New polling data on Trump’s favorability

Donald Trump is unpopular. If you’ve read any of the wonkier election or polling coverage in the last 18 or so months, that shouldn’t be a surprise. But what, exactly, do people like—and dislike—about Trump? Quinnipiac recently did some polling that sheds light on these two questions.


If you just go by the topline numbers, most respondents disapproved of Trump’s handling of most issues.

Voters gave Trump a lower grade on healthcare, immigration, trade, and race relations than they did on his job performance as a whole. On most of these issues, almost all Democrats (and a notable minority of Republicans) disapproved of his performance, while a minority of Independents and most Republicans approved. That adds up to issue-specific approval ratings that fall below his overall rating.

Trump does somewhat better on foreign policy and taxes. His approval rating on taxes have been, according to Quinnipiac, generally rising since the beginning of the year. That makes sense intuitively—Trump signed a traditional Republican tax reform law late last year and the GOP seems to have warmed up to it since then. His’s gains in foreign policy are more recent, and they can probably be tied to the Singapore summit and his general strategy towards North Korea. Trump’s recent foreign policy moves may or may not be good policy, but for now they appear at least to be decent politics.

There’s only one area of policy where Trump is above water: the economy. That shouldn’t be a surprise. The economy has been solid for more or less all of the Trump administration, and voters have been giving him some credit for that since the beginning of his administration.

The overall picture on policy is simple—voters mostly (with the exception of the economy) don’t like how Trump has handled major issues, though recent moves on taxes and foreign policy have allowed him to improve his position a bit.


On character, the story is a little bit different.


This graphic tells a pretty simple story, too. Each bar shows his net (positive minus negative) rating on a specific character trait. So if voters generally say “Yes, Trump is/has [insert trait]” the bar will stretch to the right and if more say “No, Trump is not / doesn’t have [insert trait/skill]” then the bar will run to the left of zero.

Trump scores poorly on competence, morality, and empathy. Most voters think he doesn’t care about the average American and that he lacks leadership skills. Maybe most notably, 49 percent of Americans believe that the president is a racist, while just 47 percent don’t.

These numbers can’t just be explained by pointing to the Trump administration’s recent policy disaster on o family separations of illegal immigrants. Quinnipiac found that the exact same percentage of voters (49 percent) believed that Trump was a racist in February of 2018. And during the 2016 general election, fully 44 percent of respondents told a Suffolk that they believed that Trump was a racist. Put simply, Trump’s views on race have been a live political issue issue for a while, and the poll suggests that that’s still the case.

His two most positive numbers are intelligence and strength. Nearly all Republicans and most Independents agree that Trump is smart and strong, as do a sizable minority of Democrats.

Taken together, these numbers tell us a lot about how voters feel about Trump. Voters agree that he’s smart and strong, and he gets relatively good marks on the economy. But many voters also disapprove of how he’s handled racial issues, and they have concerns about his level of empathy and leadership ability. Obviously these numbers can change, but for now they provide insights into what voters think of the president.

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