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Americans Evaluate Trump's Character Across 13 Dimensions

Americans Evaluate Trump's Character Across 13 Dimensions

Story Highlights

  • Half or more in U.S. say Trump is intelligent, decisive, can bring about changes
  • Trump below average on working with both parties, choosing advisers
  • Little change on most dimensions since Trump took office

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A review of Americans' ratings of President Donald Trump across a series of personal dimensions shows that at least half consider him intelligent, strong and decisive, and able to bring about change. However, much smaller proportions deem him honest, likable or admirable, or say he has appointed good advisers or works well with both parties.

Americans' ratings of Trump for keeping his promises, understanding complex issues, putting the country's interests above his own, caring about average people and managing government are roughly comparable to his overall job approval rating, and thus neither above nor below what would be expected.

Americans' Views of How 13 Characteristics Apply to Donald Trump
Applies Doesn't apply
% %
Above-average association with Trump
Is intelligent 58 40
Is a strong and decisive leader 51 49
Can bring about the changes this country needs 50 49
Average association
Keeps his promises 47 51
Understands complex issues 45 53
Puts the country's interests ahead of his own political interests 43 55
Cares about the needs of people like you 43 56
Can manage the government effectively 41 57
Below-average association with Trump
Is honest and trustworthy 37 62
Is likable 37 62
Is a person you admire 35 64
Has chosen mostly good advisers and cabinet officers 33 64
Works well with both parties in Washington to get things done 31 67
GALLUP, June 1-13, 2018

These views of the president are based on Gallup interviewing conducted June 1-13.

The 58% of Americans who consider Trump intelligent likely agree with his own self-perception, as evidenced by his terming himself "really smart" and "a very stable genius" in response to concerns about his temperament and intelligence. This "intelligent" dimension has not been asked frequently enough to provide clear historical context, but when asked in a different format, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush scored higher on a similar question in the early 1990s.

Trump's above-average score on being strong and decisive fits with his "take no prisoners" approach to policy and his public pronouncements and tweets. Likewise, Trump's higher-than-average ratings for being able to "bring about the changes this country needs" correspond to his clear desire to make radical changes in policy and the way things are done in Washington.

Trump's below-average score on picking good advisers may be related to the unusually high turnover of advisers and Cabinet members in the Trump administration, as well as the number of his aides and associates who have been embroiled in controversies and scandals. Trump himself often derides his own Cabinet members.

Media "fact checkers" have shown that Trump has issued misleading or false statements at a higher rate than his predecessors, and Gallup polling shows that his positive ratings "as a person" are nine percentage points lower than his overall job approval rating.

These facts help explain Americans' lower ratings of Trump as honest, likable and admirable.

Additionally, the discord between Trump and Democratic and some Republican leaders in Congress has been evident since he first took office. These contentious relationships fit with the public's giving the president his lowest rating on the "works well with both parties" dimension. This perceived inability to get along with Congress, of course, is not a new presidential phenomenon; Barack Obama received a 40% rating on this characteristic in 2013, at a time when his overall approval rating was 48%.

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Few Changes Over the Past Two Years on Americans' Views of Trump

Trump's presidency is still young compared with the eight years in office for each of his three predecessors -- Obama, George W. Bush and Clinton -- so it is too early to begin to compare the trajectory of his image with those of these presidents. Over the short time he has been in office so far, however, Trump's image across these dimensions has remained fairly stable, with a few exceptions.

  • The biggest change in Trump's image has been with the view that Trump keeps his promises. Sixty-two percent of Americans said this applied to Trump just after he took office, in February 2017. But in April of that year, his rating on keeping his promises fell into the mid-40% range, most likely reflecting his failure to immediately follow through on campaign pledges such as repealing the Affordable Care Act. His current rating on this dimension is about the same as in that April poll.

  • Trump's image as a strong and decisive leader is lower now than just after he entered the White House. Despite this drop, being perceived as strong and decisive remains one of his strengths.

  • The 50% who say today that Trump can bring about the changes the country needs is about where it was in February 2017, up from a slight drop on that dimension in April and August of last year. He does considerably better on this dimension than he did during the campaign in 2016.

There has been little change in Americans' views of Trump on the other dimensions tested over time, including his ability to manage the government effectively, his honesty and trustworthiness, caring about the needs of people, and putting the country's interests ahead of his own political interests.

It would not be unexpected to see more changes in Trump's ratings on these characteristics in the years ahead. The character ratings of Obama, Bush and Clinton all changed significantly over time as each went through his eight years in office, shaped by outside events and what was happening in the White House.

For example, Clinton's rating as being honest and trustworthy fell dramatically in his second term as the Monica Lewinsky scandal almost consumed his presidency, reaching as low as 21% in the summer of 2000.

