President Donald Trump’s approval rating has rebounded to its highest level since the 100-day mark of his presidency, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, even as his approval ratings for handling major issues remain largely negative.
Overall, 42% approve of the way Trump is handling the presidency, 54% disapprove. Approval is up 7 points overall since February, including 6-point increases among Republicans (from 80% to 86% now) and independents (from 35% to 41% now). Trump’s approval rating remains below that of all of his modern-era predecessors at this stage in their first term after being elected, though Trump only trails Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama by a narrow 4 points at this point in their first terms.
Trump’s approval ratings have seesawed over the last four CNN polls — from 35% in December up to 40% in January, down to 35% in February and back up to 42% now. Looking at intensity of approval, however, the share who strongly approve of Trump’s performance (28% in the new poll) and strongly disapprove (46%) have held relatively steady over a similar time frame, suggesting the fluctuation in Trump’s ratings comes largely among those whose views on the President aren’t that deeply held.
The President’s strongest approval ratings on the issues come on the economy, the only issue tested where his reviews tilt more positive than negative: 48% approve and 45% disapprove. That isn’t the case on foreign trade, however, the economic issue on which Trump has most recently taken action, implementing tariffs aimed at Chinese imports, steel and aluminum. On trade generally, 38% approve of the President’s work while 50% disapprove.
Trump’s handling of foreign affairs merits 39% approval, with 53% saying they disapprove. The poll also found that 47% believe the President has been too easy on Russia so far, while 41% feel his handling of Russia has been about right. The poll was completed just before the announcement Monday morning of the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats from the U.S.
A majority (54%) disapprove of the way the president has handled gun policy, while 36% approve, roughly the same as in February.
Nearly two-thirds believe affair allegations
The survey results follow a tumultuous period for the President and his administration, in which allegations of extramarital affairs and efforts to cover them up have swirled and several members of Trump’s Cabinet and team of top advisers have faced scandals of their own or been replaced outright.
Although the turmoil does not seem to have negatively affected Trump’s overall approval rating, the public expresses sharp doubts about Trump’s side of the story on the affair allegations, rates Trump’s Cabinet and top advisers as generally less qualified and less in touch than previous presidential appointees, and hasn’t moved much on questions of Trump’s character.
Almost two-thirds of Americans say they believe the women alleging affairs with Trump over the president (63% say so), while just 21% say they believe Trump’s denials of those affairs. And about half (51%) say the two women pursuing lawsuits seeking to free themselves from non-disclosure agreements relating to any relationship they may have had with Trump ought to be free to discuss those alleged relationships.
There are party and gender divides on both questions. Women are more apt than men to say they believe the women claiming affairs (70% to 54%) and that holds even among those who are Republicans or lean toward the Republican party (45% of women who consider themselves GOP or lean that way say they believe the women compared with just 25% of GOP and GOP-leaning men). Democrats are far more apt than Republicans to say the women should be free from their NDAs (78% among Democrats, 49% among independents and 25% among Republicans say so), and while women break in favor of allowing the women to discuss their relationships (59% say they should be free to discuss them, 34% say that the agreements should remain in place), men tilt the opposite way (48% say the agreements should hold and 43% say that they should be free to discuss their relationships).
On the President’s character, Trump has made some improvements since November lows on a range of attributes, but most remain in negative territory. Majorities say he cannot bring the kind of change the country needs (52%) and that he won’t unite the country (60%). About six in 10 say they don’t see him as honest and trustworthy (59%), that they are not proud to have him as president (59%), and that he does not respect the rule of law (58%). Most also say Trump does not care about people like them (56%).
Perceptions of Trump as someone who can manage the government effectively are roughly unchanged since last summer, but at just 40%, that’s 10 points below the 50% who said so just after the election in 2016.
Trump’s team gets low marks
Trump’s appointees to Cabinet and high-level government positions fare poorly in comparison to previous appointees on their qualifications for the job, ability to empathize with the public, willingness to use their positions for personal gain and to misuse taxpayer money. And the public is split on whether they bring fresh perspectives to their positions or have cut wasteful government spending and bureaucracy.
About half say Trump’s appointees are less qualified than their predecessors, that they are less apt to understand the needs and problems of people like you and that they are more likely to use their positions for personal gain. And by a 40% to 33% margin, Americans say Trump’s top appointees are more apt rather than less apt to misuse taxpayer money.
About four in 10 come down on each side when asked whether Trump’s appointees are more or less likely to bring a fresh perspective to their position and to cut wasteful spending.
The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS March 22-25 among a random national sample of 1,014 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, it is larger for subgroups.