Opposition to Trump’s refugee policy; improved views of economy
Less than a month after Donald Trump took office, the public’s initial impressions of the new president are strongly felt, deeply polarized and far more negative than positive.
The latest national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted Feb. 7-12 among 1,503 adults, finds that Trump’s overall job approval is much lower than those of prior presidents in their first weeks in office: 39% approve of his job performance, while 56% disapprove.
The intensity of the public’s early views of Trump is striking: Fully 75% either approve or disapprove of Trump strongly, compared with just 17% who feel less strongly. Nearly half (46%) strongly disapprove of his job performance, while 29% strongly approve.
This level of strong disapproval already surpasses strong disapproval for Barack Obama at any point during the eight years of his presidency. The only occasion when strong disapproval of George W. Bush was higher than for Trump currently was in December 2008, near the end of his presidency.
And while all presidents dating back to Ronald Reagan initially attracted at least modest support from the opposing party, Trump gets almost none. Just 8% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents approve of his job performance – by far the lowest rating for any new president from the opposing party in more than three decades. By contrast, 84% of Republicans and Republican leaners approve of the way he is handling his job as president, which is in line with the support past presidents received from their own parties. For more, see detailed demographic tables on Trump job approval.
Opinion about Trump’s highest profile policy proposal to date – his executive order limiting entry to the U.S. by refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries – is similar to his overall job approval. About four-in-ten (38%) approve of this policy, while 59% disapprove.
The public has a more critical view of how this executive order, which has been blocked by the courts, was implemented. Just 28% say that, regardless of their view of the policy, they believe the administration did an excellent or good job of communicating the order and putting it into effect. While 17% say the administration did only a fair job of implementing the policy, 53% say it did a poor job in this regard.
Even Republicans, who overwhelmingly approve of Trump’s job performance and the policy behind the executive order, have mixed views about the way it was carried out. While 54% say the administration did an excellent or good job of putting the order into effect, 44% say it did only fair or poor.
The survey finds that the public gives positive marks to Trump on keeping his promises (60% say he does this) and his ability to get things done (54%). However, on seven other traits and characteristics – ranging from his temperament to whether he is a good manager – he is viewed more negatively.
Just 28% of Americans say Trump is “even-tempered,” while more than twice as many (68%) say this phrase does not describe him.
Trump’s ratings on the traits for which trends are available are lower than they were for Barack Obama, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. At similar points in their presidencies, majorities said Obama (76%), Bush (60%) and Clinton (63%) were trustworthy. Currently, just 37% view Trump as trustworthy.
While 39% say Trump is “well-informed,” nearly twice as many said that description applied to Obama in February 2009 (79%) and Clinton in January 1993 (also 79%). In early 2001, 62% said Bush was well-informed.
Trump fares better relative to past presidents in views of his ability to get things done. While 54% say this description applies to Trump, only somewhat more (60%) said it described Bush in 2001. In February 2009, 70% said Obama could get things done.
Other important findings
Improved views among Republicans help lift economic ratings. The public’s views of the nation’s economy – both current and future conditions – continue to be relatively positive. Currently, 42% rate economic conditions as excellent or good, up 11 percentage points since December. The share of Republicans who take a positive view of economic conditions has nearly tripled since then, from 14% to 40%, while holding more stable among Democrats. As in December, Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to expect economic conditions to improve (75% vs. 14%).
Most continue to say Trump has little or no respect for democratic institutions. As was the case in October, during the campaign, a majority of Americans (59%) say Trump has not too much (25%) or no respect at all (34%) for the nation’s democratic institutions and traditions; 40% say he has a great deal (18%) or fair amount (22%) of respect for democratic institutions.
Racial, ethnic diversity viewed more positively. Currently, 64% say having an increasing number of people from different races and ethnic groups makes the country a better place to live, up from 56% in August. About three-quarters of Democrats (76%) and 51% of Republicans think the nation’s growing diversity makes it a better place to live.
1. Early public attitudes about Donald Trump
Overall, 39% say they approve of how Trump is handling his job as president, while 56% say they disapprove and 6% do not offer a view. Job ratings for Trump are more negative than for other recent presidents at similar points in their first terms.
