WASHINGTON — Donald Trump will become president Friday with an approval rating of just 40%, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll, the lowest of any recent president and 44 points below that of President Barack Obama, the 44th president.
Following a tumultuous transition period, approval ratings for Trump’s handling of the transition are more than 20 points below those for any of his three most recent predecessors. Obama took the oath in 2009 with an 84% approval rating, 67% approved of Clinton’s transition as of late December 1992 and 61% approved of George W. Bush’s transition just before he took office in January 2001.
Trump’s wobbly handling of the presidential transition has left most Americans with growing doubts that the President-elect will be able to handle the job. About 53% say Trump’s statements and actions since Election Day have made them less confident in his ability to handle the presidency, and the public is split evenly on whether Trump will be a good or poor president (48% on each side).
Rep. Sean Duffy, a Trump supporter, said the President-elect’s ongoing battle with the media has hurt his image.
“What’s happening here is the public fight that Mr. Trump is having with CNN and other media groups has taken some skin off his poll numbers and it’s gone down,” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo Tuesday on “New Day.”
Across all three of these measures, Americans’ impressions of Trump have worsened since November. In that time, disapproval of his handling of the transition has climbed seven points to 52%, the percentage who think he’ll do a good job has dropped five points, and the share saying they have lost confidence in Trump’s ability to be president grew 10 points.
Trump’s favorability rating, a measure often seen as a read on a public figure’s personality rather than the job he or she is doing, has taken less of a hit, decreasing by just 3 points to 44%. That change falls within the poll’s margin of sampling error and is not statistically significant.
Despite these declines, many Americans remain confident that Trump will achieve several signature campaign promises, with most saying it’s at least somewhat likely that he will impose tariffs on companies that manufacture goods in Mexico (71%), renegotiate NAFTA (61%) and create good-paying jobs in economically challenged areas (61%).
About half think Trump will be able to simplify the tax code (50%) or protect sensitive electronic information from theft by foreign governments (48%). Fewer, 44%, say it’s likely that Trump will be able to build a wall along the border with Mexico, and just 29% believe he will be able to get Mexico to reimburse the United States for the construction of the wall. About 4-in-10 think the President-elect will be able to defeat ISIS, down from 50% who said so in November.
More broadly, less than half say Trump’s priorities for the country reflect their own (46% say so), and the country is almost evenly divided on whether the policies he’s proposed will move the country in the right direction or the wrong one (48% right direction, 49% wrong direction).
The poll suggests the deep political divisions that drove the 2016 presidential campaign — between men and women, whites and racial minorities, those holding college degrees and those without and rural residents and those in more urban areas — continue unabated as Inauguration Day approaches.
Trump’s approval rating for handling the transition is almost 30 points higher among rural residents than it is among urbanites, nearly 20 points higher among men than women and among whites than non-whites, and 13 points higher among whites without degrees than among those who completed college.
The incoming vice president, Mike Pence, holds a narrowly net-positive favorability rating, 40% favorable to 37% unfavorable. Republicans rate Pence slightly lower than his new boss, 75% have a favorable view of the VP-to-be while 89% have a positive take on Trump. Among Democrats, however, Pence earns higher marks than Trump, 16% see him favorably vs. 9% who say so about Trump.
Opinions on Melania Trump are mixed, with a sizable share still unsure how they feel about the incoming first lady (36% favorable, 35% unfavorable, 28% unsure). And after a campaign in which she largely remained off the trail, most say they expect her to take on a mostly private role as first lady rather than a public one. About two-thirds (67%) say they see her remaining more in the background and focusing on her role as a mother and wife than being an advocate for issues and causes and hosting White House functions.
Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, who is moving to Washington, heads into her role in the first family with more goodwill than her father or the future first lady. Overall, 44% have a favorable impression of her, 33% unfavorable, with 23% saying they’re unsure.
The CNN/ORC Poll was conducted by telephone January 12-15 among a random national sample of 1,000 adults. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.