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Public's Mood Sours -- 16% Satisfied, 39% Approve of Trump

Public's Mood Sours -- 16% Satisfied, 39% Approve of Trump

Story Highlights

  • President Trump's job approval rating is 39%, down from 43% in November
  • Approval of Joe Biden's transition is 65%; higher than Trump's in 2016
  • Economic Confidence Index reverses trend and drops 15 points to -16

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The public's overall mood has soured since Gallup's post-election measure in November. Specifically, satisfaction with the direction of the country and views of economic conditions in the U.S. have worsened significantly.

So, too, has Congress' job approval rating, which, at 15%, is the lowest of the 116th Congress. President Donald Trump's job approval rating has fallen to 39% -- down seven percentage points from before the election. In contrast, nearly two-thirds of Americans approve of the way Joe Biden is handling his presidential transition.

Americans' Views of the Nation, November vs. December
Nov 5-19, 2020 Dec 1-17, 2020
% Satisfaction with direction of U.S. 21 16
% Congressional job approval 23 15
% Donald Trump's job approval 43 39
% Joe Biden's transition approval NA 65
Economic Confidence Index -1 points -16 points

The latest Dec. 1-17 Gallup poll was conducted as COVID-19 cases continued to surge in the U.S., Congress attempted to negotiate another economic relief bill with no success and Trump refused to acknowledge Joe Biden's victory in the presidential election.

The coronavirus is cited as the most important problem in the country by 33% of Americans outpacing mentions of government or poor leadership (20%) and the economy (10%).

Americans' Satisfaction With U.S. Direction Drops Further

Overall, 16% of U.S. adults are now satisfied with the direction of the country. This is the second consecutive month that satisfaction has fallen. It was as high as 45% in February, but it declined as the pandemic took hold in the U.S., hitting a low point of 13% in July and August. After a brief preelection rebound, satisfaction is dropping again.


Line graph. Americans satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S. since January 2020. Currently, 16% of Americans are satisfied, down from 28% in October and 21% in November.

This overall decline is driven primarily by Republicans, whose satisfaction fell from 60% in Gallup's final preelection measure in October to 22% in the most recent poll, likely a reaction to the election outcome. Independents' satisfaction dropped more modestly to 14%, while Democrats have become slightly more satisfied than they were in October and November. Still, Democrats' satisfaction is 10 points below Republicans'.

Partisans' Satisfaction With Direction of U.S., 2020
% Satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time
Oct-20 Nov-20 Dec-20
% % %
Republicans 60 35 22
Independents 21 22 14
Democrats 3 7 12

Presidential Job Approval Down Seven Points Since Election

The president's job approval rating is the lowest it has been since June when it fell sharply amid protests nationwide about racial injustice following George Floyd's death while in police custody. Heading into the election, Trump's approval rating was 46%, just three points shy of his personal highest. It dipped three points shortly after the election and another four points since then.

The president's legal team and his allies have alleged fraud and contested the election results in dozens of lawsuits, including one that went before the U.S. Supreme Court. Thus far, none of the lawsuits have resulted in overturned election results; his defeat was affirmed by the Electoral College on Dec. 14, and Trump has not conceded the election to Biden.


Line graph. Presidential job approval of Donald Trump since the beginning of his first term in office. Currently 39% of Americans approve of Trump's job.

Trump joins Jimmy Carter as defeated incumbents whose approval ratings fell after failing to win reelection. By contrast, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush saw their ratings rise after voters denied them a second presidential term

Trump's approval rating has fallen seven and eight points, respectively, among Republicans and independents since Gallup's final preelection readings in October. Currently, 87% of Republicans, 34% of independents and 6% of Democrats approve of his job performance.

Job Approval of Donald Trump, by Party
% Approve
Oct-20 Nov-20 Dec-20
% % %
Republicans 95 90 87
Independents 41 39 34
Democrats 3 3 6

Approval of Biden's Transition Higher Than Trump's, Lower than Obama's

Since being projected as the winner of the presidential election on Nov. 8, Biden has named many of his aides and Cabinet nominees; 65% of Americans, including 96% of Democrats, 67% of independents and 23% of Republicans, approve of the way he is handling his presidential transition.