By margins of more than two-to-one, larger shares of the public approved than disapproved of the early performance of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. For example, in February 2001 – just a few months after Bush defeated Al Gore, despite narrowly losing the popular vote – 53% approved of how he was handling his job, compared with just 21% who said they disapproved.
An overwhelming share of the public (94%) offers a job rating for Trump; just 6% say they don’t know whether they approve or disapprove of him. By contrast, about two-in-ten or more declined to offer an early view of prior presidents dating back to Reagan in 1981.
The approval ratings of Trump’s recent predecessors followed different trajectories over the course of their first years, with a few improving in the eyes of the public, while others saw their ratings decline.
Clinton began his first term with an approval rating of 56%, but his ratings fell to around 40% by the summer of his first year, before recovering somewhat by the end of 1993.
Obama saw a gradual decline in his initially high approval ratings over his first year. By contrast, ratings for George H.W. Bush rose over the course of 1989. Ratings for Reagan initially moved higher, but then declined later in the year.
Approval ratings for George W. Bush were around 50% through the summer of his first year, but shot up to the mid-80s following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 84% say they approve of the job Trump is doing. This is in line with early levels of support seen among members of the president’s own party in recent administrations. However, just 8% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say they approve of the job Trump is doing. This is by far the lowest early approval rating among members of the party not in control of the White House over the last six administrations. Early presidential approval among out-party members has been no lower than 30% in prior administrations dating to Reagan.
In addition to a wide majority of the public being able to rate Trump’s early job performance, most say they approve or disapprove of him strongly. Overall, 46% say they disapprove of Trump strongly, while another 9% say they disapprove but not strongly.
And by about three-to-one, more of those who approve of his performance say they feel this way strongly (29% of total public) than not strongly (8% of total public).
Intense disapproval of Trump is a majority view among several demographic groups. Most blacks (63%), Hispanics (56%), postgraduates (61%), college graduates (54%), women (54%) and young adults ages 18-29 (55%) say they strongly disapprove of Trump’s job performance.
Trump’s ratings are less negative among whites (49% approve, 46% disapprove), men (45% approve, 48% disapprove) and those ages 65 and older (48% approve, 47% disapprove). Nonetheless, strong approval is no higher than strong disapproval among all of these groups. Whites without a college degree are one major demographic group for which most approve of Trump’s job performance (56%) and strong approval outweighs strong disapproval (46% vs. 32%).
When it comes to specific issues, Trump receives negative ratings for his handling of terrorism, immigration and foreign policy; his ratings on the economy are more evenly split.
Overall, 43% approve of the way Trump is handling the economy, while 47% say they disapprove and 10% do not offer a view. More disapprove (53%) than approve (42%) of how he is handling the threat of terrorism. About six-in-ten say they disapprove of how Trump is handling the nation’s immigration policy (62%) and foreign policy (59%).
Views of Trump’s traits and characteristics
Most Americans see Trump as someone who keeps his promises and is able to get things done, but the public holds negative views across many other characteristics, including his trustworthiness and temperament.
Fully 60% describe Trump as someone who keeps his promises, while just 31% think of him as someone who doesn’t keep his promises. Most also view Trump as able to get things done (54%); 40% do not think of him this way.
As many say Trump is a strong leader as say they don’t view him this way (49% each). When it comes to his management ability, 45% think he is a good manager, while 52% say this phrase does not describe him.
Trump’s image is much more negative across a range of other characteristics. Majorities say that Trump is not even tempered (68%), is not a good communicator (63%), is not trustworthy (59%), is not well-informed (57%) and does not care about “people like me” (56%).
Across most traits, large majorities of Republicans and Republican leaners ascribe positive characteristics to Trump, while relatively few Democrats and Democratic leaners do the same.
For example, 81% of Republicans say Trump is well-informed compared with just 11% of Democrats.
However, the partisan gap is slightly narrower on whether Trump keeps his promises, with 39% of Democrats saying he does so.
