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Americans Split on Trump's Handling of Economy

Americans Split on Trump's Handling of Economy

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

Story Highlights

  • Trump approval on economy at 48%, disapproval at 47%
  • Approval on foreign affairs low at 38%
  • Democratic approval of Trump's handling of economy at 13%

Editor's note: On Feb. 22, 2021, several entries in the "U.S. Adults' Approval of Presidents' Handling of Economy and Foreign Affairs" table were updated to reflect the accurate percentages.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are split almost evenly on their views of President Donald Trump's handling of the economy, with 48% approving and 47% disapproving. Of four key focuses of the new administration, the economy is the only issue with more Americans approving than disapproving.

U.S. Adults' Approval of Trump's Handling of Policy Issues
  Approve Disapprove No opinion
  % % %
Overall job approval 42 55 3
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling -- ?  
The economy 48 47 5
Foreign trade 45 51 4
Immigration 42 57 1
Foreign affairs 38 57 4
Gallup, Feb. 1-5, 2017

A higher percentage of Americans disapprove than approve of the way Trump is handling foreign trade, immigration and foreign affairs. For these issues, more than half of Americans disapprove. Trump gets his highest approval for how he handles the economy and his lowest for how he handles foreign affairs.

The approval rating of Trump's handling of the economy exceeds his overall job approval rating of 42%, which is down three percentage points from the historically low job approval rating of 45% that he had when he began his presidency.

Opposing-Party Approval Lower for Trump Than Predecessors

Trump scores lower on his handling of the economy and foreign affairs than Barack Obama and George W. Bush did at the beginning of their presidencies.

At the outset of the Obama administration, 59% of Americans approved of his handling of the economy, and 54% approved of his handling of foreign affairs. The comparable ratings at the beginning of Bush's presidency were 53% and 46%, respectively. Compared with Bill Clinton, Trump has a lower approval rating on foreign affairs but gets a slightly higher rating on the economy.

Approval ratings regarding the economy and foreign affairs among those in the opposing party are lower for Trump compared with the opposing-party approval ratings of his three predecessors at the start of their presidencies.

U.S. Adults' Approval of Presidents' Handling of Economy and Foreign Affairs
  All Americans Republicans Independents Democrats
  % % % %
Trump 48 90 44 13
Obama 59 28 59 88
G.W. Bush 53 80 53 30
Clinton 45 26 42 63
Foreign affairs  
Trump 38 82 30 6
Obama 54 26 54 79
G.W. Bush 46 73 42 26
Clinton 53 39 51 67
Feb. 1-5, 2017 (Trump); Feb. 9-12, 2009 (Obama); Feb. 1-4, 2001 (Bush); Feb. 12-14, 1993 (Clinton)

Just 13% of Democrats approve of Trump's handling of the economy, but 30% of Democrats approved of Bush's handling of that issue. Obama and Clinton received 28% and 25% approval ratings, respectively, from Republicans regarding their handling of the economy.

An even greater political rift exists today in public perceptions of the president's handling of foreign affairs, with only 6% of Democrats approving of Trump's handling of the issue. By contrast, Clinton started his presidency with 39% approval from Republicans on his handling of foreign affairs. Obama and Bush started with 26% approval from Americans who identified as members of the opposing party.

Bottom Line

American presidencies often begin with a "honeymoon" period, during which partisans on both sides of the aisle offer support for the new president. Obama, George W. Bush and Clinton started their presidencies with at least a quarter of Americans in the opposing party expressing approval of their handling of the economy and foreign affairs. With no more than 13% of Democrats approving of Trump on these issues in early February, his honeymoon appears to have never even begun.

Trump's lower approval ratings on the economy and foreign affairs compared with those of his predecessors stem almost entirely from low ratings among independents and Democrats, particularly regarding his handling of foreign affairs. Reports of Trump's controversial statements to the leaders of Russia, China, France, Mexico and Australia may have factored into Americans' low level of confidence in his ability to handle foreign affairs.

But Trump's difficulties go beyond foreign affairs. His approval rating on the economy nearly matches his disapproval rating, and majorities disapprove of his handling of immigration and foreign trade, two signature issues of his campaign. Americans, especially Democrats and independents, perceive a rather rocky start for the new president.

Explore Trump's approval ratings in depth and compare them with those of past presidents in the Gallup Presidential Job Approval Center.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 1-5, 2017, with a random sample of 1,035 U.S. adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error for the full sample 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 includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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