Biden's transition approval is on par with the ratings garnered by Bill Clinton in 1992 and George W. Bush in 2001, but significantly lower than Barack Obama's in 2008 and significantly higher than Trump's in 2016. Partisans' ratings of Biden's transition are less polarized than those for Clinton and Bush but similar to those for Trump. Obama received the highest rating for his transition -- 75%, which included majorities across party lines.

Approval of Presidential Transitions
Do you approve or disapprove of the handling his presidential transition?
Dates U.S. adults Democrats Independents Republicans
% % % %
Joe Biden Dec 1-17, 2020 65 96 67 23
Donald Trump Dec 7-11, 2016 48 17 46 86
Barack Obama Dec 12-14, 2008 75 93 75 53
George W. Bush Jan 5-7, 2001 65 46 59 93
Bill Clinton Dec 18-20, 1992 67 83 64 50
Based on December readings except for Bush in Jan. after he was named the winner in mid-December

Congressional Approval Lowest for 116th Congress

Congressional approval reached its highest point in 11 years (31%) in the spring after the passage of a COVID-19 economic relief bill. With the coronavirus situation now worsening in the U.S. and many Americans suffering financially, Congress' inability to reach a deal on another pandemic aid package at the time of the poll may be behind the public's sharply lower approval rating this month.

While approval has fluctuated since the high in May, it rose to 23% after the election, only to drop eight points in the latest reading. The current 15% approval rating is the worst (by two points) for the 116th Congress, which was convened on January 3, 2019, and will conclude on January 3, 2021. It still ranks ahead of the all-time low of 9% measured in November 2013.


Line graph. Job approval rating of the 116th Congress since January 2019 when it began. Currently, 15% of Americans approve of Congress, the lowest of the current Congress.

Partisans' ratings of Congress are similar -- 18% of Republicans, 16% of independents and 11% of Democrats approve. That has been the typical pattern this year, likely because of the split party control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Economic Views Worsen in December

Gallup regularly tracks Americans' perceptions of national economic conditions as excellent, good, only fair or poor and whether the economy is getting better or getting worse. The combined answers are used to create the Gallup Economic Confidence Index, which has a theoretical range of +100 (if all respondents say the economy is excellent or good and that it is getting better) to -100 (if all say it is poor and getting worse).

This year started with a +40 reading, but the negative economic effects of the pandemic resulted in a -33 reading in May amid widespread closures nationwide. U.S. consumers' views of the nation's economy had been gradually improving since then, but the latest reading marks a sharp reversal of that trend. Between November and December, the index fell 15 points to -16, thereby erasing all improvements since August.


Line graph. Gallup's Economic Confidence Index in 2020. It is currently -16 which is 15 points lower than the reading in November.

The decline in ECI is largely owed to a six-point uptick to 29% of Americans rating the economy as poor since last month coupled with a nine-point jump in the percentage saying the economy is getting worse to 64%, a level last seen in May.


Line graph. Americans' view of economic conditions in the country as getting better or getting worse since January 2020. Currently, 64% say they are getting worse and 29% say they are getting better.

The drop in economic confidence is largely a function of many fewer Republicans (64% from 49%) and independents (22% from 38%) this month than last month, saying the economy is getting better, perhaps looking ahead to the change in presidential administration. Democrats' opinions are essentially unchanged (21% in December and 18% in November).

Bottom Line

Although the president is not acknowledging the election outcome, many Republicans appear to be as their views of the economy and satisfaction with the direction of the country have worsened in the last month. The lack of a concession from Trump has not hampered views of President-elect Biden as nearly two in three Americans approve of the way he is handling his transition. This is fairly typical for past presidents-elect.

Lower economic confidence this month could stifle consumer spending as Christmas approaches.

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).

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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