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Trump Job Approval Higher Than Approval of Him as a Person

Trump Job Approval Higher Than Approval of Him as a Person

Story Highlights

  • 40% approve of Trump's job performance and 34% approve of him as a person
  • Gap in Trump ratings largest among GOP, weekly churchgoers
  • Job vs. personal distinction was greater for Clinton, Bush

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are more likely to approve of President Donald Trump's job performance than they are to approve of him as a person in the latest Gallup poll, with his ratings on these measures coming in at 40% and 34%, respectively. The largest gaps in Trump's job and personal approval ratings are among Republicans and weekly churchgoers -- both with double-digit gaps. Democrats' approval ratings on the two dimensions are essentially the same (5% job and 6% personal).

Approval of President Donald Trump's Job Performance vs. Ratings of Him as a Person
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president? Apart from whether you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president, what do you think of Trump as a person? Would you say you approve or disapprove of him?
  Approve of Trump's job performance Approve of Trump as a person % Approve job performance minus % approve as a person
  % % (pct. points)
National adults 40 34 +6
Republicans 87 76 +11
Independents 36 28 +8
Democrats 5 6 -1
Church weekly 54 44 +10
Church nearly weekly 41 34 +7
Church seldom/never 35 30 +5
Whites 51 43 +8
Blacks 9 12 -3
Hispanics 23 19 +4
Sept. 16-30, 2019

Trump's latest ratings are from a Sept. 16-30 Gallup poll, which spanned an unfolding saga regarding the president's reported attempts to solicit help investigating a potential election rival from foreign leaders. These events have led to an impeachment inquiry from the U.S. House of Representatives but have not immediately had a significant impact on Americans' assessments of Trump's performance as president. His current 40% job approval rating is just slightly lower than Trump's previous 43% in the first half of September. Internal numbers in the latest poll suggest that his approval rating was steady at 40% in both the first week (before the whistleblower case exploded) and the second week of interviewing.

Gallup also updated a question occasionally used with other presidents between 1999 and 2003, which asks respondents for their views of the president personally, separate from their views of his job performance. The question was initiated during the presidency of Bill Clinton as he presided over a strong economy but, like Trump, was embroiled in scandal.

Among most groups, approval of Trump's performance is higher than approval of him as a person.

There Was Greater Distance Between the Two Ratings for Clinton, Bush

Trump's 34% personal approval rating is similar to scores Clinton received toward the end of his presidency but much lower than those given to President George W. Bush in his early years in the White House.

The six percentage-point gap between Trump's personal and job approval ratings nationally is narrower than Gallup recorded for Clinton and Bush during their presidencies. However, unlike Trump, Clinton was much more popular as a president than he was as a person while the opposite was true for Bush.

Approval of a President's Performance vs. Approval as a Person, 1999-2019
  Job approval Approve as a person % Approve job performance minus % approve as a person
  % % (pct. points)
Donald Trump  
2019 Sep 16-30 40 34 6
George W. Bush  
2003 Nov 14-16 50 68 -18
2001 Jul 10-11 57 70 -13
2001 Feb 9-11 57 65 -8
Bill Clinton  
2000 Jul 14-16 59 36 23
2000 Apr 28-30 59 29 30
2000 Mar 10-12 63 35 28
2000 Feb 25-27 57 32 25
2000 Jan 17-19 62 36 26
2000 Jan 7-10 63 31 32
1999 Oct 8-10 56 35 21

With less than a year and a half left in office, roughly one in three Americans approved of Clinton personally -- ranging from 29% to 36% from 1999 to 2000. But his job performance ratings were much higher, by between 21 and 32 percentage points. It's likely that Clinton's image had been dinged by his own actions -- which came to light in the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the subsequent investigations. But with a booming U.S. economy, many Americans were willing to set aside reservations they had about him personally.

Though Clinton's and Trump's personal ratings are similar, all political party groups made distinctions between Clinton's performance and him as a person at the time -- whereas Democrats currently make no such distinctions for Trump. Additionally, Trump's personal image among Republicans is currently much more positive than was the case for Clinton in the eyes of Democrats.

Bush, on the other hand, received greater personal approval ratings than he received for his job performance in his early years in office. Bush enjoyed majority job approval in nearly all polls from 2001 to 2003, but Americans were even more likely to approve of him as a person by between eight and 13 percentage points. Bush's personal approval ratings -- which were taken both pre- and post-9/11 -- more than doubled his disapprovals, ranging from 65% to 70% from 2001 to 2003.

Bottom Line

Ratings of Trump as a person are similar to those of Clinton in the final 16 months of his presidency, during a period when Clinton's personal behavior was being heavily criticized by both parties. But there was much more daylight between the personal and job performance ratings of Clinton, who had recently endured an impeachment himself at the time, than is currently the case for Trump.

Clinton's and Bush's respective ratings illustrate that Americans view presidents' performance differently than they view them as people, but that distinction might be lessened in the highly polarized political environment Trump governs in. It is also possible that Democrats' views of Trump are specific to him, seeing him as a president for whom the line between his personal and work behavior may be more blurred.

Still, Trump's personal ratings are sharply lower than his performance ratings among two groups that are key to his base: Republicans and regular churchgoers -- with less than half of the latter group approving of Trump as a person. This could put pressure on Trump to keep these groups satisfied through presidential actions and policies rather than the personal expressions he is wont to make.

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

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

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