America deeply polarized as Trump presidency hits six-month mark
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
President Donald Trump’s polls at the six-month mark shows discontent especially among Democrats. President Donald J. Trump | July 20, 2017 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
As President Donald Trump’s hits the six-month mark of his presidency, polarization in the nation is at an all-time high. ABC News and Washington Post released a new poll on Sunday, July 16, 2017, that looked at Trump’s approval rating and followed up with another poll released on Monday, July 17 examining his presidential behavior including his Twitter habits. A Gallup Poll released on July 21, also showed how Trump’s approval rating is below 40 percent mostly because he lacks almost any support from Democrats. According to the new ABC News poll, only 36 percent of Americans “approve of Trump’s job performance,” while the Gallup Poll has Trump approval rating for his second quarter as president at 38.8 percent. The results show that Trump is the most unpopular president at this point in his presidency than any other president in the last 70 years of polling mostly because the nation is the most polarized over Trump than ever in history.
Trump’s approval rate numbers are his lowest and six points lower than they were in April when he reached 100 days of his presidency. Trump has only a 36 percent approval rating in the new ABC News / Washington Post poll entitled “Six months in, the latest poll reveals a record low for Trump,” but a 58 percent disapproval rating. Americans however, approve of the president’s handling of the economy, 43 to 41 percent. According to the Gallup poll entitled “Trump Sets New Low for Second-Quarter Job Approval” Trump’s approval rating for the second quarter of his presidency from April 20 to July 19, is 38.8 percent. In his first quarter, Trump’s approval rating was 41.3 percent. Until President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May his daily tracking approval rating remained in the low 40s, but since then it has remained for the most part in the high 30s.
The only other modern president with such a low poll number at the six-month mark of their presidency was Gerald Ford with a higher, 39 percent in January 1975. Ford, however, was not elected, he became president after Republican Richard Nixon resigned from office, and he faced a backlash for pardoning the disgraced president over the Watergate scandal. Trump also makes a record for highest disapproval rate at the six-month mark, beating President Bill Clinton whose disapproval rating was 51 percent in July 1993.
Gallup does not include Ford in their list and claims Trump’s numbers at this time are closest to Clinton, who had a 44 percent approval rating. The rest of the post-World War II presidents saw over 50 percent approval ratings at the six-month mark, with the average at 62 percent. Looking at all presidential quarters Trump ranks 250th out of 287 quarters. The lower numbers were recorded in later parts of the embattled Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush presidencies.
The gap between Republicans and Democrats’ approval of the president is astounding. According to ABC News, 90 percent of Conservative Republicans and 82 percent of Republicans, in general, approve of the president’s job performance. Democrats overwhelmingly disapprove, with only 11 percent approving. Not many independents approve of the president either with only 32 percent feeling that way.
The Gallup poll shows an even more dramatic partisan divide, only 8 percent of Democrats approve of Trump, which is the lowest opposing party support in the modern history of presidential polling. Trump has support from 85 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of Independents. As Gallup indicates that is a 77 percent difference from members of either party. Gallup notes, “The high degree of political polarization in Trump’s approval ratings is one major reason why his overall ratings are historically low. Presidential job approval ratings have become increasingly polarized in recent presidential administrations, but the degree of party separation in Trump’s ratings reaches new extremes.”
Trump has had historically low approval ratings because he has not any support from Democrats, partisan support is key to higher approval ratings. The last two presidents Democrat Barack Obama and Republican George W. Bush had about 30 percent from the opposing parties. Obama had 28 percent of Republican approving his job in 2009, and Bush had 30 percent of Democrats in 2001, despite another contentious election, which was decided by the Supreme Court. Trump has a low approval rating from independents, lower than from previous presidents, where the average at 53 percent, only Carter had low support, with only 42 percent.
