- 49% in U.S. say Trump is decisive leader; 36%, honest and trustworthy
- 42% each say Trump is empathetic, can manage government effectively
- 72% of Republicans say Trump is honest, down nine points since February 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Less than five months before the general election, Americans' views of President Donald Trump across four key characteristics are largely stable, and each is within five percentage points of Gallup's lowest readings since his inauguration. Less than half of Americans see the 45th president as a strong and decisive leader (49%), able to manage the government effectively (42%), caring about the needs of people like them (42%), and honest and trustworthy (36%).
Line graph. Americans' views of whether four character traits apply to President Donald Trump since February 2017. Currently, 49% think he is a strong and decisive leader; 42% say he is able to manage the government effectively; 42% say he cares about the needs of people like them; and 36% think he is honest and trustworthy. Each reading is within five percentage points of Gallup's lowest since Trump took office.
Gallup has tracked Americans' views of these four positive character traits of Trump since shortly after his inauguration in 2017. The immediate post-inauguration readings for each are the highest of his presidency so far. Strong leadership is the only one of the qualities that a majority of U.S. adults have ever said applies to Trump. For the past two years, the slimmest of majorities have said he is a strong and decisive leader, but that has slipped slightly in the current reading.
The latest findings are from a May 28-June 4 poll in which Trump's job approval rating fell to 39% amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protests in the wake of George Floyd's death while in police custody in Minneapolis. When Gallup last measured Trump's character, in June 2019, his job approval was slightly higher than now, at 43%.
Historical Context for Presidential Characteristics
Three of the four qualities from the latest poll were also asked about Barack Obama at roughly the same point in his presidency. Americans were only slightly more likely to say Obama was a strong and decisive leader and able to manage government effectively than say the same of Trump now. Yet, the reading for Obama's honesty and trustworthiness dwarfs Trump's, 60% vs. 36%.
In June 1996, Americans were more likely to view Bill Clinton as honest and trustworthy than they are to view Trump this way now, by 10 points. This was before the revelations about Clinton's involvement with White House intern Monica Lewinsky but during the investigation into the Whitewater real estate matter. However, in January 1999, during his impeachment trial, 24% of Americans viewed Clinton as honest and trustworthy.
Clinton was viewed as much more empathetic than Trump is now at a comparable point in his presidency.
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|Data are from June of each year; NA = not asked|
Partisans Diverge Sharply in Their Assessments of Trump's Character
More than four in five Republicans and Republican-leaning independents think Trump is a strong and decisive leader (87%), cares about people like them (83%) and can effectively manage government (82%). The latest readings are down between four and seven points from their post-inauguration highs. Fewer Republicans (72%), though still a solid majority, say Trump is honest and trustworthy, marking a nine-point decline from February 2017.
At the same time, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents have continued to offer anemic assessments of Trump, as roughly one in 10 think he is empathetic, honest and effective at managing government. At the start of his presidency, 29% of Democrats considered him a strong and decisive leader, but that reading has slipped 10 points.
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Americans' views of Trump's character appear to be cemented as he approaches the general election in November. His sub-50% ratings across four positive character traits may be a liability for him, as it seems unlikely that he will be able to win votes by touting his personal qualities.
Yet, in 2016, Trump won the presidency despite concerns about his character. Once Gallup has readings on these dimensions for Joe Biden, a clearer picture of the presidential race may emerge. Still, history has shown that presidential job approval is a greater predictor of victory than personality.
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