First Trump approval rating lags behind past presidents

Story highlights

  • Overall, 44% approve of the way he's handling the job
  • Several specific actions Trump has taken in his first two weeks are also meeting with majority opposition

Washington (CNN)It's been two weeks since Donald Trump's inauguration, and the new President's work so far hasn't impressed the American people.

A majority, 53%, disapprove of the way the President is handling his job, according to a new CNN/ORC poll, marking the highest disapproval for a new elected president since polls began tracking those results. Trump is the only President to hold a net-negative rating this early in his tenure.
    Overall, 44% approve of the way he's handling the job, seven points below the previous low-point of 51%. Further, the share who disapprove "strongly" of Trump's work as president is nearly as large as the total block who approve, 43% feel intensely negative about Trump. Partisanship is the sharpest divider in opinions on Trump (90% of Republicans approve vs. 10% of Democrats).
    Trump's high disapproval most clearly differentiates his ratings from those of his predecessors. While Ronald Reagan's first approval rating measure of 51% from Gallup in 1981 was not that far above Trump's 44% now, Reagan's disapproval number was far lower than Trump's (13% to 53%). And George W. Bush, the last president to be elected without capturing the popular vote, held a far more positive 57% overall approval rating in February of his first year in office, with just 25% disapproving.
    Several specific actions Trump has taken in his first two weeks are also meeting with majority opposition, according to the poll. Most oppose the travel restrictions put in place by executive order last week, and 55% say they see it as an attempt to ban Muslims from entering the US. Further, 6 in 10 oppose Trump's plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico.
    Overall, 47% say they favor the executive order on travel, which prohibits entry to the US for 90 days by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries while suspending the US refugee program for 120 days and reducing the total number of refugees the US will accept this year. A majority, 53%, say they oppose the order. Those who favor the ban say by a 2-to-1 margin that they would like to see it expanded to other countries.
    Opposition to the travel ban rests somewhat on perceptions that it fulfills one of Trump's campaign proposals: A ban on entry for Muslims. The perception that the executive order is an attempt to ban Muslims from entering is driven largely by opponents of the order -- 82% of whom see it as a Muslim ban, though a quarter of those who support it also see it as an attempt to ban Muslims from entering the country (25% say so).
    The public is more closely divided on whether the order makes the US safer or protects American values, two arguments the Trump administration has put forth in support of the order. About 4 in 10 (41%) agree with the Trump administration's contention that the ban makes the US safer from terrorism, while more (46%) say it makes the US less safe from terrorism and another 12% say it doesn't make a difference. Further, just about half (49%) think the order harms American values by keeping out people who are seeking asylum, while 43% say it does more to protect American values by keeping out people who don't support those values.
    Across all these questions, opinions are sharply divided by party. Democrats are just as apt to oppose the executive order (88%) as Republicans are to support it (88%); independents tilt against, with 54% opposed. Republicans are 10 times as likely as Democrats to say the order makes the US safer (83% of Republicans vs. 8% of Democrats), and their opinions are again 180 degrees apart when asked about its impact on American values (80% of Republicans say it protects them while 81% of Democrats say it harms them).
    There is also a sharp partisan divide on whether America should accept Syrian refugees generally, with 73% of Democrats in favor compared with just 30% of Republicans. Support for accepting refugees has risen across partisan divides since late 2015, however, from 38% support in late 2015 to 54% now, including 13-point increases in support among both Democrats and Republicans.
    Considering another executive order from the first days of the Trump presidency, Americans remain largely opposed to building a wall along the entire border with Mexico. In September, 41% favored that; 38% do so now. Opposition to the construction of a border wall now stands at 60%. Trump ordered immediate construction of the wall through an executive order signed less than a week after taking office, but the order does not address funding for the wall. Those in favor of building it support the Trump administration's proposal to fund it through import taxes on goods imported from Mexico by a wide margin.
    Assessing Trump's work on a range of issues so far, majorities disapprove of Trump's handling of immigration (56%), foreign affairs (55%) and terrorism (53%). Half (50%) disapprove of his handling of health care policy as he seeks to roll back the provisions of Obamacare, while 42% approve of his work on health care. Americans are split, 49% approve to 46% disapprove, on his handling of national security. The economy remains Trump's bright spot, with 49% approving vs. 43% disapproving.
    A broad majority, 78%, say the way Trump has handled the presidency so far is how they expected him to, with just 21% saying the way he's handling the job is unexpected. Still, those who have been surprised by his work don't see it as a pleasant one: 17% say it's been a bad thing vs. 3% who say he's performed unexpectedly well.
    The CNN/ORC poll was conducted by telephone January 31 through February 2 among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. Results for the full sample have a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, it is larger for subgroups.