The partisan polarization has grown exponentially since Democrat Bill Clinton’s presidency, before and since the 1950s opposing parties used to give a high approval rating to new presidents, a minimum of over 40 percent. The situation changed with Clinton, who received just over 20 percent support from Republicans. Independents also abandoned Clinton with only 44 percent approving of him in 1993. Trump has a problem with Independents as well, with only 36 percent supporting him. Fortunately, for President Trump he has overwhelming support from his party, with 86 percent support whereas the average since 1953 has been 82 percent.
The ABC News poll also looked at Americans’ view of the issues that have plagued Trump ‘s presidency and cause his lagging numbers, the Russia election interference controversy, and the embattled Obama repeal and replace bill going through Congress. The public does not approve of the president’s son, “Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and campaign manager, Paul Manafort” having met with a Russian lawyer during the campaign to gain Intel on opponent Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton. The revelation and the Trump Jr.’s emails detailing the meeting set-up confirm that the Trump campaign was talking to Russia and looking for their help.
According to the poll, 63 percent of Americans found the meeting inappropriate. Americans now overwhelmingly believe Russia interfered in the presidential election with 60 percent responding that way, but 40 percent do not think there was any interference. Republicans, however, do not believe Russia helped Trump’s campaign with only 9 percent feeling that way. Meanwhile, a slight majority 52 percent believe the president is interfering with the investigation, while 37 percent believe he is not interfering.
In general, a majority, 55 percent of Americans do not believe Trump is succeeding in his agenda and campaign promises, while only 38 percent say he is making “progress.” One of the president’s biggest campaign promises to repeal and replace the Obamacare health care law is also turning into the young presidency’s biggest failure. Although the House of Representatives passed a bill, the American Health Care Act on the second try, the Senate was not satisfied with it. This past month, the Senate failed with two incarnations of the Better Care Act, without either going to a floor debate and vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell than planned to put to a vote a years old House bill that only repeals the health care and replace in two years time., that idea has not garnered enough support for a vote. Trump, however, is demanding that the Senate not only repeal Obamacare but also replace it before the August recess or else the recess should be canceled. Now the Senate with a vote on the House bill and will add amendments.
According to the ABC News poll, Americans prefer keeping Obamacare to any alternative; Congressional Republicans are floating 50–24 percent. The House and Senate bills both cut Medicaid funding for the states. The cuts were the main reason Republican senators came out against the bill, and they were in good company. According to the ABC News poll, 63 to 27 percent of Americans believe, “it’s more important to provide health care coverage for low-income Americans than to cut taxes.”
Americans are not very confident about the president representing the country on the world’s stage either. Around 75 percent of Americans do not trust the president to “negotiate with other world leaders” especially Russia’s Vladimir Putin. While 48 percent of Americans think, the country’s world image and reputation are weaker under Trump with only 27 percent saying, “it has gotten stronger.”
The mirror image is about the same, the world does not like Trump very much. According to a recent Pew Research Survey published on June 26, and entitled “U.S. Image Suffers as Publics Around World Question Trump’s Leadership” of the over 37 nations surveyed only 22 percent have confidence in President Trump, while 74 percent have no confidence. The numbers are a sharp contrast to those of Democratic President Barack Obama, where it was the reverse, 64 percent had confidence versus 23 percent saying no confidence at the end of his term in January. The favorable view of the US is also in decline, now it is only 49 percent with a 39 percent unfavorable view. When Obama left office, there was a 20-point difference, with a 69 percent favorable view and a 26 percent unfavorable view. Of the 37 countries polled, only Israel and Russia had a better opinion on Trump’s leadership versus Obama.
Democrats claim that the reason for disapproving President Trump’s job performance has less to do with what he does in office and more to do with his personality and character. Gallup and ABC News/ Washington Post conducted separate polls looking at the way Americans view the president personally. Gallup released their poll “Trump Disapproval Rooted in Character Concerns” on July 13, and according to findings, 65 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s personality and character, with previous presidents’ disapproval was grounded in policies and job performance.
