Trump's approval remains weak despite economy: Poll

NEW YORK (AP) — About six in 10 Americans disapprove of President Trump's overall job performance, according to a new poll released Thursday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which finds some support for the president's handling of the U.S. economy but gives him weak marks on other major issues.

Just 36% of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president; 62% disapprove.

The numbers may be ugly for a first-term president facing reelection in 14 months, but they are remarkably consistent. Trump's approval rating has never dipped below 32% or risen above 42% in AP-NORC polls since he took office. By comparison, President Barack Obama's approval never dropped below 40% in polling by Gallup.

The poor grades extend to Trump's handling of several key issues: immigration, health care, foreign policy and guns. Views of the Republican president's handling of the economy remain a relative bright spot despite fears of a potential recession, but at least 60% of Americans disapprove of his performance on other issues. The consistency suggests the president's weak standing with the American people is calcified after two years of near-constant political crises and divisive rhetoric at the White House.

The new survey was conducted shortly after back-to-back mass shootings in Texas and Ohio left dozens dead and renewed calls from Americans for answers from their elected officials. Trump pledged immediate action in the immediate aftermath of the attacks but has since shifted back and forth on whether to push for stronger background checks on people seeking to buy guns.

"He does whatever's politically expedient. He's awful," said 60-year-old Robert Saunders, a retired police officer from New Jersey who's not registered with either major political party and vowed not to vote for Trump in 2020.

According to the poll, 36% approve of Trump on gun policy, while 61% disapprove, numbers that mirror his broader approval rating.

In response to the shootings, Trump said that he would pursue policy options with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and that he would like to see "very meaningful background checks." Earlier this week, however, Trump said the U.S. already has significantly strict background checks in place and that many of his supporters are gun owners. On Wednesday, however, he again backed tighter background checks while speaking to reporters at the White House.

Seven in 10 Republicans express approval of Trump's handling of gun policy in the new poll, among his lowest ratings from the GOP. Self-identified moderate and liberal Republicans were slightly less likely than conservative ones to express approval, 64% versus 74%.

Beyond guns, Trump remains overwhelmingly popular within his own party.

Nearly 8 in 10 Republicans approve of Trump's overall job performance, while 20% disapprove. As has been the case for his entire presidency, Democrats overwhelmingly oppose his leadership: 94% of Democrats disapprove in the new survey.

Independents remain decidedly low on Trump as well, with about two-thirds disapproving of Trump's performance.

Significantly more Americans approve of Trump's handling of the economy, although even on that issue he remains slightly underwater: 46% approve and 51% disapprove of his performance.

Trump's current economic rating represents a 5 percentage point drop from the same time last year, but for a president who has struggled to win over a majority of American voters on any issue, the economy represents a relative strength.

Even some Democrats approve: Just 5% of Democrats approve of his job performance overall, but 16% approve of his handling of the economy. Independents are closely divided — 44% approve and 47% disapprove — while 86% of Republicans approve of his economic leadership.

"He's kind of a bully, but I've seen some improvement," said Mandi Mitchell, a 38-year-old registered Democrat from North Carolina. "Our unemployment rate has definitely dropped."

Mitchell, who is studying for her doctoral degree, said she didn't vote for Trump in 2016 but might in 2020.

"I'm not going to be too hard on him," she said. "I just think he doesn't address America properly."

 

Amid regular distractions from the president's social media feed, Trump's team has worked to highlight rising retail sales and the solid labor market with its 3.7% unemployment rate as sources of strength. The U.S. economy appears to be showing vulnerabilities after more than 10 years of growth, however. Factory output has fallen and consumer confidence has waned as Trump has ramped up his trade fight with China.

Trump rattled the stock and bond markets this month when he announced plans to put a 10% tax on $300 billion worth of Chinese imports. The market reaction suggested a recession might be on the horizon and led Trump to delay some of the tariffs that were scheduled to begin in September, though many others remain.

"The economy is doing OK, but he's doing a horrible job for the country," said 67-year-old John Sollenberger, of Philadelphia.

He said he left the Republican Party after Trump's rise and is now a registered independent.

"To me, it's the vitriol that comes out of him," Sollenberger explained. "He's obviously a racist. He's anti-immigrant. He foments discontent with so many people it doesn't matter what the economy's doing really."

Those who remain in the Republican Party do not share the negative assessment.

Greg Traylor, a 53-year-old small businessman from North Canton, Ohio, acknowledged that Trump is "rough around the edges," but he praised his work on immigration and his support for Israel. On the economy, Traylor cheered Trump's hard-line stance with China, while acknowledging it may cause some short-term pain.

"He's got balls of steel," Traylor said.

