As President Donald Trump nears his 100th day in office, the nation’s chief executive is garnering low ratings among all Americans, but his base remains stable and optimistic about changes in the coming months, according to the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll results.
The latest poll, conducted April 12-26, shows low ratings for his performance: 40 percent approve, 46 percent disapprove and 14 percent declined to choose.
However, Trump has gained support for his performance from his voters. In a survey conducted in March among the same respondents, about a third of his voters (33 percent) said they neither approved nor disapproved. In this latest survey, a majority of that group had moved into the approval category, increasing his positive rating among his voters, from 62 percent to 8 percent. This buoyed Trump’s overall rating by 10 percentage points.
When asked how they would vote now, most Trump voters had no regrets: 92 percent would back their candidate again. Most of Hillary Clinton’s voters — 89 percent — also stood by her. Two percent of the Trump and Clinton voters had second thoughts and would switch sides. Also, Clinton would pick up 16 percent of Gary Johnson’s and 28 percent of Jill Stein’s voters; Trump would draw 7 percent from Johnson and 14 percent from Stein.
“Trump was politically fortunate that some of his initiatives fell short, such as the Trump-Ryan health care proposal that would have hurt many who had voted for him,” said Robert Shrum, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics and a political science professor at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “Despite these shortcomings, his base is solid, but so is his Democratic opposition.”
Scientists at USC Dornsife’s Center for Economic and Social Research who conducted the poll were expected to discuss the results Wednesday at the “Trump’s First 100 Days” conference, held at USC’s Town and Gown by the Unruh Institute. Last year, the USC Dornsife/L.A. Times poll drew national attention for its “probability” methodology, which tracked daily shifts in voters’ likelihood for voting for the presidential candidates.
Trump voters are optimistic. Eighty-seven percent said that the country is on the right track while a nearly equal percentage of Clinton voters said it is on the wrong track. Seventy-three percent of third-party voters said the country is on the wrong track.
Almost 8 of 10 Trump voters (79 percent) were hopeful for job growth in the coming year, and just over half predicted improvement for the country on the issues of terrorism threats and health care reform. Less than half were optimistic about individual rights. On the issues of race relations, rights of women and minorities, and the environment, pluralities of Trump voters thought they would remain the same.
Clinton voters were much more pessimistic. Between two-thirds and three-quarters predicted things would worsen in all but one category — jobs and employment, where a plurality thought they would remain about the same.
Roughly 9 of 10 Trump voters said they feel that Trump keeps his promises, “speaks for people like me,” inspires confidence, is bringing needed change to Washington and represents American values. Eighty percent said Trump is ethical and trustworthy and 85 percent believed that he bases policy on facts and good data. Between 83 percent and 95 percent of Clinton voters disagreed that those attributes describe Trump.
The survey indicated that some Trump voters may support the president even if they don’t like him or approve of his policies. While 53 percent of Trump voters said they like and approve of his policies, 17 percent said they dislike him but approve of his policies, and a similar proportion (19 percent) said that they like him but are unsure of his policies. Nine percent said they dislike him and offered no opinion on his policies.
Among Clinton voters, 69 percent indicated they dislike him and his policies, and 20 percent dislike him but didn’t rate his polices. He was liked by 3 percent of Clinton voters who were unsure of his policies and by 6 percent of Clinton voters who disapproved of them.
“The most striking point remains the sharp divide in opinions between people who voted for Trump in November and still support him in large numbers, versus the people who voted for Clinton who have not really changed their negative view on the performance of the new administration,” said Arie Kapteyn, executive director of the Center for Economic and Social Research at USC Dornsife.
However, there is some indication that some people who disliked the idea of President Trump before the election are not as unhappy with the reality of him now.
In the months leading up to the election, respondents were asked how happy they would be if Trump — or Clinton — were elected president and were asked the same question in December, March and April.
About 4 of 10 voters predicted before the election that they would be totally unhappy, rating their sentiments on a 0-10 scale from most unhappy to happiest. Immediately after the election, that proportion dropped to 30 percent and slightly below. It now sits at 28 percent.
Just after the election, the proportion of voters who said that they would be completely happy (a 10 out of 10) increased by 9 percentage points, from 16 percent to 25 percent. Now, more than half (56 percent) are somewhere in between.
Trust in news media
Voters were about as divided on partisan lines on their preferred news sources as they were on their approval of the president. In fact, Clinton voters had greater trust in news that they get from late-night TV than from Fox News or the Trump administration itself, the two top picks for Trump voters.
In particular, Trump voters almost exclusively trusted the Trump administration (60 percent) and Fox News (50 percent), the poll showed. Their trust for all other news outlets, including talk radio, was around or below 25 percent.
Clinton voters did not have a single outlet that stood out as their most trusted source. Their trust in national newspapers and public television were nearly equal (more than 60 percent), followed by NPR and CNN at slightly under 60 percent, and MSNBC and regional newspapers at about 50 percent. Twenty percent of Clinton voters trust late-night TV. Less than 20 percent trust the Trump administration, talk radio and Fox News.
This pattern held true for all Americans, regardless of how they voted in the election. Just 39 percent of people who said they trust Fox News also rated their regional newspapers as trustworthy, 36 percent for public television, 35 percent for CNN, 31 percent for national newspapers, 29 percent for MSNBC and 26 percent for NPR. However, those who trusted sources such as CNN or national newspapers tended to also trust other such sources and did not trust Fox News.
Americans have become wary news consumers who distrust each other’s sources of information.
“Americans have become wary news consumers who distrust each other’s sources of information,” said Jill Darling, survey director for the Center for Economic and Social Research. “Fox News is a somewhat unique source in that it is highly trusted by its viewers who appear to almost exclusively depend on it, but it is largely distrusted by people who get their news from a variety of other outlets.”
Last year, 51 percent of Clinton voters and an equal number of Trump voters said they felt their financial situation was the same as a year before. Those numbers have held steady this year.
Looking toward the future, Trump voters in this survey were more optimistic than they were before the election. At that time, 29 percent of them had predicted that they would be better off next year, compared to 48 percent who feel optimistic about their financial future now.
Thirty-two percent of Clinton voters in the latest survey said they believe that their finances are improving, up 2 points from a year ago. Seventeen percent this year believe their finances are worsening, down 2 points from last year.
The USC Dornsife/L.A. Times poll is a partnership between the Los Angeles Times, as well as the Unruh Institute of Politics and the Center for Economic and Social Research, both at USC Dornsife.
For the USC Dornsife/L.A. Times poll, the Center for Economic and Social Research surveyed 3039 adult Americans, of whom 2,584 reported that they voted in the 2016 election. The survey was conducted in a national probability-based internet panel March 12-25 and April 1-30.
The survey results were weighted to match demographic characteristics such as race and gender, from the U.S. Census Current Population Survey and weighted to match the population distribution by location in order to ensure the correct balance between residents of urban and rural Zip codes.
For some measures, panel members responded before the election and again in January. The poll tracks changes over time among the panel members, culminating in their responses to questions asked in April, close to the end of the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency. The margin of error is plus/minus 2 percent.