According to Gallup, only 12 percent base their disapproval on Trump’s performance as president, with 16 percent basing it on policies and issues, but an overwhelming amount of 65 percent say it is his personality and personal characteristics. For Obama at the six-month mark, it was the reverse with 65 percent disapproving of him because of his policies, while it was split with George W. Bush between policies at 31 percent and performance at 43 percent.
Apparently, Trump’s personality was a benefit on the campaign trail but a hindrance to the presidency. As Gallup analyzes, “Trump’s unique personal style, brashness, and disregard for conventional political norms and discourse — while clearly a negative for many during the campaign — helped him stand out from other Republican contenders and ultimately contributed to his victory in November.”
Gallup broke it down and found that under character and personality related, 29 percent disapprove of President Trump because he comes across as “Not presidential/Bad temperament/Arrogant/Obnoxious,” 10 percent say he is “Inexperienced/Doesn’t know what he is doing.” Every other reason was all under 10 percent including “Looking out for himself/Doesn’t consider people’s needs,” “Use of social media/Twitter” and “Untrustworthy” all at 6 percent.
Although 16 percent of Americans cite issues and policies as their reason for disapproving the president, no single issue ranked at over 4 percent including foreign policy and health care, which only garnered 3 percent. According to the poll, 12 percent disapprove of Trump because of broad performance, yet no single reason registered above 7 percent, with the most saying it is because they “Disagree with what he is doing/Doing a poor job.”
In contrast, the reasons Americans approve of the president are almost evenly distributed among the three categories, 38 percent for broad performance, 33 percent for issues and policies and 24 percent for personality and personal characteristics. Only under broad performance does Trump get double digits for specific reasons, the highest is at 12 percent for “Doing a good job/best he can under difficult circumstances,” 11 percent for “Keeping his promises” and 10 percent for “does what is best for America.” The remainder is in the single digits for every category and they represent broad and general reasons.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll entitled “Public to Trump: Lay off Twitter (POLL)” also looked at Trump’s personality finding similar negative responses as Gallup’s poll. As ABC News noted, “70 percent say he’s acted in an unpresidential manner since taking office, 68 percent don’t see him as a positive role model and 67 percent disapprove of his use of Twitter.” Additionally, 57 percent “also say that the more they hear about Trump the less they like him, vs. 29 percent who like him more.” While 56 percent find his unpresidential behavior has a negative impact and is “damaging to the presidency overall.” Here even 38 percent of Republicans claim Trump has not behaved presidential. Only 24 percent of respondents find Trump’s behavior presidential.
Although Trump calls Twitter, his way to deliver his message directly to the American public while bypassing the news media, 67 percent of Americans disapprove of him using the social media site. Looking further at the president’s Twitter post, 68 percent said the tweets were inappropriate, 65 percent find them insulting, while 52 percent went further claiming the president’s tweets are dangerous. In contrast, of those supporting Trump’s tweets, 41 percent found them “interesting,” 36 percent “effective” and 21 percent went as far as saying they were “refreshing.”
Democrats, in particular, do not like or personally approve of the president and they also want him impeached a hope and call that started even before he entered the office and has only gotten louder since he fired Comey. A Monmouth University poll published on July 17, finds that only 39 percent approve of the president, while 52 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump. The poll asked about impeachment especially with the anger surrounding Trump’s son meeting with Russian operatives.
The poll says 40 percent of Americans want the president impeached over the Russia campaign interference controversy. Democrats represent the majority calling for impeachment with 70 percent, followed by 32 percent of independents and only 12 percent of Republicans. In 1973 at the start of the Watergate scandal, only 24 percent of Americans wanted President Richard Nixon impeached. A majority of Americans also found the Russia meeting “not appropriate” with 59 percent saying that, consisting of “86 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of independents, and 28 percent of Republicans.”
To be fair, the ABC News and Washington Post poll does not have a truly fair and bipartisan pool, which they surveyed. According to their methodology the poll was skewed with responses from 35% Democrats, 35% independents and only 23% Republicans. Naturally, Democrats and Democratically leaning Independents oppose Trump; they have never given him a chance since he was elected. For an entirely, non-biased survey, those responding had to be even distributing and independents had to be truly independent not leaning towards either party.
