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Majority Says Trump Not Making Progress in Changing D.C.

Majority Says Trump Not Making Progress in Changing D.C.

Story Highlights

  • 54% say Trump has not made progress to change Washington
  • 40% believe he has made progress
  • Americans were more likely to say Obama had made progress in 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- By 54% to 40%, Americans are more inclined to disagree than agree that President Donald Trump has made progress on his goal of changing the way Washington works. Americans were more positive in 2009 about Barack Obama's efforts to fulfill a similar promise that he made while campaigning for president.

Majority of Americans Say Trump Has Not Made Progress in Changing Washington
[Donald Trump / Barack Obama] promised in his campaign to change the way Washington works. Based on what you have heard or read about his administration, do you think he has made progress or not made progress in doing this so far?
Made progress Not made progress
% %
Donald Trump
2017, April 21-22 40 54
Barack Obama
2009, April 20-21 53 45

Trump, the Washington outsider who upset the political establishment by winning the 2016 presidential election, promised during the campaign to "drain the swamp" in Washington. In his most recent weekly radio and internet address as president, Trump stated that he has brought "profound change" to Washington. A majority of Americans disagree with his assessment, according to the April 21-22 Gallup poll.

Obama also promised in his 2008 presidential campaign to institute ethics reforms that would make Washington more responsive and more effective. Roughly 100 days into his administration, 53% of Americans believed Obama had made progress in changing the way Washington works.

To a large degree, the more positive opinions about Obama than Trump reflect differences in popularity. At the 100-day mark, Obama's job approval ratings were in the 60% range, while Trump's are near 40%.

Views of Trump More Politically Polarized Than Those of Obama

Opinions about the success of Trump's efforts to change Washington are driven mostly by political partisanship. More than three-quarters of Republicans, 78%, say Trump has made progress, while nearly the same percentage of Democrats (79%) say he has not made progress. Independents, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, believe Trump has not made progress.

When Gallup asked the same question in 2009 about Obama, opinions were not as starkly partisan. At that time, 69% of Obama's fellow Democrats thought he was making progress in changing Washington, while 36% of Republicans agreed. Independents were divided evenly about Obama's progress.

Opinions of Trump Progress in Changing Washington More Politically Polarized Than Opinions About Obama's Progress
[Donald Trump / Barack Obama] promised in his campaign to change the way Washington works. Based on what you have heard or read about his administration, do you think he has made progress or not made progress in doing this so far?
Made progress Not made progress Net made progress
% %
Donald Trump
Republicans 78 19 +59
Independents 32 59 -27
Democrats 18 79 -61
Barack Obama
Republicans 36 62 -26
Independents 49 47 +2
Democrats 69 28 +41


Obama took some steps early in his administration to address ethical issues in Washington, limiting the hiring of lobbyists in his administration and releasing records of visitors to the White House.

His ultimate record on ethics reform was mixed, in part because former lobbyists working in the administration and officials who pursued lobbying careers after serving in the administration were able to comply with the letter, if not the spirit, of the laws. For example, people need only register as lobbyists if 20% or more of their time is spent on lobbying activities. And though Obama decried the influence of big money in elections, he was unable to enact meaningful campaign finance legislation that reduced campaign contribution limits.

Trump has undone some of Obama's ethics rules but has instituted a five-year ban on former government officials lobbying their former colleagues. Trump is facing similar challenges to those Obama encountered in attempting to change Washington's culture, including congressional inaction on key lobbying laws.

In attempting to reduce the influence of the Washington establishment, Trump has appointed many Washington outsiders to key positions. Some of his Cabinet secretaries and key advisers are from the business world or private sector with no prior experience in Washington. At the same time, there have been ongoing concerns about conflicts of interest for some officials, like former Exxon Mobil CEO and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who will help shape U.S. policy that will affect the company's bottom line.

The Trump administration recently sought to broaden the scope of what "draining the swamp" means beyond special interest activity, citing the now-lifted government hiring freeze, regulatory reform and a directive to examine waste in federal agencies as evidence of its accomplishments in this area.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 21-22, 2017, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,024 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error 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 U.S. Daily works.


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