By Lydia Saad
President Donald Trump is the first elected president in Gallup’s polling history to receive an initial job approval rating below the majority level. He starts his term in office with 45% of Americans approving of the way he is handling his new job, 45% disapproving and 10% yet to form an opinion. Trump now holds the record for the lowest initial job approval rating as well as the highest initial disapproval rating in Gallup surveys dating back to Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Trump’s inaugural approval rating is not much lower than the 51% recorded for George H.W. Bush in 1989 as well as for Ronald Reagan in 1981, but his disapproval rating is substantially higher than theirs. Whereas 45% disapprove of Trump, only 6% disapproved of the elder Bush and 13% disapproved of Reagan.
Many more Americans offered no opinion about the job performance of those new presidents – 43% for Bush and 36% for Reagan – as well for all previous presidents Gallup has measured, than do so for Trump. The lower percentage of Americans with no opinion of Trump could be attributable to changes in news coverage over the years, as well as the possibility that increased political polarization results in Americans answering more reflexively today based on their partisanship. Changes in survey methods, such as the shift from in-person to telephone surveys after Ronald Reagan, could also be a factor.
Gender Gap Evident, but Not Huge
While most of Trump’s actions this past weekend were ceremonial, there was plenty of substance for Americans to react to in the executive orders he issued Friday afternoon, his visit to the CIA headquarters on Saturday, his continued messaging through Twitter and his blowup with the media on Saturday over news reports he thought downplayed the size of the inauguration crowd.
The Women’s March on Washington that took place Saturday, along with the sister marches across the country, may also have factored into how some people evaluated the new president.
While Americans, overall, are divided on how Trump has handled his job these past three days, certain subgroups of Americans are predictably pleased with his performance while others are displeased.
- Trump earned 90% approval from Republicans, while nearly as many Democrats (81%) disapproved. Independents split about evenly, with 40% approving and 44% disapproving.
- Majorities of whites and those aged 65 and older approved of Trump’s performance while majorities of nonwhites and young adults disapproved, and middle-aged Americans were more closely split.
- Of particular interest given the women’s marches on Saturday, women tilt against Trump, although not heavily. Just under half, 49%, disapproved while 42% approved. Attitudes are reversed among men, with 48% approving and 41% disapproving.
Whether these patterns are sustainable is an open question. Gallup’s day-by-day results indicate Americans reacted positively to Trump on Friday, just hours after his inauguration. But the weekend’s events may have been corrosive, as his approval score trended downward on Saturday and Sunday.
Division has been a common theme in Americans’ reactions to Trump since the election, and it remained the operative dynamic over the inaugural weekend. Republicans and Democrats gave nearly opposite reviews of Trump’s first three days, while the gender and educational groups associated with each political party tilted in the expected directions. Men, whites, older Americans and college nongraduates tended to approve rather than disapprove of Trump’s job performance while women, nonwhites, younger Americans and college graduates tilted the other way.
To the extent there is good news for Trump in these numbers, it is that they are slightly better than how he was rated for his handling of the presidential transition earlier in the month. In a Jan. 4-8 Gallup poll, 44% of Americans approved and 51% disapproved of how he was handling the transition.
Also, while a 45% job approval rating is no “honeymoon,” it is only a bit lower than President Barack Obama’s average job approval rating over his eight years, and not an unreasonably low position from which to govern. Whether he can maintain it is the question.
These data are available in Gallup Analytics.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 20-22, 2017, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,525 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.
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