When I toured several of the most staunchly pro-Hillary-Clinton counties in the country last month, the first criticisms of President Trump people offered usually had nothing to do with his political agenda.
“I can disagree with Republican policy,” one woman on the Upper West Side of Manhattan said, “but I find Trump disgusting as a human being.” People repeatedly called him horrible, embarrassing and divisive. When pressed, they criticized the things he wanted to do as president. But without prompting, they kept offering criticisms of him as a person.
A new survey from Quinnipiac University bolsters the idea that there’s a gap between how Trump is viewed personally and views of his political agenda.
Forty percent of Americans like Trump’s policies, powered by nearly 9-in-10 Republicans who do. A majority of Americans dislike Trump’s policies, because most independents and nearly all Democrats don’t.
But far fewer Republicans — and, therefore, Americans — like Trump personally. Only 30 percent of Americans like Trump, including fewer than 7-in-10 Republicans. Views of Trump overall are 10 points lower than views of his policies. Among independents, views of Trump are nine points lower than views of his policies, and among Republicans, views of him are more than 20 points lower.
For the most part, however, people who like Trump also like his policies, and vice versa. Nearly 9-in-10 of those who like Trump also like his policies. But just two-thirds of those who like Trump’s policies also like him personally.
Fully 19 percent of those who like his policies dislike Trump. That’s about 8 percent of respondents overall (19 percent of the 40 percent who like his policies). Within that group, nearly a quarter disapprove of the job Trump is doing as president.
The sample size here is small, but it suggests that there is a chunk of the electorate which likes Trump’s policy proposals but disapproves of his presidency simply because they don’t like him.
Among Republicans, most of those who like Trump also like his policies. That’s true to a lesser extent among independents who like him. (Hardly any Republicans don’t like Trump and hardly any Democrats do, so those groups aren’t shown below.)
But even among Republicans, those who like his policies are much less likely to like him personally. Under three-quarters of Republicans who like Trump’s policies like him. Only about 6-in-10 independents who like Trump’s policies also like him. There’s more uniformity among the opposition: Those who don’t like Trump’s policies generally don’t like him, and those who don’t like him generally don’t like his policies.
The implication from these results is that if Trump could become better liked more broadly, he’d see a bump in his approval rating. But, of course, there’s not much indication that Trump can become better liked. Much of the opposition to him (though not all) is partisan. The nonpartisan component stems from Trump’s personality and approach to the job, which he’s shown no signs of changing.
A poll last summer found that, among those who approved of Trump’s job performance, more than half did so because of his personality.
His base likes the way he is, even if his opponents don’t. Or, perhaps, because they don’t. Maybe he’d gain a few points of approval if he changed his demeanor, but he has never shown any inclination to make that switch.