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Expectations of Trump High on Economy, Low on Race Relations

Expectations of Trump High on Economy, Low on Race Relations

by Gary J. Gates
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 60% of Americans think Trump administration will improve the economy
  • Just over a third think Trump will improve race relations
  • Portion who think president-elect can avoid war is lower than in the past

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Six in 10 Americans say President-elect Donald Trump's administration will be able to reduce unemployment and create new jobs (62%) and improve the economy (60%). On the other hand, about one in three believe he will improve race relations (35%) and improve the environment (35%), and 38% think he will keep the nation out of war.

Expectations of Donald Trump After the Election
Regardless of which presidential candidate you preferred, do you think the Trump administration will or will not be able to do each of the following?
  Yes, will No, will not No opinion
  % % %
Reduce unemployment and create new jobs 62 35 3
Improve the economy 60 37 2
Control illegal immigration 59 38 3
Keep the U.S. safe from terrorism 57 40 3
Improve education 53 45 2
Improve the healthcare system 52 46 3
Appoint good justices to the U.S. Supreme Court 52 46 3
Cut your taxes 51 46 3
Improve the way the federal government works 49 48 3
Increase respect for the United States abroad 47 51 2
Substantially reduce the federal budget deficit 46 52 2
Improve conditions for minorities and the poor 44 53 2
Reduce the crime rate 43 54 3
Heal political divisions in this country 39 57 4
Keep the nation out of war 38 57 5
Improve the quality of the environment 35 61 4
Improve race relations 35 62 3
Gallup, Nov. 10-11, 2016

In addition to Trump's stronger scores on economic issues, Gallup's Nov. 10-11 poll finds Americans generally positive about the Trump administration's ability to control illegal immigration (59%) and keep the U.S. safe from terrorism (57%).

While Americans are optimistic about Trump's prospects of improving the economy overall, they are more divided on whether he will be able to improve education (53%), cut taxes (51%) and substantially reduce the federal deficit (46%). Americans are also divided on whether the Trump administration will improve healthcare (52%), appoint good U.S. Supreme Court justices (52%) and improve the way the federal government works (49%).

In addition to Americans' skepticism about Trump's ability to improve race relations, improve the environment and avoid war, Americans seem pessimistic that he will be able to heal political divisions (39%). Slightly more Americans believe he will improve conditions for minorities and the poor (44%) and reduce the crime rate (43%).

Economic Prospects Similar to Past; Immigration Expectations Higher

After presidential elections, Americans are typically positive about the prospect of an improved economy -- and this year is no different, with large majorities expressing optimism about the economy and job growth. In elections dating back to 1988, Gallup has asked Americans about their economic expectations in several different ways, sometimes right after the election and other times after an inauguration. Americans' views about the prospect of a better economy range from a low of 54% in 2012 after Barack Obama's second election to a high of 74% in 1989 after the inauguration of George H.W. Bush.

Historic Expectations for the Economy After Elections or Inaugurations
Regardless of which presidential candidate you preferred, do you think the administration will or will not be able to do each of the following?
  Yes, will No, will not No opinion
  % % %
Create a strong economic recovery 54 45 2
Barack Obama (2012)  
Create a strong economic recovery 64 34 2
Barack Obama (2008)  
Keep America prosperous 62 35 3
George W. Bush (2005)  
Keep America prosperous 63 33 4
George W. Bush (2001)  
Improve the economy 59 35 6
Bill Clinton (1992)  
Keep America prosperous 74 15 10
George H.W. Bush (1989)  

The 59% of Americans who believe Trump will curb illegal immigration marks an issue where he gets high marks compared with Obama. In 2008, a third of Americans (35%) thought the Obama administration would do so.

The 39% who expect Trump to be able to heal political divisions is similar to the 41% recorded in 2001 after George W. Bush's election, but lower than the 54% who believed this of Obama in 2008, before his first term.

Compared With Predecessors, Expectations Low on Many Issues

Americans are more pessimistic about Trump's potential on several issues than they were in surveys conducted after the election of his predecessors. These include:

  • Improving the environment: Americans express the least optimism about Trump's potential to improve the quality of the environment since Gallup first asked this question in 1988 after the election of George H.W. Bush.

  • Improving education: While 53% think the Trump administration will improve education, that figure is the lowest of all of his predecessors dating back to George H.W. Bush in 1988.

  • Keeping the U.S. safe from terrorism: Expectations for Trump's ability to keep the U.S. safe from terrorism (57%) are lower than those for his two most recent predecessors. In 2008, 62% thought Obama would keep the country safe from terrorists. And in 2005, after George W. Bush's election to a second term, the comparable figure was 68% (the terrorism question was not asked following the 2000 election).

  • Increasing respect for the U.S.: The 47% of Americans who think that Trump will increase respect for the U.S. is low compared with expectations for Obama and George H.W. Bush. In 2008, 76% expected Obama to enhance the international reputation of the country. In 1988, 64% thought Bush would increase respect for the U.S. abroad.

  • Keeping the nation out of war: The 38% of Americans who think the Trump administration can avoid war is sharply lower than the 70% and 60%, respectively, who thought George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton would keep the nation out of war.

A complete summary of public expectations from past elections can be found here.

Bottom Line

U.S. elections over the past several decades have come with generally buoyant expectations for an improved economy, regardless of the party taking office. This year is no different, as a solid majority of Americans think the economy will improve under President-elect Trump as he lowers unemployment and creates new jobs.

Expectations for a Trump presidency regarding race relations, the environment and foreign policy, however, are much lower than after past elections. These are all issues for which the Hillary Clinton campaign and Trump critics raised substantial doubt regarding his competence. Perhaps as a result, Americans show historically low levels of optimism that he can improve racial tensions and have a positive impact on the environment. Of note, public opinions of Trump's prospects are even more negative than those of his Republican predecessors.

In particular, the often-repeated refrain about the danger of Trump having access to the nuclear codes represented a main argument of Clinton's campaign against her opponent. Former officials of the two Bush administrations also publicly challenged Trump's foreign policy credentials.

Few Americans think Trump can avoid war. This suggests that despite Trump's election victory, the skepticism his critics created during the campaign remains.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,000 U.S. adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, conducted Nov. 10-11, 2016. Each respondent rated 12 of 17 items, and each item was asked of approximately 700 adults. The margin of error for each item is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults in the 2016 data includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.

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