Most Americans disapprove of Donald Trump’s performance so far, except on economy, poll finds

Donald Trump and Mike Pence

Most Americans disapprove of Donald Trump’s overall performance two months into his presidency. But they are more upbeat about at least one critical area: his handling of the economy.

Nearly six in 10 Americans disapprove of Mr Trump’s overall performance, and about the same percentage say the country is heading in the wrong direction, according to a new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research carried out amid the collapse of the Republican party’s healthcare overhaul.

But the poll also found a brighter spot for the businessman-politician on the economy, often a major driver of presidential success or failure. There, Americans were almost evenly split, with 50% approving and 48% disapproving of Mr Trump’s efforts.

“He’s driving the car off the cliff in every other kind of policy and executive action he’s trying to push through, but (not) the economy,” said Ryan Mills, a 27-year-old tobacco company chemist from Greensboro, North Carolina.

Overall, just 42% of Americans approve and 58% disapprove of the job Mr Trump is doing as president – an unusually poor rating by historical standards for a still-young administration.

By contrast, at this point in their presidencies, Barack Obama’s approval rating was above 60% in Gallup polling and George W Bush’s was above 50%. Gallup’s own measure of Mr Trump’s approval has dipped below 40%.

Mr Trump has suffered defeats in the federal courts, which twice temporarily halted his travel ban on some foreigners, and in Congress, where discord among Republicans has stymied legislation to up-end Mr Obama’s signature health care law.

The FBI, along with Congress, is probing Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and any possible co-ordination with the Trump campaign.

The president has responded in public with belligerent tweets often blaming the media, Democrats, conservative Republicans and others.

The AP-NORC poll did show Republicans are still far more likely to approve than disapprove of Mr Trump – a fifth of GOP respondents said they do not approve of his performance.
Among independents, six in 10 disapprove.

Notably, whites – who formed an important chunk of Mr Trump’s political base during the election – divide about evenly on the approval question, with 53% approving and 47% disapproving.
But there are signs in the poll that Mr Trump’s base is holding and that people are willing to give him a chance on the still-strong economy.

Fifty-eight percent of whites without a college degree – who were especially likely to vote for Mr Trump – approve of the job he is doing overall. Nearly 20% of those who disapprove of Mr Trump’s overall performance still approve of how he is handling the economy.

And most Americans – 56% – describe the national economy as good, while 43% describe it as poor. About a year ago, in April 2016, just 42% of Americans described the economy as good in another AP-NORC poll. The current majority extends across party lines, with 63% of Republicans, 54% of independents and 53% of Democrats describing the national economy as good.

Trump voter Joshlyn Smith, a law enforcement officer from Riverside County, California, said the president needs to move past “the Twitter stuff” that often mires him in social media spats – and focus instead on the nation’s policy.

“I feel like I want to give him a fair shot, especially in terms of helping on taxes and the economy. On a personal level, I think he’s too involved with how he’s portrayed in the media. I want him to have a little bit tougher skin.”

The approval ratings of many presidents through history are linked to the economy, with several – including Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Mr Obama – suffering politically for downturns during their first year in the White House, according to a project by the Miller Center at The University of Virginia.

Mr Trump inherited a strong economy, which might be leading people to give him a chance to maintain it, said Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the Miller Center.

“It starts with how they’re feeling about their pocketbooks and their family budget,” she said. For presidents, “if you can keep the economy going well and having people feel good about (it), good about their lives and therefore good about the country, that can cover a multitude of sins.”

The poll, conducted over five days preceding and following last Friday’s collapse of the GOP healthcare bill, suggests the political damage could be hard for Mr Trump to leave behind even if the economy stays strong.

It was a galling setback for the president and the Republicans who control Congress. Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin cancelled a House vote that would have spelled defeat for the legislation because too many Republicans opposed it.

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