• In-Depth Analysis

Special Report: The Trump Traits

Monday, July 8, 2019 By Bryan Bennett
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Special Report: The Trump Traits

What Do The American People Think About Trump?

Welcome to NAVIGATOR — a project designed to better understand the American public’s views on issues of the day and help advocates, elected officials, and other interested parties understand the language, imagery and messaging needed to make and win key policy arguments. This edition is a special report reviewing select data from national surveys conducted by Navigator from April 2018 to June 2019 tracking how the American public evaluates different traits of the President of the United States: Donald Trump. From health care to taxes to political reform and many other important issues facing the country, perceptions of the President are inextricably tied to how to win important policy arguments and progressives should be equipped on how to characterize Trump and his agenda.

Over the past year, Navigator has asked a series of questions to track how the public views President Trump on a variety of different dimensions. Some of the questions we have tracked over time include:

  • Does Trump want what is best for himself, or what is best for the country?
  • Does Trump put wealthy people first, or does he put working and middle class people first?
  • Is Trump bringing the wrong kind of change to Washington, or the right kind?
  • Is Trump bringing more corruption to Washington, or is he fixing corruption in Washington?
  • Has Trump mostly broken promises he made during the campaign, or mostly kept them?

This report will review how Americans have responded to these questions over time, and highlight notable demographic differences in responses to these metrics.

TRAIT: What’s Best for Himself, or What’s Best for the Country?

Most Americans believe President Trump wants what is best for himself more so than what’s best for the country.

In tracking this question over the last 14 months, Navigator has consistently found that by double-digit margins (rang- ing from 12% to 24%), a majority of Americans believe Trump prioritizes himself over the country, with the results in Navigator’s first poll matching the latest edition in June 2019, 59% to 41%.

Consistently throughout this report, we generally find that self-identified independents, people of color, women, white Americans with a college degree, and those outside the FoxHole (i.e., Republicans regularly watching Fox News – see our special report on this group here) agree Trump wants what is best for himself over those agreeing he wants what is best for the country:

TRAIT: For the Wealthy, or for Working and Middle Class People?

By a two to one margin, Americans think that Trump puts wealthy people first, not working and middle class people.

Over the course of the past nine months, we have tracked this question on four separate occasions and in each found that more than 60% of the public believes Trump prioritizes the wealthy over the middle class (66% in last month’s survey). While a divide often exists on Trump between college-educated and non-college educated whites, that difference is less pronounced for this particular dimension.

Among key demographic groups, those agreeing Trump puts wealthy people first over those agreeing he puts working and middle class people first:

TRAIT: Bringing the Right or Wrong Kind of Change to Washington?

A strong majority of the public thinks that Trump’s style of governing as President is bringing the wrong kind of change to Washington.

Donald Trump narrowly won the presidency in 2016 on campaign promises that he would be a disruptor and shake up the status quo, but most Americans think the change he has brought to Washington has been the wrong kind of change. Majorities in each of the five tracking surveys we have included this question on agree that Trump is bringing the wrong kind of change, with our latest survey finding Americans agree by an 18-point margin, 59% to 41%.

Among key demographic groups, those agreeing Trump is bringing the right kind of change to Washington over those agreeing Trump is bringing the wrong kind of change to Washington:

TRAIT: Bringing More Corruption to Washington, or Fixing It?

Just as most Americans think Trump is bringing the wrong kind of change to Washington, they also see him making it more corrupt by similar margins.

President Trump has consistently proclaimed that he is “draining the swamp” of corruption in Washington, yet the public believes, by double-digit margins, that he is doing the opposite. Over the course of tracking this question, Navigator has found that the margin believing he is bringing more corruption to Washington has actually inched up over the course of the past year from 57% in May 2018 to 61% when last asked in April this year.

Among key demographic groups, those agreeing Trump is bringing more corruption Washington over those agreeing Trump is fixing corruption in Washington:

TRAIT: Mostly Breaking Promises, or Mostly Keeping Them?

Unlike the other traits we have tracked over time, Americans are more split on whether President Trump is keeping or breaking his campaign promises.

In September, Navigator first asked whether Trump has kept his word from the 2016 campaign and found those saying he was mostly keeping the promises he made over those agreeing he was breaking them by a 12-point margin, 56% to 44%. However, in recent months, Navigator has revisited the question and found the percentage who believe he is breaking his promises has been trending in an upward trajectory from 44% in last September to 51% in June. The increase comes almost exclusively among whites, where only 39% thought he was breaking his campaign promises, which has increased by 7 points to 46%.

There are key demographic groups showing more of an even divide than other traits (In particular, women and white college educated Americans), but other groups still show a wider divide:

NEW TRAIT: Is Trump Doing Better Than Expected, or Worse?

In our first assessment on how Trump’s performance compares to people’s expectations, Trump is viewed as doing worse than expected by a significant margin.

We added a new trait in June that will be tracked over time to evaluate how Trump’s job performance compares to their expectations, and this month’s edition found that only 42% of Americans believe he is doing better than expected versus 58% who think he is doing worse than expected. 35% say that they both approve of President Trump overall and think he has exceeded expectations, while 50% both disapprove of Trump and think he has performed worse than expected.

While most of the key demographic groups are more likely than not to think Trump is doing worse than expected, a narrow majority of whites with a college degree think he is doing better than expected (53% better – 47% worse) while at the same time registering approval for Trump’s job performance at 45% approve – 53% disapprove.

APPENDIX: Summary of Trump Traits by Key Demographic Groups

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About Navigator

In a world where the news cycle is the length of a tweet, our leaders often lack the real-time public-sentiment analysis to shape the best approaches to talking about the issues that matter the most. Navigator is designed to act as a consistent, flexible, responsive tool to inform policy debates by conducting research and reliable guidance to inform allies, elected leaders, and the press. Navigator is a project led by pollsters from Global Strategy Group and GBAO along with an advisory committee, including: Andrea Purse, progressive strategist; Arkadi Gerney, The Hub Project; Joel Payne, The Hub Project; Christina Reynolds, EMILY’s List; Delvone Michael, Working Families; Felicia Wong, Roosevelt Institute; Mike Podhorzer, AFL-CIO; Jesse Ferguson, progressive strategist; Navin Nayak, Center for American Progress Action Fund; Stephanie Valencia, EquisLabs; and Melanie Newman, Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

For press inquiries contact: press@navigatorresearch.org