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New GW Battleground Poll: Public Opinion of Trump Improves; Voters Don’t Think He’ll Build a Wall at Mexican Border

Public Sees Action on ‘Obamacare,’ Infrastructure, Taxes as Most Likely; Country Remains Deeply Divided
December 06, 2016
MEDIA CONTACTS:
Jason Shevrin: jshevrin@gwu.edu, 202-994-5631
John Brandt: johnbrandt@gwu.edu, 202-994-3199
 
WASHINGTON (Dec. 6, 2016)—Donald Trump’s public image has notably improved since winning the presidency in November, according to the latest George Washington University Battleground Poll. Of the voters surveyed, 45 percent had a favorable opinion of the president-elect, while 49 percent viewed him negatively. This represents a large swing from the last edition of the GW Battleground Poll in mid-October, when only 36 percent rated favorably and 61 percent were unfavorable. 
 
Trump’s rising approval rate may have been helped by media coverage. Almost half (47 percent) of those polled said what they have seen, read or heard about Trump since the election has improved their impression of him. A few (11 percent) said it made no difference, and 38 percent said it gave them a less favorable impression. 
 
Looking forward, voters were evenly split on their general outlook on the Trump presidency. Asked about the new shift to Republican Party control of the executive and legislative branches of government, half of those polled (49 percent) said they felt either concerned or scared, and half (47 percent) responded they were excited or hopeful.
 
“It's clear that the campaigns and the election results have jarred the nation,” said Michael Cornfield, associate professor at GW’s Graduate School of Political Management and research director of GW’s Center for Political Management. “Twice as many registered voters chose ‘scared’ over ‘excited’ as their foremost emotional reaction. ‘Division in the country’ was the top issue they want the new administration and Congress to address. The anxious mood presents an opportunity for leadership through reassuring language and transparent policymaking.”
 
Mixed Outlook on Trump’s Signature Policies
That divided attitude carried through to voters’ projections of whether they think Trump will actually achieve some of his trademark policy proposals. Poll respondents were asked to judge the likelihood of action on several issues now that there will be Republican control of the White House and both chambers of Congress. Most people were doubtful about the prospects of Trump’s signature proposal, building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border; 55 percent said it was not very or not at all likely, and 41 percent said it was very or somewhat likely. 
 
People thought there was a much better chance of the Affordable Care Act being repealed and replaced with an alternative (79 percent chose “very” or “somewhat” likely, 17 percent chose “not very” or “not at all” likely). They also projected good odds for Trump’s infrastructure plans (66 percent chose “very” or “somewhat” likely, 31 percent chose “not very” or “not at all” likely) and tax code reform (71 percent chose “very” or “somewhat” likely, 24 percent chose “not very” or “not at all” likely).
 
“Voters will be watching Trump’s actions closely. While many Americans may be pleased by Trump’s seeming evolution on such issues as climate change and torture, those words will need to be backed up by deeds in order to convince a skeptical public of his intentions, abilities and willingness to disappoint his party’s base,” said pollster Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners. “Democrats, for their part, would be wise to embrace the leadership of one of the few leaders who can broaden their ranks with something the party has been lacking for too long—a compelling economic message that marries Americans’ desire for economic and political reform.”
 
Almost two-thirds of survey respondents thought it was unlikely (63 percent said “not very” or “not at all”) that U.S. military involvement in places like Western Europe and Japan will end. Expectations on whether action will be taken to defeat the Islamic State group and privatize Medicare were mixed. 
 
Voters Prioritize Addressing Division and Economy
Voters were also asked what topics they considered most important for Trump and Congress to focus on within the first 100 days of the new administration. Given an array of choices, division in the country (21 percent) and the economy and jobs (15 and 8 respectively, 23 combined) tied for the most important issues for voters, followed by health care (11). Respondents were also asked to pick a second choice. The economy and jobs (18 and 11 percent) combined to lead that list. 
 
“Voters have diverse views with every issue offered being selected by at least 5 percent of the electorate,” said pollster Ed Goeas, president and CEO of The Tarrance Group. “Despite this diversity on issue concerns, if President-elect Trump and congressional leaders can work together to pass legislation on health care reform and on economic development with less rancor than the heavy handed partisan tactics used to pass Obamacare, a significant number of voters will have seen their top concern addressed.”
 
Voters’ concerns also showed in their feeling about the general direction of the country. Although the rating ticked up slightly, the public still sees it negatively. The percentage of those who think the country is on the wrong track fell from 63 to 58 percent. The amount who thought the country is headed in the right direction remained about the same (from 30 to 27 percent).
 
Major Political Players Have Mixed Reviews
President Barack Obama’s approval rating remained essentially unchanged from the last GW Battleground Poll, holding steady at 53 percent approval and moving from 44 to 42 percent disapproval. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s ratings also stayed within the margin of error, moving from 45 to 42 percent favorable, and from 53 to 55 percent unfavorable. Senator and presidential primary candidate Bernie Sanders remains popular, with 56 percent of voters viewing him favorably, and 30 percent unfavorably.
 
Public favorability of the Vice President-elect, Mike Pence, stayed the same at 44, while his unfavorable rating grew slightly from 31 to 37 percent. His Republican counterparts were mixed: House Speaker Paul Ryan was evenly split (35 percent favorable, 36 percent unfavorable). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, on the other hand, struggled for relevance: he only received approval from 17 percent of the public; a third (33 percent) disapproved of him, a quarter (25) had no opinion of him and a quarter (25) had never heard of him.
 
For complete data and results, including additional numbers on prominent figures from the 2016 elections and campaign conduct issues, visit the GW Battleground Poll homepage. Follow @GWmedia on Twitter for a deeper dive into the new GW Battleground Poll data.
 
Interview Opportunities
  • Michael Cornfield, research director and associate professor at GW’s Graduate School of Political Management (contact Jason Shevrin at 202-994-5631)
  • Ed Goeas, president and CEO of The Tarrance Group (contact Brian Nienaber at 703-684-6688)
  • Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners (contact Anderson Gardner at 202-776-9066)
The George Washington University Battleground Poll is a nationally recognized series of surveys conducted by Republican pollster Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners. GW’s Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) and the School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA) serve as the university’s home for the partnership. GW’s Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library houses the data archive of the survey results dating back more than two decades.
 
The poll, which is distinguished from other surveys by its presentation of separate analyses from these top pollsters representing both sides of the aisle, surveyed 1,000 registered voters nationwide Nov. 28-Dec. 1 and included a protocol for reaching mobile phone users. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
 
-GW-