GW Battleground Poll Shows Widespread Concern about Trump’s Behavior

More than 60 percent of registered voters polled said the country is on the wrong track.

battleground poll
August 24, 2017

There is widespread national concern about President Donald Trump’s public discourse and behavior, according to the latest George Washington University Battleground Poll.

The survey, taken Aug. 13-17, found 71 percent of voters agreed Mr. Trump’s “behavior is not what I expect from a president,” and 68 percent agreed his “words and actions could get us accidentally involved in an international conflict.”

More than 60 percent of the registered voters polled said the country is on the wrong track, and 56 percent had an unfavorable view of Mr. Trump (41 percent favorable). A similar number disapproved of the job he’s doing as president (55 percent), while 42 percent approved, and 56 percent also said he has not been effective as the president, while 39 percent said he has been effective.

“The Battleground Poll data show that more Americans object to President Trump’s character than his agenda,” said GW Associate Professor of Political Management Michael Cornfield. “If there is anything approaching a consensus in today’s sharply divided America, it’s that Trump speaks and behaves inappropriately given the office he holds.”

When asked about his actions on current affairs, 50 percent approve of his handling of the economy (46 disapprove). Foreign affairs were not as positive: 53 percent of voters surveyed disapproved of the president’s approach to relations with North Korea (43 percent approved). About 50 percent of voters agreed Mr. Trump has been keeping his campaign promises (44 disagreed).

Negative Views of Congress
Voters held congressional leaders in similarly low regard, according to the poll.

Views of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) were unfavorable (48 percent) with 36 percent viewing him positively. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) received less praise than Mr. Ryan: 46 percent of voters view Mr. McConnell unfavorably, while 19 percent see him favorably.

Among Democratic leadership, 50 percent of poll respondents viewed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) unfavorably and 34 percent were favorable toward her. Views of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) were mixed (27 percent favorable, 29 unfavorable), although he had lower name recognition (29 percent had never heard of him).

Other legislators with national profiles fared better.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) enjoyed a considerably higher favorability rating of 53 percent, with 36 percent of those polled holding an unfavorable view. Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had mostly favorable results (52 percent favorable, 39 unfavorable) and newly prominent Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) received more positive responses than not (16 vs. 9 percent), but 62 percent had never heard of her.

“In the 2016 election, a notable portion of the electorate had a negative impression of Trump but still voted for him. These voters decided the alternative was even worse or that they could endure some boorish behavior in exchange for substantial changes in Washington,” said pollster Ed Goeas, president and CEO of The Tarrance Group.

“In the 2018 election, Republican candidates will have a similar opportunity to provide voters with both the opportunity to continue making changes for the better on issues that matter while avoiding the failed policies of the past that the Democrats will be offering.”

Parties Split on Most Issues
The GW Battleground Poll hinted at possible congressional upheaval with the 2018 mid-term elections. Slightly more survey respondents chose Democrats (46 percent) than Republicans (40 percent) on a generic congressional ballot, and voters were evenly split on their current members of Congress (43 percent approve, 45 disapprove).

Of 10 issues listed in the survey, Democrats hold a lead in voter confidence on health care and climate change. More than half of voters said it was a good thing Congress did not repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Despite challenges with health care, the Republican Party held leads in voter confidence on trade and national defense. Respondents were virtually split on party preference on immigration, tax reform, economic development and North Korea. While the margins have closed, Republicans appear to lead on the issues of the economy and job creation, although the leads are still within the survey’s margin of error.

“With record-low favorability and job approval marks, Donald Trump’s turbulent first six months in office have become an even more profound force for division and polarization than many thought possible,” said pollster Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners. “Still, Trump’s missteps have not translated to unambiguous gains for the opposition party, with Democrats still desperately needing to establish more credibility on the central issue of jobs and the economy vis-à-vis the president and the Republican Party.”

Voters Say Campaign Acted Improperly
When asked about on the ongoing probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, most voters (a combined 55 percent) believed Trump campaign staffers behaved improperly. Thirty-three percent thought Trump campaign staffers likely committed crimes. Another 22 percent thought campaign staffers acted unethically but not criminally. Thirty-six percent of respondents said the president’s campaign staff behaved normally.

The survey indicates a large amount of voters may not be closely following the ongoing investigations on the topic. When asked about their view of Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller, 40 percent of voters hadn’t heard of him. Of those who had, more viewed him favorably (28 percent) than not (14).

The poll, which is distinguished from other surveys by its presentation of separate analyses from top pollsters representing both major U.S. political parties, surveyed 1,009 registered voters nationwide Aug. 13-17 and included a protocol for reaching mobile phone users. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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