And among Republicans, about as many say they think of Trump as even tempered (48%) as say they do not think of him this way (47%). This is by far the item Trump performs the worst on among Republicans.
About half of the public (52%) says Trump makes them feel uneasy; 46% say he does not make them feel this way. Anger is a less-commonly held negative emotion: 39% say Trump makes them feel this way, compared with 59% who say he does not.
A pair of positive reactions to Trump does not register widely: 40% of the public says Trump makes them feel hopeful (59% say he does not), while 33% say he makes them feel proud (65% say he does not).
Overall, 84% of Republicans say Trump makes them feel hopeful and 72% say he makes them feel proud. Few Republicans say Trump makes them feel uneasy (16%) or angry (6%).
Among Democrats, more say Trump makes them feel uneasy (80%) than angry (66%). Just 10% of Democrats say Trump makes them feel hopeful and only 6% say he makes them feel proud.
Concern about Trump and conflicts of interest
At the outset of his administration, the public is not confident that Trump keeps his business interests separate from the decisions he makes as president.
Four-in-ten say they are either very (24%) or somewhat (16%) confident that Trump keeps his business interests separate from the decisions he makes as president. Nearly six-in-ten (59%) say they are either not too (15%) or not at all (43%) confident that he is doing this.
Among Democrats, 69% say they are not at all confident that he keeps his business interests separate from his job as president (another 18% say they are not too confident). Among Republicans, 53% say they are very confident and 29% say they are somewhat confident that he is keeping them separate.
Young people and highly educated adults express particularly low confidence that Trump is keeping his business interests separate from his decision making as president. Overall, 51% of those ages 18-29 say they are not at all confident that he is doing this, compared with 45% of those 30-49, 40% of those 50-64 and 36% 0f those 65 and older.
A majority of postgraduates (57%) and college graduates (55%) express no confidence that Trump is preventing his business interests from influencing his decisions as president. Smaller shares of those with some college experience (42%) and no more than a high school diploma (35%) express no confidence in Trump on this measure.
How much respect does Trump have for democratic institutions?
Most Americans say Trump does not have much respect for the country’s democratic institutions.
Overall, 59% say Trump has not too much (25%) or no respect at all (34%) for the country’s democratic institutions and traditions. A smaller share (40%) says he has either a great deal (18%) or a fair amount (22%) of respect for these institutions. Views on this question are little changed from October 2016, during the general election campaign.
As with virtually all assessments of Trump, there are wide party divides in views on this question. Among Republicans and Republican leaners, 77% say Trump has either a great deal (42%) or a fair amount (34%) of respect for the nation’s democratic institutions. By contrast, 85% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say Trump has little respect for democratic institutions and traditions in the U.S, including a majority (54%) of Democrats who say he has no respect at all for these institutions and traditions.
Wide demographic differences in Trump favorability ratings
Overall, more hold an unfavorable (57%) than favorable (41%) view of Trump. Views among demographic groups largely mirror patterns in presidential job approval.
For example, most blacks (80%), Hispanics (72%), adults ages 18-29 (71%) and ages 30-49 (61%), and women (64%) hold an unfavorable view of Trump. Views among postgraduates (68% unfavorable) and college graduates (62% unfavorable) also are broadly negative.
Trump’s favorability ratings are more positive among whites (51% favorable vs. 48% unfavorable) and men (48% favorable vs. 49% unfavorable). Those ages 50-64 and ages 65 and older also are about as likely to view Trump favorably as unfavorably. Among whites without a college degree, a 57% majority holds a favorable view of Trump.
Views of national economic conditions
Views of the national economy are the most positive they have been since prior to the Great Recession. The more positive assessments of the economy are the result of improved views among Republicans in the wake of the 2016 election, and steady economic ratings among Democrats.
Overall, 42% rate economic conditions as excellent or good, while 39% say they are only fair and just 18% describe them as poor. This marks the first time in a decade that about as many say the economy is excellent or good as say it is only fair. The share rating the economy as excellent or good is up 11 points since December.
Looking ahead, 38% expect economic conditions to be better in a year, while nearly as many (32%) think they will be worse; 28% expect them to be about the same as they are now. Far more now expect economic conditions to change over the next year (either for better or worse) than said this prior to the election, as views among Republicans have grown more optimistic and views among Democrats have become more pessimistic.