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Trump's thumbs ups
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Trump's thumbs ups
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - APRIL 26: U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up to the crowd as he stands on stage along with NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre (R), and Executive Director NRA-ILA Chris Cox (L) at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at the 148th NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits on April 26, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The convention, which runs through Sunday, features more than 800 exhibitors and is expected to draw 80,000 guests. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - APRIL 26: U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up to the crowd as he stands on stage along with NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre (R), and Executive Director NRA-ILA Chris Cox (L) at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at the 148th NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits on April 26, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The convention, which runs through Sunday, features more than 800 exhibitors and is expected to draw 80,000 guests. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic (L) and US President Donald Trump give a thumbs up at the start of a working dinner at The Parc du Cinquantenaire - Jubelpark Park in Brussels on July 11, 2018, during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit. (Photo by BENOIT DOPPAGNE / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read BENOIT DOPPAGNE/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump (R) gives a thumbs up as he sits down with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) for their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. - Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un have become on June 12 the first sitting US and North Korean leaders to meet, shake hands and negotiate to end a decades-old nuclear stand-off. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump (C) poses with Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (L), Guinea's President Alpha Conde (2ndL), Vice President of Nigeria Yemi Osinbajo (2ndR) and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn after a family photo of the leaders of the G7 and the leaders of some African countries that have been invited for the two-day talks, on the second day of the G7 summit of Heads of State and of Government, on May 27, 2017 in Taormina, Sicily. / AFP PHOTO / Tiziana FABI (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 10: French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump prior to their meeting at the Elysee Presidential Palace on November 10, 2018 in Paris, France. President Trump is in Paris to participate in the international ceremony of the Armistice Centenary of 1918 at the Arc de Triomphe on November 11, 2018. Heads of State from around the world are meeting in Paris to commemorate the end of the first World War (WWI). (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (L) gives a thumbs up next to First Lady Melania Trump as they say good-bye to the Canadian Prime Minister and his wife following their meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, October 11, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
BEDMINSTER TOWNSHIP, NJ - NOVEMBER 19: Vice president-elect Mike Pence looks on as president-elect Donald Trump gives the thumbs up as they exit the clubhouse after a day of meetings at Trump International Golf Club, November 19, 2016 in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and other high level positions for the new administration. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump, flanked by US Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, gives a thumbs up as he delivers the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 5, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up during a Change of Command ceremony as Admiral Karl Schultz (L) takes over from Admiral Paul Zukunft (R) as the Commandant of the US Coast Guard at US Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, DC, June 1, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - (L-R) US first lady Melania Trump, husband US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife first lady Brigitte Macron pose at Mount Vernon, the estate of the first US President George Washington, in Mount Vernon, Virginia, April 23, 2018. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up after Mike Pompeo(L) took the oath during his ceremonial swearing-in as US Secretary of State, as Susan Pompeo and US Vice President Mike Pence(R) look on at the State Department in Washington, DC, May 2, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 22: U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up to a crowd of supporters at the Phoenix Convention Center during a rally on August 22, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 28: US President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up to the coal miners on the stage prior to signing an Energy Independence Executive Order at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Headquarters on March 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. The order reverses the Obama-era climate change policies. From left to right: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt; US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke; the President; US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry; and unidentified coal miner. (Photo by Ron Sach-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 21: U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as he and HHS Secretary Tom Price walk to a House Republican closed party conference on Capitol Hill, on March 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump is urging House Republicans to support his American Health Care Act. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump gives thumbs-up as the Taoiseach of Ireland Enda Kenny (R) and his wife, Fionnuala (L), arrive on the South Lawn for a St. Patricks Day Reception at the White House in Washington, DC, March 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up as he speaks alongside Taoiseach of Ireland Enda Kenny (L) and his wife, Fionnuala (R), during a St. Patricks Day Reception in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, March 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 28: U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up after addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress on February 28, 2017 in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Trump's first address to Congress focused on national security, tax and regulatory reform, the economy, and healthcare. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (C) gives two thumbs up as he poses with the National Association of Attorneys General at the White House in Washington, DC, February 28, 2017. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: British Prime Minister Theresa May looks on as U.S. President Donald Trump gives the thumbs up in The Oval Office at The White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. British Prime Minister Theresa May is on a two-day visit to the United States and will be the first world leader to meet with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump leaves after being sworn in followed by first lady Melania Trump on the West Front of the US Capitol during his inauguration ceremony, in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017. / AFP / POOL / Win McNamee (Photo credit should read WIN MCNAMEE/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up next to Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Roy Blunt, R-MO, and first lady Melania during the Inaugural Luncheon in Statuary Hall in the US Capitol following his inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017. / AFP / MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
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The AP-NORC poll of 1,058 adults was conducted Aug. 15-19 using a sample drawn from NORC's probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods and later were interviewed online or by phone.

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Fingerhut reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

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Online:

AP-NORC Center: http://www.apnorc.org/

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