Americans do not feel any better about the Democrats than the y do about Trump, according to the ABC News / Washington Post poll, a majority of 52 percent said the Democrats “just stands against Trump.” Of Americans that feel that way about the party, 27 percent are Democrats, 55 percent are independents” and 82 percent are Republicans. Americans do feel Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote would not have been better than Trump. A new Bloomberg poll released on July 18, gave Trump a 41 percent approval rating, but Clinton had only a 39 percent approval rating. After a campaign, the losing party nominee’s ratings usually improve, but not Clinton partially because Trump keeps attacking her. Still, 20 percent of Clinton voters now say they did not like her and have an unfavorable view of her but only 6 percent of Trump voters feel the same.
In general, Americans are discontent with the current political situation, whether it is Trump, the Democrats, or the resistance movement. We are facing a political malaise not seen since the 1970s when Democrat Jimmy Carter named a speech those fateful and politically fatal words in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal and Richard Nixon’s ouster from the presidency earlier in the decade. On July 15, 1979, Carter delivered his Malaise speech to the nation, “The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our Nation. The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America….” His words could easily describe the problem the nation faces again today.
The United States now too is facing a crisis of confidence, but it is a crisis because of partisanship. Three different polls Gallup, Reuters, and even the Conservative Rasmussen Reports all indicate that Americans are overwhelmingly dissatisfied and believe the country is going on the wrong track, direction. According to the latest from Gallup from July 5–9, 2017, only 27 percent of Americans are satisfied with the country direction, while 71 percent are dissatisfied, up from 27 percent the month before. There have been lower numbers even in President Barack Obama’s time, in July 2016, October 2013, and from July 2011 to January 2012. The most recent Reuters poll published on July 20, has 58.8 percent of Americans saying the country is on the wrong track, with only 25.8 percent saying the country is moving in the right direction. The Rasmussen poll published on July 17, had similar results with 33 percent of respondents saying, “The country is heading in the right direction,” down from the mid- 40s when Trump first assumed office.
The partisanship is getting so extreme Democrats have no tolerance to speak even with Trump voters and supporters. A new Pew Research Center survey, entitled “Since Trump’s Election, Increased Attention to Politics — Especially Among Women” published on July 20, examined how Americans’ relationship to politics and friendships from opposing parties has affected them since Trump’s election. According to the poll, 47 percent of liberal Democrats find that if they had a friend that supported Trump it would put “a strain on their friendship.” Of all Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters, 35 percent say it causes a strain. The feeling is worst among White and College educated Democrats with 40 percent and 44 percent feeling that way.
Republicans are feeling in a good and forgiving mood with their party controlling the White House and only 13 percent say it would “strain on a friendship” if a Democratic friend voted for Hillary Clinton. Never mind a friendship, the partisan sentiment has become so toxic that “68 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters say they find it “stressful and frustrating” to talk to people who have a different opinion of Trump. About half — 52 percent — of Republican and GOP-leaning voters say the same.”
Americans are deeply polarized and unsatisfied with the current state of politics, with Democrats bearing the biggest burden and negative attitudes. The problem is that do not realize that the toxic atmosphere is just as bad as they deem the president is or even worse because it causes tensions in normal interactions. The deep polarization and negativity are not necessary, the economy is doing well and growing, the country and Americans are prospering even with Trump as president.
As long as the United States exists, one party will occupy the White House, while the other sits out on the sidelines. However, the Constitution guarantees elections for president every four years and for Congress every two years, guarantees freedoms for its citizens and a checks balance on each of the three branches of government. No matter Trump’s personality and character, nothing can affect the Constitution. If Americans are dissatisfied, they have put their efforts and strengths toward the next election rather than remain negative. As the polls indicate, no matter Trump’s future in the White House, he will go down in his as the most polarizing president to date.
Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.