Voters acknowledge the awfulness of Trump
President Trump managed to get elected without a popular-vote majority and without positive favorable ratings because he successfully stoked Clinton Derangement Syndrome. In retrospect, it’s stunning that he managed to convince voters that Hillary Clinton was the more corrupt, dishonest and unprincipled of the two. Without Clinton as a foil, however, voters have been able to focus more or less exclusively on Trump (although he periodically drags Clinton back into the conversation for no other reason than to argue that a Clinton administration would have been worse than the current circus, a proposition that becomes more far-fetched with each Trump controversy and misstep).
According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, voters are dismayed by what they see. For example, “58 – 37 percent [say] that he is not honest, compared to 61 – 34 percent April 4; 55 – 40 percent that he does not have good leadership skills, unchanged; 57 – 42 percent that he does not care about average Americans, little change; 63 – 33 percent that he is not level-headed, compared to 66 – 29 percent; 61 – 36 percent that he is a strong person, compared to 64 – 33 percent; 58 – 38 percent that he is intelligent, compared to 60 – 35 percent; 61 – 35 percent that he does not share their values, virtually unchanged.” The pollster concludes, “With only a slight bombing bump, President Donald Trump stays mired in miserable numbers. The first 100 days draw to a close with character flaws overwhelming his strongest traits, intelligence and strength as a person.”
The intensity of Trump’s critics (50 percent strongly disapprove, 28 percent strongly approve) is striking, as is his disapproval rating among nonwhite voters (67 percent say they strongly disapprove). Without older, male and white voters, his approval numbers would be atrocious. There is overwhelming disapproval of his performance among young people, women, college-educated voters and minority voters.
On individual issues, he gets the worst ratings on immigration (58 percent disapprove/39 percent approve), the environment (61 percent disapprove/31 percent approve) and foreign policy (56 percent disapprove/40 percent approve) in spite of his two best-received actions (striking Syria, dropping the mega-bomb in Afghanistan). Trump still gets relatively high marks from Republicans, but interestingly, he gets the least support on the environment — 15 to 20 points lower than he does on other issues. Perhaps even Republicans are squeamish about climate-change denial.
With no major legislative accomplishment, a failed travel ban and raging scandals over his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia and his family’s lax financial ethics, these numbers might not seem all that surprising. As my colleague Glenn Kessler finds, “It’s rather silly for any president to suggest that his first 100 days somehow topped Roosevelt’s achievement. Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan and Obama are credited with significant legislative achievements early in their first terms, but much of their success generally came after the first 100 days. Trump would be well advised to not make such a big deal about this because the available evidence shows that he in no way comes close to matching FDR’s record.” Despite Trump’s insistence that his first 100 days have been a triumph, neither the facts nor public perception supports that interpretation.
The bigger problem for Trump and the GOP may be that this is the high-water mark for his “accomplishments.” Unless one thinks he will succeed on the second go-round on health care, come upon a tax reform plan after months of delay, devise coherent policies on Syria and North Korea to follow up on chest-thumping and come out of the Russia investigations smelling like a rose, there is reason to believe things will get worse, not better.