Since December, the share of Republicans who rate economic conditions as excellent or good has shot up from 18% to 40%. Looking forward, 75% of Republicans expect conditions to be better in a year; in June, just 27% said this.
Overall, 46% of Democrats rate the economy as excellent or good, little changed over the last several months. However, Democrats’ economic outlook has changed significantly since the election. Just 14% expect economic conditions to be better in a year; nearly half (49%) think they will be worse, and 34% expect them to be about the same. In June, before Trump’s election win, most Democrats (58%) expected the economy to be about the same in a year and the share who thought it would be better (32%) outweighed the share who thought it would be worse (8%).
2. Views of Trump’s executive order on travel restrictions
Most Americans disapprove of the policy outlined in Trump’s executive order to stop refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days and to prevent people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. on a visa for 90 days: 59% say they disapprove, compared with fewer (38%) who say they approve of this policy.
Nearly all Americans (95%) have heard at least a little about Trump’s executive order, including 78% who say they have heard “a lot” about it – a notably high level of public awareness.
There are wide demographic differences in views about the policy outlined in Trump’s highly-visible executive order.
Whites are divided over the policy: 49% approve, while about as many (50%) disapprove. By comparison, wide majorities of blacks (84%) and Hispanics (79%) say they disapprove of the policy.
Majorities of those ages 18-29 (76%) and 30-49 (62%) disapprove of the policy to restrict entry into the U.S. Older adults hold mixed views: 47% of those ages 50 and older approve, while 49% disapprove.
Among white evangelical Protestants, there is widespread support for the policy outlined in the executive order. Roughly three-quarters (76%) of white evangelicals approve, compared with just 22% who disapprove. White mainline Protestants express less support: 50% approve, while about as many (47%) disapprove. Most Catholics (62%) and those unaffiliated with a religion (74%) say they disapprove of the policy.
Across levels of educational attainment, more say they disapprove than approve of the policy in Trump’s executive order, though disapproval is greater among those with more education. For example, 69% of postgraduates disapprove of the policy, compared with 54% of those with no college experience.
In reflecting on the execution of the order separate from the policy itself, most rate the Trump administration negatively. About half of Americans (53%) say the Trump administration did a poor job communicating the executive order and putting it into effect. Another 17% think the Trump administration did only a fair job, while 20% say it did a good job and just 8% say the administration did an excellent job communicating the order and putting it into effect.
More Republicans and Republican leaners think the administration did at least a good job executing the order than say they did an only fair or a poor job (54% vs. 44%). Still, about as many Republicans say the Trump administration did a poor job communicating the order and putting it into effect (20%) as say they did an excellent job (19%).
Democrats and Democratic leaners overwhelmingly rate the Trump administration negatively on the execution of the order. Roughly three-quarters (76%) say the administration did a poor job, while 12% say they did an only fair job; just 11% think the administration did an excellent or good job.
Nearly nine-in-ten (88%) of those who disapprove of the policy outlined in the executive order also disapprove of the order’s implementation. But even among those who approve of the policy, 40% say the execution was only fair (26%) or poor (14%); 39% say it was good, while just 19% say it was excellent.
While most disapprove of the executive order’s policy, there is no consensus view on how it will impact the country’s security. Overall, 38% think the executive order increases the chance of a terrorist attack on the U.S., while about as many (36%) think it doesn’t make much difference; just 22% say the order decreases the chance of an attack.
Views on the impact of the executive order vary significantly by party. Half of Republicans and Republican leaners think the order decreases the chance of a terrorist attack; fewer (35%) think it doesn’t make much difference, and 12% think it increases the chance of an attack.
By contrast, a 58% majority of Democrats and Democratic leaners say the order increases the chance of an attack. Just 4% of Democrats think the order decreases the chance of an attack; about a third (36%) thinks it doesn’t make much difference either way.
Does the U.S. have a responsibility to accept refugees?
In general terms, most say that the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country. But specifics matter: A separate question asking about refugees from Syria finds less support among the public.
