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Presidential Qualities Seen Lacking Among Leading Contenders

Presidential Qualities Seen Lacking Among Leading Contenders

Story Highlights

  • 49% say Biden, 44% Sanders have presidential leadership, personality
  • Fewer say the same of Warren (39%), Trump (38%)
  • Less than 50% agree with the four candidates on most important issues

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Fewer than half of Americans agree that President Donald Trump or any of the current top three Democratic presidential contenders have the personality and leadership qualities that a president should possess. Of the four politicians, Joe Biden (49%) and Bernie Sanders (44%) hold an edge over Elizabeth Warren (39%) and Trump (38%) when it comes to possessing presidential personality and leadership traits.

Bar chart. Americans’ views that Trump, Biden, Sanders and Warren have personality and leadership traits to be president.

These findings mark a departure from comparable past data when candidates' personalities and leadership qualities were largely viewed in a more positive light. For example, when Gallup asked the same question of six leading presidential contenders in November 2007, majorities of Americans thought that four of them -- Hillary Clinton (60%), Rudy Giuliani (59%), Barack Obama (56%) and John Edwards (51%) -- had the personality and leadership qualities a president should have.

The latest data, from an Oct. 14-31 poll, mark the fourth time since Trump took office that Gallup has asked Americans if they agree that he has the personality and leadership qualities a president should. The earliest two measures, during his first summer in office, found that one-third of U.S. adults agreed, and this past April, that figure rose to 40%. The latest reading for the president is statistically unchanged from then and remains below those of his predecessors in the White House.

This is the first time Gallup has asked this question about the three candidates for the Democratic nomination who are currently leading their party's field nationally.

Americans' Agreement With Candidates on Issues

Another question in the poll asks whether Americans agree with each of the four candidates on the issues that matter most to them. Again, Biden (46%) and Sanders (44%) edge out Trump (41%) and Warren (37%).

Bar chart. Americans’ agreement with Trump, Biden, Sanders and Warren on most important issues.

The latest reading for Trump is in line with the 2017 findings but is six percentage points lower than it was in April.

Independents' Ratings of Trump Low Compared With Biden, Sanders

As would be expected, candidates are viewed more positively by their own party's base. Yet, Republicans are more likely to say Trump has the personality and leadership qualities a president should have (83%) than are Democrats to say the same of Biden (74%), Warren (70%) and Sanders (65%). To a large degree, this reflects Republicans' unity around Trump as the almost certain 2020 GOP nominee, whereas Democrats still are forming their opinions of their leading presidential contenders and are not fully on board with any as they compete for the nomination.

Likewise, partisans are much more likely to agree with their own party's candidates' issues positions than with the opposing party's candidates' views. Nine in 10 Republicans say they agree with Trump's stances on the issues that matter most to them while about three-quarters of Democrats each agree with Biden's and Sanders' positions and two-thirds agree with Warren's.

Partisans' Ratings of Trump and Democratic Candidates on Leadership and Issue Positions
Republicans Independents Democrats
% % %
Has personality/leadership qualities a president should
Donald Trump 83 30 8
Joe Biden 17 51 74
Bernie Sanders 10 50 65
Elizabeth Warren 7 37 70
Agree with positions on the issues that matter most
Donald Trump 89 33 8
Joe Biden 12 47 73
Bernie Sanders 9 46 74
Elizabeth Warren 4 38 66
GALLUP, Oct. 14-31, 2019

For their part, about half of independents think both Biden and Sanders have the personality and leadership qualities a president should have, but fewer say the same of Warren (37%) and Trump (30%). Independents also agree with Biden (47%) and Sanders (46%) on the issues more than they agree with Warren (38%) and Trump (33%).

Candidates' Favorability Ratings Are Mediocre

Since 1999, when Gallup began measuring Trump's favorability rating, it has never been above 50% among all Americans. His current -18 net rating (the result of 41% viewing him favorably and 59% unfavorably) is about the same as it was during last winter's federal government shutdown. Although the three Democratic candidates have middling favorability ratings similar to Trump, their unfavorable ratings are lower. As a result, their net ratings are not nearly as poor as Trump's -- Sanders' is +1, Biden's is -2, and Warren's is -5.

Bar chart. Americans’ favorability ratings of Trump, Biden, Sanders and Warren.

These weak favorability ratings, though similar to 2015 readings for Trump and Hillary Clinton, are not consistent with previous elections when candidates had largely been viewed positively on balance, even if they weren't well-known.

Republicans' 91% favorable rating of Trump is much higher than Democrats' ratings of Sanders (76%), Biden (70%) and Warren (63%).

Americans' Favorable Ratings of Candidates, By Party
% Favorable
Republicans Independents Democrats
% % %
Donald Trump 91 31 8
Joe Biden 15 43 70
Bernie Sanders 11 48 76
Elizabeth Warren 8 35 63
GALLUP, Oct. 14-31, 2019

Independents rate Sanders (48%) and Biden (43%) higher than Warren (35%) and Trump (31%).


Although Americans rate Biden and Sanders more positively than Trump for having presidential personality and leadership qualities, this does not necessarily portend lower voter support for Trump. Days before Trump won the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton held a 19-percentage-point advantage on this same measure. As was the case in 2016, the nation's sharply polarized political climate is affecting partisans' views more than in prior years, meaning no presidential candidate is viewed positively by all Americans.

Broad majorities of Republicans agree with Trump on the issues that matter most to them and think he has the personality and leadership qualities a president should have. Fewer Democrats hold the same views of their party's candidates. This is common as partisans' positive views of their own candidates are weaker before the party's nominee is chosen. As the head of his party and the presumptive Republican nominee, Trump benefits, but while the Democrats are vying for their party's nomination, their base is more divided.

Warren has the lowest favorability rating of the three Democratic candidates and more Democrats disagree with her positions on the issues than they do with either Biden or Sanders, even though Sanders' positions on many issues are similar to hers. Warren does, however, get higher ratings than Sanders from Democrats on having the personality and leadership qualities of a president.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about public opinion metrics that matter for the 2020 presidential election at Gallup's 2020 Presidential Election Center.

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