Donald Trump loves superlatives: words like “biggest,” “best” and “greatest” pepper many of his statements, whether at a microphone or on Twitter. But a recent poll lends him another, less attractive superlative: the lowest favorability rating of any incoming president in at least 40 years.
That’s what a new ABC News-Washington Post poll shows, with only 40 percent of Americans currently viewing Trump favorably and 54 percent unfavorably. That’s the lowest favorability for any incoming president since at least Jimmy Carter in 1977 in that poll. (Carter’s data are the earliest the poll presented.) The next-lowest performer on this measure was George W. Bush in 2001, and his favorability rating was 16 points higher than Trump’s currently is.
Americans have a similarly dismal view of his transition — in both polls, only 40 percent of Americans said they approve of how Trump is handing his transition.
According to the ABC-Washington Post data, that is likewise far lower than for other recent presidents. George H.W. Bush, Clinton and Obama all had transition approvals of 80 percent or higher. Even the relatively unpopular George W. Bush received 72 percent approval of his transition, according to the ABC-Washington Post data. (The CNN poll likewise found that only 40 percent of Americans approve of how the president-elect is handling the transition.)
Trump himself, of course, isn’t pleased with the latest numbers and used his favorite social media platform to voice his disapproval on Tuesday morning:
Ironically, that kind of complaining about poll numbers may be helping to drive those poll numbers lower. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain raised this as a possibility on Tuesday.
“I think you can assume that it is because he seems to want to engage with every windmill that he can find, rather than focus on a large aspect of assuming the most important position on earth,” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “And, obviously, apparently, according to the polls, many Americans are not happy with that approach, when he has not even assumed the presidency.”
The tweeting itself hasn’t endeared Trump to many Americans. A recent Quinnipiac poll found that almost two-thirds of American voters believed that “Trump should close his personal Twitter account.” Even Republicans were about evenly split, with 49 percent saying he should close the @realDonaldTrump account, compared with 45 percent who disagreed.
Even this relatively low favorability, though, is an improvement over Trump’s midcampaign lows. As of April 2016, Trump’s favorability was only at about 28 percent, according to averages from RealClearPolitics. That average also trended upward after Election Day, when it was 37.5 percent, though it has leveled off since mid-December, settling at just above 42 as of Tuesday.
And Trump still won. What’s more, however ugly Trump’s numbers may be, he may take some small comfort that when he takes office, his administration won’t be the most unpopular institution in Washington — Congress’ approval rating is currently at 14 percent.
And that Congress, controlled by Republicans, gives him wide latitude in starting out on policy.