Overall, 56% say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, compared with fewer (41%) who think the U.S. does not have this responsibility.
When asked a separate question about refugees from Syria, the public is divided: 47% say the U.S. has this responsibility to accept Syrian refugees into the country, while about as many (49%) say the U.S. does not have a responsibility to do this.
Across most demographic groups, more say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept “refugees” generally than say the same about “refugees from Syria.” Democrats and young adults are exceptions to this pattern.
About a third of Republicans (35%) think the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees in general; fewer (21%) think the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees from Syria.
Among Democrats, by comparison, 71% think the country has a responsibility to accept refugees. About as many (66%) say the country has a responsibility to accept Syrian refugees.
Young adults ages 18-29 are actually somewhat more likely to say the country has a responsibility to accept Syrian refugees (67%) than refugees more generally (54%). All other age groups are less likely to say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept Syrian refugees than refugees generally.
Since October, there has been an increase in the share who say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept Syrian refugees. Last fall, 54% said the U.S. did not have this responsibility, compared with 40% who said it did.
3. Views of Islam and extremism in the U.S. and abroad
Most Americans do not see widespread support for extremism among Muslims living in the U.S. Overall, 40% say there is not much support for extremism among U.S. Muslims, while an additional 15% say there is none at all. About a quarter say there is a fair amount of support (24%) for extremism among U.S. Muslims; 11% say there is a great deal of support.
The share of adults saying there is not much or no support for extremism among U.S. Muslims is 9 percentage points higher than in 2011 (54% today, 45% in July 2011).
Views on this question vary widely by age, level of education and partisan affiliation.
Younger adults are less likely to say there is support for extremism among Muslims in the U.S. than older adults. About six-in-ten (62%) of those 18-29 say there is not much or no support for extremism among U.S. Muslims, while 20% say there is a fair amount and 10% say there is a great deal. By comparison, fewer than half (43%) of those ages 65 and older say there is not much or no support for extremism among U.S. Muslims; 30% say there is a fair amount and 13% say there is a great deal.
A 68% majority of college-educated adults thinks there is not much or no support for extremism among U.S. Muslims; those without a college degree offer more mixed views. About half (49%) think there is not much or no support for extremism among U.S. Muslims, while 27% think there is a fair amount and 13% say there is a great deal.
Among those who say they personally know someone who is Muslim, 60% say there is either not much (44%) or no (16%) support for extremism among U.S. Muslims. By contrast, those who do not personally know someone who is Muslim are more divided: 48% say there is not much or no support for extremism among U.S. Muslims, while 27% say there is a fair amount and 13% say there is a great deal.
Partisans also are divided on the level of support for extremism among Muslims in the U.S. Relatively few Republicans (16%) or Democrats (7%) think there is a great deal of support for extremism among U.S. Muslims, but 40% of Republicans say there is a fair amount of support, compared with just 15% of Democrats who say this.
Most conservative Republicans think there is a great deal (18%) or a fair amount (41%) of support for extremism among U.S. Muslims. By contrast, roughly three-quarters of liberal Democrats think there is not much (51%) or no support at all (26%) among Muslims living in the U.S.
While most do not see widespread support for extremism among U.S. Muslims, the public does express broad concern about extremism in the name of Islam more generally.
Overall, 83% of Americans say they are very or somewhat concerned about extremism in the name of Islam around the world. When asked about extremism in the name of Islam in the U.S., seven-in-ten Americans say they are very or somewhat concerned.
Nearly nine-in-ten Republicans and Republican leaners (88%) say they are at least somewhat concerned about extremism in the name of Islam in the U.S., including 64% who say they are very concerned. A smaller majority of Democrats and Democratic leaners (61%) say they are at least somewhat concerned about Islamic extremism in the U.S., including 30% who are very concerned.
While wide majorities of Republicans and Democrats alike express concern over extremism in the name of Islam around the world, there are differences in the shares who are very concerned. Two-thirds of Republicans and Republican leaners say they are very concerned about extremism around the world, including fully 77% of conservative Republicans. Fewer Democrats and Democratic leaners (40%) express this same level of concern.
