CNN Poll: Trump's approval rating reaches new low as term ends
Posted January 17, 2021 8:01 a.m. EST
CNN — President Donald Trump will leave office with the lowest approval rating of his presidency, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS, with more Americans than ever in support of removing him from office.
A majority, 54%, say Trump ought to be removed from office before January 20 because of his role in the events of January 6, when Trump incited a mob of his supporters to storm the US Capitol -- an unlikely prospect as Vice President Mike Pence has ruled out the use of the 25th Amendment to expel Trump from office and no Senate trial on the impeachment charge passed by the House is likely before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in this week.
That is larger than the share who favored impeaching and removing Trump from office at any point in 2019 or early 2020 as the investigation which led to his first impeachment progressed to a Senate trial. But the wide partisan gap that drove views on that question throughout that process continues now. Nearly all Democrats (93%) favor removing Trump from office before January 20, while just 10% of Republicans feel the same.
The survey was in the field as the House voted to impeach Trump for the second time, and there is no significant difference in support for Trump's removal before versus after the vote.
Overall, 34% of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling the presidency, down from 42% in a pre-election poll and one point below his previous low point in CNN's polling. Among his own partisans, Trump's approval rating has dropped 14 points since October but remains largely positive with 80% approving. It has held steady in the low single digits among Democrats (3% pre-election, 2% now).
Just over a third of Americans (36%) call the January 6 attack on the US Capitol a crisis for American democracy, and another 39% call it a major problem. Views on the significance of the attack are split by party, with most Democrats calling it a crisis (54%), and few Republicans in agreement (20%).
The public mostly rejects the baseless conspiracy theory behind the rioting -- that Biden did not legitimately win enough votes to become president: 65% say that he did legitimately win enough votes, but a sizable share (23%) -- and particularly among Republicans (58%) -- believe that conspiracy theory to be true and that there is solid evidence to support it. There is no evidence that the election was illegitimate, nor that there was widespread fraud in the vote count.
The questions raised by the Trump campaign's legal team and echoed by GOP lawmakers and conservative media in the months since the election appear to have dented Republican confidence in the American election system generally. Fully 75% of Republicans say they have little confidence that US elections reflect the will of the people.
Most Americans (55%) say Trump deserves a great deal of blame for the storming of the Capitol. Opinions are split by party, though, with 92% of Democrats placing a great deal of blame on Trump vs. 13% of Republicans. Likewise, the 4 in 10 who say that Republican lawmakers who objected to the results of the 2020 election deserve a great deal of blame is also divided by party (70% among Democrats, 14% among Republicans).
There is greater agreement across party lines, however, that the rioters themselves bear significant responsibility for the storming of the US Capitol. Overall, 76% place a great deal of blame on their shoulders, including 88% of Democrats and 68% of Republicans. Far fewer (26%) lay significant blame at the feet of the Capitol Police force.
Most say those who rioted at the Capitol have not been penalized enough (63%), and even there, a partisan gap holds. Among Democrats, 85% say the rioters have not faced sufficient punishment, while that drops to 38% among Republicans. Republicans are more likely than others to say they're not sure whether the rioters have faced enough punishment.
Assessing Trump's presidency
Looking back over Trump's full time in office, 55% consider his term to be more of a failure than a success, while 41% call it successful. A larger number now say Trump's presidency changed the country (85%) than said so at any prior point in his time in office, but most (55%) say he has changed it for the worse, the first time a majority has said that. Among Democrats, 82% feel he changed it for the worse, while among Republicans, roughly a quarter agree (24%).
Trump's final approval rating lags far behind his immediate predecessor's (Barack Obama left office with a 60% approval rating in 2017) and ranks among the worst since Gallup began tracking presidential approval regularly in the 1940s. Five of 12 presidents in that time have left office with approval ratings below 40%: Jimmy Carter and Trump each at 34%, Harry Truman at 32%, George W. Bush at 31%, and Richard Nixon at 24% just before resigning.
The economy remains the high point for Trump in the eyes of the public: 53% say they approve of the way he handled the economy, the only issue tested for which he earns majority approval. The major crises of his final year in office -- the coronavirus outbreak and race relations -- earn sharply negative reviews. Just 34% approve of how he handled race relations, and 36% of the coronavirus. Approval is similarly low for the signature issue of Trump's 2016 campaign for the presidency, immigration. Just 36% approve of how he handled that.
Trump's favorability rating -- a measure of views of him personally rather than of his work as president -- is among the lowest of his political career. Overall, 33% say they have a favorable opinion of Trump, 64% an unfavorable one. He's been viewed worse just twice since he declared his run for the presidency in June 2015, and both came before he was elected -- in September 2015 and March 2016.
Other findings from the same survey suggest that as Trump's standing has dipped in the eyes of the public, Americans are ready for the Republican Party to shift away from Trump. The GOP's favorability rating has taken a steep hit since before the election, and around three-quarters of Americans say they want the GOP to move on from Trump rather than continue to treat him as their leader.
Views of Pence hold steady overall, but despite the lack of movement in the topline number there has been a partisan shift in views of Pence. Among Republicans, his favorability rating has dipped 12 points compared with an early October survey, while it has climbed 14 points among Democrats over that same time.
More have an unfavorable view of first lady Melania Trump now (47%) than at any point since CNN first asked about views of her in February 2016.
The methodology and weighting for this poll has been modified compared with previous CNN polls. Interviews conducted on cellphones made up 75% of the total, up from 65% in prior surveys. Dialing extended over six days rather than four days, allowing for more effort to be made to contact those who are not easily reachable. Demographic weighting was adjusted to account for more discrete education categories broken out by race, and a geographic weight was applied to ensure representative distribution by population density. In addition, results were weighted for partisan identification and lean among independents, with targets computed using an average of the current poll plus three recent CNN polls.
The new CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS January 9 through 14 among a random national sample of 1,003 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.