George W. Bush's ratings on almost all dimensions soared as part of the rally effect that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks but then cratered in his second term as his job approval ratings fell to the 30% range.

Obama's character ratings followed a similar pattern, with positive views in his first year in office during his honeymoon period and much lower ratings on most personal dimensions in subsequent years, when his job approval ratings held mostly in the 40% range.

Complete trend data for dimensions on which Trump has been measured more than once are at the end of this article.

Some Variations Evident in Predictable Republican-Democratic Gap

As would be expected, Republicans and independents who lean Republican are much more likely to associate each dimension with Trump than is the case for Democrats and Democratic leaners.

There are some differences in these partisan gaps, however. Republicans and Democrats are somewhat less likely to disagree on Trump's weakest traits, including being likable and his ability to work with both parties in Washington to get things done. Republicans and Democrats, not surprisingly, differ most on the dimension "cares about the needs of people like you."

Overall, both Republicans and Democrats give Trump the highest marks for being intelligent. Republicans are least positive about Trump's ability to deal with both parties in Washington -- just 53% say this applies to Trump, the only dimension with less than 60% agreement among Republicans. In contrast, only 30% of Democrats say Trump is intelligent, his highest rating among that group. On nine of the 13 characteristics, less than 20% of Democrats believe it applies to Trump.

Views of Trump Characteristics, by Party
% Who say each characteristic applies to Trump
Republicans/Leaners Democrats/Leaners Difference
% % pct. pts.
Cares about the needs of people like you 80 11 +69
Puts the country's interests ahead of his own political interests 79 14 +65
Can bring about the changes this country needs 84 20 +64
Is a strong and decisive leader 85 22 +63
Can manage the government effectively 75 13 +62
Is honest and trustworthy 70 9 +61
Is intelligent 90 30 +60
Understands complex issues 77 18 +59
Keeps his promises 78 21 +57
Is a person you admire 67 10 +57
Has chosen mostly good advisers and cabinet officers 62 8 +54
Is likable 62 14 +48
Works well with both parties in Washington to get things done 53 11 +42
GALLUP, June 1-13, 2018

Bottom Line

Given a chance to rate Trump across a series of personal characteristics, the American public scores him highest on his intelligence, being strong and decisive, and bringing about needed changes. He does much less well in terms of likability, his choice of advisers, and his ability to work with both parties in Washington.

These views may be partly what Trump himself would expect. His bombastic, highly critical and often negative pronouncements and tweets underscore that his administration is not focused on making friends and being nice to those with whom he deals. And he certainly would personally tend to agree that his objective is to produce change and shake things up in Washington.

One problem for Trump is highlighted by previous Gallup research showing that the type of "softer" dimensions on which Trump does least well are exactly those most related to Americans' overall evaluations of him. This may help explain why Trump's job approval rating, despite a very positive economy, has yet to get near the majority level.

Americans' Views of How 13* Characteristics Apply to Trump: Trends
Applies Doesn't apply
% %
Cares about the needs of people like you
2018 Jun 1-13 43 56
2017 Aug 2-6 40 58
2017 Apr 5-9 42 56
2017 Feb 1-5 46 54
2016 Sep 14-18 37 61
2016 May 18-22 37 61
Is a strong and decisive leader
2018 Jun 1-13 51 49
2017 Aug 2-6 47 52
2017 Apr 5-9 52 47
2017 Feb 1-5 59 40
2016 Sep 14-18 57 41
2016 May 18-22 60 39
Is honest and trustworthy
2018 Jun 1-13 37 62
2017 Aug 2-6 33 65
2017 Apr 5-9 36 62
2017 Feb 1-5 42 57
2016 Sep 14-18 33 64
2016 May 18-22 33 64
Can manage the government effectively
2018 Jun 1-13 41 57
2017 Aug 2-6 37 61
2017 Apr 5-9 41 58
2017 Feb 1-5 44 55
2016 Sep 14-18 41 56
2016 May 18-22 42 57
Can bring about the changes this country needs
2018 Jun 1-13 50 49
2017 Aug 2-6 43 55
2017 Apr 5-9 46 52
2017 Feb 1-5 53 46
2016 Sep 14-18 40 58
2016 May 18-22 42 56
Puts the country's interests ahead of his own political interests
2018 Jun 1-13 43 55
2017 Aug 2-6 44 55
Keeps his promises
2018 Jun 1-13 47 51
2017 Apr 5-9 45 52
2017 Feb 1-5 62 36
* Trends shown for the seven items that have previous readings; % "No opinion" not included;
GALLUP

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 1-13, 2018, with a random sample of 1,520 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 ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the two split samples of 755 and 765 national adults, the margins of sampling error are ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

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.

Gallup


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