary of his victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, Trump has an approval rating demonstrably lower than any previous chief executive at this point in his presidency over seven decades of polling. Fewer than 4 in 10 Americans — 37 percent — say they approve of the way he is handling his job.
Trump’s approval rating has changed little over the past four months, which have included tumultuous events, from hurricanes to legislative setbacks to indictments in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into the role Russia played in the 2016 campaign.
The president’s disapproval rating has reached 59 percent, with 50 percent saying they strongly disapprove of the job he is doing. While little changed since the summer, both represent the worst marks of his presidency.
He is the only president dating back to Harry S. Truman whose approval rating at this point in his presidency is net negative — by 22 points. The next worst recorded in that time was Bill Clinton, who had a net positive of 11 points by this time in his presidency.
Trump began his presidency with only modest expectations on the part of a public that was divided coming out of last year’s contentious election. Roughly 100 days into his presidency, 42 percent said he had accomplished a great deal or a good amount while in office. Today, that has declined to 35 percent.
Meanwhile, 65 percent say he has accomplished “not much” or “little or nothing.” This is up from 56 percent last spring. Forty-three percent of all Americans give him the lowest possible rating, saying he has accomplished “little or nothing.”
At the 100-day mark of Trump’s presidency last spring, Americans were split almost evenly on the question of whether he was keeping most of his major campaign promises, with 44 percent saying he was and 41 percent disagreeing. Today the verdict is more severe, with a majority (55 percent) saying he is not keeping most of those promises.
The public sees Democrats acting mostly as an opposition party, rather than offering ideas of their own. Asked whether the Democratic Party is presenting alternatives to Trump’s proposals or mainly criticizing the president, 61 percent said mainly criticizing, identical to the percentage who said this of Republican Party leaders one year after Obama’s election. Only a plurality of Democrats (47 percent) say their leaders are offering alternatives to Trump’s ideas.
Trump’s actions and behavior have drawn sharp criticism from a few members of his own party, most recently from Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona. Former president George W. Bush delivered a recent speech that, while never mentioning Trump by name, was seen as a rebuke of the way the president is conducting himself in office.
The Post-ABC News poll asked self-identified Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP whether they believed their party leaders should speak out when they disagree with the president. Overall, 71 percent said they should, with just 27 percent saying those leaders should avoid criticizing him, including 65 percent of Trump voters who say Republicans should air their disagreements.
On four key issues, Trump has not matched the early expectations for his presidency, and today, majorities — in some case strong majorities — give him negative reviews. Those issues are the economy, dealing with race relations, improving the health-care system and dealing with the threat of terrorism. (Part of this survey was conducted before the terrorist attack on Tuesday that left eight people dead in New York.)
The president has pointed to what he sees as significant accomplishments in the area of the economy, with the stock market at record levels, unemployment at 4.1 percent — a 17-year low — and growth in the two most recent quarters at 3 percent.
But the public gives him little credit for the state of the economy. Last January, 61 percent offered a positive assessment when asked how they thought he would handle the economy. Today, 44 percent give him positive marks, while 53 percent say he has not done well.
In January, a majority (56 percent) said they believed he would do an excellent or good job dealing with threats of terrorism. Today, 43 percent give him positive reviews.
Trump receives even lower ratings on race and health care. Fewer than 3 in 10 say he has done a good job dealing with race relations, which is 12 points below the 40 percent who said in January they thought he would handle race issues effectively. Half of all Americans say they believe Trump is biased against black people and slightly more (55 percent) say he is biased against women.
The racial assessment follows a backlash to Trump’s comments about the white supremacist rally in August in Charlottesville, where marchers chanted Nazi slogans and the ensuing violence left one woman dead and others injured. Two state police officers also died when their helicopter crashed after assisting in the unrest. Trump was slow to condemn the marchers and at one point said there were “very fine people” among the neo-Nazi demonstrators.
In January, 44 percent said they expected him to handle the issue of health care effectively, including 87 percent of Republicans. Optimism has faded sharply, with 26 percent of Americans and 59 percent of Republicans giving him positive marks today. The overall percentage offering a negative assessment has jumped from 51 percent in January to 70 percent today, including 47 percent who give him the lowest rating, “poor.”
Political independents have soured the most considering Trump’s pre-inaugural expectations and current ratings. The percentage of independents saying Trump is doing a good job on the economy, race relations and health care is more than 20 points lower than the percentage that expected him to perform well in January. On terrorism, today’s ratings are 17 points below early expectations among independents.
Congressional Republicans were stymied in their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, despite years of promises to do so. The House, after first failing to pass a bill, eventually approved a measure and sent it to the Senate. Senate Republican leaders struggled to get a health bill to the floor for consideration. When they did, they fell short of the necessary majority needed to keep the process moving.
Throughout that process, Trump prodded the Republican leadership, principally Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), with demeaning tweets demanding action. Ever since the effort broke down, Trump has attempted to focus the ire of disappointed conservatives on those congressional Republicans, but the failed effort also appears to have taken a toll on him.
A solid majority (59 percent) also see Trump as trying to make the federal health law fail. Less than one-tenth of the public says they support those efforts to scuttle the law through executive actions, while overall, 50 percent of the public opposes what they see as Trump undermining the existing program.
As tensions mount over North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon and delivery system capable of hitting the United States, the public has little trust in the president to handle the problem responsibly. A majority (51 percent) say they trust him “not at all” on this national security issue and 16 percent say they trust him “just some.” Meanwhile, 32 percent say they trust him “a great deal” or “a good amount.”
Other measures highlight the degree to which Trump is governing with the support of a minority of the population. Four in 10 say he is a strong leader. That’s 13 points below the level in April. On this question, he has gone from a net positive of eight points to a net negative of 19 points. Roughly twice as many Americans say that under Trump, U.S. leadership in the world has gotten weaker rather than stronger, 53 to 26 percent.
Trump campaigned on his dealmaking ability, but the public doubts his ability to forge political agreements. Almost 6 in 10 say he is not good at making political deals while under 4 in 10 say he is good at making deals.
One-third say he is honest and trustworthy, down only marginally since April. On the question of whether he has the temperament and personality needed to serve as president, 31 percent say yes, while 66 percent say no. That is the lowest since August 2016, when candidate Trump was embroiled in a controversy with a Gold Star family.
A minority of 37 percent say he understands the problems “of people like you,” unchanged since last spring, while 42 percent say he has brought needed change to Washington, marginally better than when last measured two months ago.
Of those Americans who say they voted in 2016, 46 percent say they supported Clinton, and 43 percent say they backed Trump. If an election were held today, with the same candidates, 40 percent of those 2016 voters say they would back Trump, and 40 percent say they would support Clinton.
Trump has succeeded in satisfying voters who elected him president but few others. Voters who supported Trump continue to be overwhelmingly supportive, with 91 percent approving of his performance, including 69 percent “strongly.” A still larger 95 percent of Clinton voters disapprove of him, with 88 percent who feel that way strongly. Among those who supported neither candidate — or did not vote — 24 percent approve of Trump while 68 percent disapprove.
The Post-ABC poll was conducted Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 among a random national sample of 1,005 adults reached on cell and landline phones with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Emily Guskin contributed to this report.