The thriving economy looks to be bolstering Donald Trump’s approval rating -– but his personal unpopularity, especially among women, may be putting a ceiling on it.
The president remains poorly rated overall in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll -– 56 percent of Americans disapprove of his job performance, versus 40 percent who approve, and “strong” disapprovers outnumber strong approvers by nearly 2-1.
His average approval rating after 15 months in office (38-57 percent approve/disapprove) is the lowest on record in polls dating to the Truman administration.
Still, it’s numerically Trump’s highest approval rating in a year, coming just as consumer confidence reached its best since February 2001 in the weekly Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index. And while he’s 16 points underwater in approval overall, Trump gets essentially an even split for his handling of the economy –- 46-48 percent (approve-disapprove).
If the economy helps Trump, his personal style appears to hurt him. By a nearly 2-1 margin (61-32 percent), the public sees him unfavorably “as a person” in this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates. There’s a close link between this view and his job rating: Among those who dislike him personally, 84 percent also disapprove of his work in office.
That’s not always the case. In March 1999, after his impeachment trial, Bill Clinton’s personal favorability rating was even worse than Trump’s today, 67-30 percent, unfavorable-favorable. But Clinton managed a 64 percent job approval rating at the same time. His personal popularity was much less correlated with his job approval than Trump’s is today.
Trump’s rating for handling the economy, while better than his overall approval, also is weak in comparative terms. The last time consumer confidence was this high, Clinton had just left office with 76 percent approval for his handling of the economy, 30 points higher than Trump’s now. Clinton’s overall job approval was 65 percent, 25 points higher than Trump’s.
Additionally, while the economy helps Trump, he faces skepticism on one prominent economic initiative, the trade tariffs he’s threatened. Americans are more apt to think these tariffs will be bad for U.S. jobs than good for them, 49-36 percent.
That said, the tariffs –- aimed at cheap steel and aluminum imports -– are better received in the Midwest, where there’s an even division on whether they’re good or bad for jobs. And Trump’s approval rating has jumped 12 points in the Midwest since January to a new high, 48 percent.
Trump also is at a numerical high (by a single point) in job approval among men, at 49 percent approval; at majority approval (53 percent) among whites for the first time in a year; and has jumped to a new high among conservatives, 74 percent approval, up 9 points just since January. At the same time, his approval rating among nonwhites, 17 percent, is its lowest on record.
Among the most prominent elements of public attitudes toward Trump is the vast gender gap in his basic ratings. While men divide evenly on his job performance, 49-47 percent, women disapprove by a 2-1 margin, 32-64 percent. And while men see him more unfavorably than favorably as a person by 12 points, 53-41 percent, women do so by a 44-point margin, 68-24 percent.
Education and race are additional factors. Seventy-three percent of college-educated white women see Trump unfavorably as a person, while just 35 percent of non-college white men share that assessment. Conversely, 70 percent of non-college white men approve of his job performance; only 34 percent of college-educated white women agree.
Trump’s challenges among women are evident in other data. As reported Friday, women are much more apt than men to support extending special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether or not Trump’s associates paid hush money to women who claimed they’d had affairs with him. Sixty-five percent of women support such an investigation, vs. 50 percent of men.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone April 8-11, 2018, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 32-25-35 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.
The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt Associates of Rockville, Md. See details on the survey’s methodology here.