(c) 2017, The Washington Post.
President Trump is not Teflon, and the conventional wisdom that "nothing matters" is wrong.
A fresh Washington Post-ABC News poll underscores the softness of Trump's support as he prepares to mark six months in the White House on Thursday.
It also highlights a growing intensity gap. Support for the president is more tepid, but opposition is increasingly inflamed.
The president's overall approval rating has slipped to 36 percent from 42 percent in April. For context, George W. Bush and Barack Obama both held 59 percent approval ratings in Post/ABC polls conducted around their six-month anniversaries.
Media coverage often focuses on how rank-and-file Republicans, as well as elected officials, continue to stand behind Trump. While true, a close examination of the results suggests that no more than 1 in 4 Americans believe passionately in him or his presidency at this juncture.
Trump's disapproval rating has risen to 58 percent in the national survey, which was conducted last Monday through Thursday. Overall, 48 percent disapprove strongly of how he's doing. But while 36 percent approve of Trump overall, only 25 percent approve strongly.
Consider the partisan breakdown: 82 percent of self-identified Republicans approve of how Trump is doing, including 62 percent who approve strongly. Meanwhile, 85 percent of Democrats disapprove of Trump, but a larger 75 percent disapprove strongly.
Where Trump really differs from Obama is that his approval leans more heavily on strong backers. Obama's average "strong" approval was 28 percent during his presidency, not much different than Trump today. But Obama averaged 21 percent "somewhat" approval, 10 points higher than Trump.
Across the battery of questions in the survey, Trump's hardcore base of support appears to be about a quarter of the public, give or take:
- 24 percent say that, since taking office, Trump has "acted in a way that's fitting and proper for a president of the United States." Seventy percent say Trump has acted in a way that is "unpresidential."
- 24 percent approve of Trump's use of Twitter. Just 13 percent strongly approve. Two-thirds disapprove of the president's use of social media, and 53 percent strongly disapprove.
Compared with previous presidents, 23 percent think "Trump is doing a better job than most." While 17 percent say he's doing a "much better" job, 38 percent think he's doing "much worse."
- 3 in 10 believe Trump is "a positive role model for young people." For perspective, 18 percent said the same of Bill Clinton in a Post/ABC poll conducted the week after the salacious Starr Report was released in 1998.
- 27 percent think "America's leadership in the world has gotten stronger" under Trump.
- 26 percent believe it was appropriate for Trump's son, Donald Jr., to meet last summer with a Russian lawyer who said she had damaging information about Hillary Clinton. (This includes just less than half of Republicans.)
Despite all evidence to the contrary, just over 3 in 10 Americans still do not think the Russian government tried to influence the outcome of last fall's U.S. presidential election.
While 34 percent trust Trump to negotiate on America's behalf with other world leaders, only 19 percent trust him "a great deal." The other 15 percent trust him just "a good amount." Two-thirds of the country does not trust Trump at all in negotiations, which is remarkable when you think back to how heavily he emphasized his negotiating skills during the campaign.
On health care, 24 percent favor the Republican plan over Obamacare. Seventeen percent "strongly" favor the GOP plan, which was not explained in detail.
Would you say that the more you hear about Trump, the more you like him? Or the more you hear about Trump, the less you like him? Asked that question, roughly 3 in 10 adults said more. Nearly 6 in 10 said less.
The poll, based on a sample of more than 1,000 adults, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Responding on Twitter, Trump said his 36 percent approval rating - which he rounded up to 40 percent - "is not bad at this time." But he also attacked the Post-ABC poll as "just about the most inaccurate poll around election time!" In fact, The Post and ABC's final poll was well within the sampling error and correctly showed Clinton ahead in the national popular vote.
A job approval rating can be an unsatisfyingly vague barometer. What exactly are people thinking when they say they approve or disapprove of the way a president is handling his job? Our new poll included an open-ended question asking Americans what they have either liked or disliked most about his presidency so far.
The most common answer for why people think Trump is doing a good job was "strong leadership," a variation of which was offered by 11 percent. "Speaking his mind" and "not being politically correct" was a close second, at 9 percent. "In total, 30 percent of Trump approvers mentioned his overall leadership or personality traits when asked what they approve of most. But a somewhat larger group of Trump approvers, 40 percent, mentioned a policy-related reason for approving of Trump's performance," pollster Scott Clement explains. "Some 7 percent said foreign affairs, while 6 percent apiece cited the economy, creating jobs (and) preventing illegal immigration . . . Slightly fewer mentioned fighting terrorism (or) his efforts on health care legislation."
Americans who disapprove of Trump focused heavily on the president's personal and character traits. "Topping the list of non-policy criticisms is the way Trump talks and acts (13 percent), laments about him not being informed or knowledgeable (12 percent), while another 12 percent mentioned concerns about lies, false statements or general dishonesty," The Post's Scott Clement writes in a story published Monday. "Among disapprovers who named issues as their biggest criticism, the most common were immigration (8 percent) and health care (7 percent), the travel ban at 3 percent and others at 2 percent or less. Altogether, 46 percent of Trump disapprovers criticized something about his personality, honesty or style, while 25 percent mentioned a policy-related concern."
The country may seem hopelessly divided, butthepeople who strongly approve and disapprove of Trump have something in common: When asked what they love or hate most about the president, 12 percent of strong approvers and 14 percent of strong disapprovers volunteered "everything."