Concern over Islamic extremism around the world has fallen since it reached its highest level in recent years. In 2015 and 2014, roughly six-in-ten said they were very concerned about “the rise of Islamic extremism around the world.” Today, about half (49%) say they are very concerned these days about extremism in the name of Islam around the world.
Concern over extremism in the name of Islam is tied to attitudes about the policy put forth in Trump’s executive order.
Those who are very concerned about extremism in the U.S. are much more likely to approve of the policy in Trump’s executive order than those who are less concerned. Overall, 54% of those who are very concerned about extremism in the name of Islam in the U.S. say they approve of the policy outlined in the executive order. By contrast, 74% of those who express less concern about extremism in the U.S. disapprove of the policy.
4. Attitudes toward increasing diversity in the U.S.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) say an increasing number of people from different races, ethnic groups and nationalities in the U.S. makes the country a better place to live; fewer (29%) think growing diversity in the country does not make much difference, and just 5% think it makes the country a worse place to live.
The share that thinks growing diversity makes the country a better place to live has increased eight points from last August, when a smaller majority (56%) held this view.
An overwhelming share of adults with a postgraduate degree (79%) say that growing diversity makes the U.S. a better place to live, as do about seven-in-ten of those with a college degree or some college experience. About half of those with a high school diploma or less education (53%) think more people of different races and ethnicities in the U.S. makes the country a better place; 36% think it makes no difference either way.
Majorities across all age groups think increasing diversity makes the U.S. a better place, though younger adults are somewhat more likely to say this than adults ages 50 and older.
Today, 76% of Democrats and Democratic leaners think growing diversity in the U.S. makes the country better. The share of Democrats who say this is up 10 points since August.
The shift in views is particularly notable among conservative and moderate Democrats. About seven-in-ten (71%) now say increasing diversity makes the country a better place, up from 59% who said this in August.
Among Republicans, about half think increasing diversity makes the country better (51%), and 38% think it does not make much difference; 8% think growing diversity makes the country a worse place to live. Conservative Republicans are about as likely to say growing diversity makes the country a better place to live (45%) as to say it doesn’t make much difference (42%). Views among this group are little changed since August.
Moderate and liberal Republicans are more likely to say the country is a better place to live because of growing diversity than to say it does not make a difference (62% vs. 31%). The share of moderate and liberal Republicans who think the country is a better place with more diversity is up 11 points since August.
The analysis in this report is based on telephone interviews conducted February 7-12, 2017 among a national sample of 1,503 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia (377 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 1,126 were interviewed on a cell phone, including 680 who had no landline telephone). The survey was conducted by interviewers at Princeton Data Source under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. A combination of landline and cell phone random digit dial samples were used; both samples were provided by Survey Sampling International. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. Respondents in the landline sample were selected by randomly asking for the youngest adult male or female who is now at home. Interviews in the cell sample were conducted with the person who answered the phone, if that person was an adult 18 years of age or older. For detailed information about our survey methodology, see http://www.pewresearch.org/methodology/u-s-survey-research/
The combined landline and cell phone sample are weighted using an iterative technique that matches gender, age, education, race, Hispanic origin and nativity and region to parameters from the 2015 Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and population density to parameters from the Decennial Census. The sample also is weighted to match current patterns of telephone status (landline only, cell phone only, or both landline and cell phone), based on extrapolations from the 2016 National Health Interview Survey. The weighting procedure also accounts for the fact that respondents with both landline and cell phones have a greater probability of being included in the combined sample and adjusts for household size among respondents with a landline phone. The margins of error reported and statistical tests of significance are adjusted to account for the survey’s design effect, a measure of how much efficiency is lost from the weighting procedures.
The following table shows the unweighted sample sizes and the error attributable to sampling that would be expected at the 95% level of confidence for different groups in the survey:
Sample sizes and sampling errors for other subgroups are available upon request.
In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.
Pew Research Center undertakes all polling activity, including calls to mobile telephone numbers, in compliance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and other applicable laws.
Pew Research Center is a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization and a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder.