President Donald Trump’s approval rating is holding steady in a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, but his numbers on handling several key issues are climbing, as almost 6 in 10 say things in the country are going well.
Overall, 41% approve of the President’s work, and 53% disapprove. Those numbers are about the same as at the end of March.
On the issues, however, Trump’s numbers are climbing. Approval is up 4 points on the economy to 52%, the first time it’s topped 50% since March 2017; up 5 points on foreign trade to 43% approval; and his numbers on immigration have improved 4 points since February, with 40% now approving. On handling foreign affairs, Trump’s approval rating tops 40% for the first time since April of 2017, though the increase since March is not statistically significant (42% approve currently).
The President’s improving issue ratings come amid a sharp rise in positive impressions of how the country is doing. Overall, 57% say things are going well in the US today – up from 49% saying the same in February – which is the largest proportion to say so since January of 2007.
That shift, as well as some of the improvement in Trump’s issue approvals, stems from more positive ratings from Democrats. In the new poll, 40% of Democrats say things in the US are going well, up from 25% who said so in February. Democrats’ approval rating for Trump’s handling of the economy is up 11 points to 26%.
The rosier numbers on the nation’s direction could prove a welcome sign for Republicans in this midterm election year, when every other frequently cited indicator of congressional election outcomes seems to be pointing against them. The last two times the House of Representatives changed hands, Americans’ take on the direction of the country was in far worse shape than it is in this poll: Just 27% said things were going well in June of 2010, and in May of 2006, that stood at 46%.
And although Trump’s overall approval rating hasn’t improved, it is no longer the worst of any elected president at this stage of his term. Jimmy Carter also held a 41% approval rating in May of his second year in office. All other elected presidents of the modern era had higher approval ratings at this stage (Reagan’s 45% in 1982 was closest to Carter’s and Trump’s 41%, the rest were above 50%).
In a head-to-head comparison with his immediate predecessor, Trump does not fare very well. Most, 56%, say Barack Obama was a better president than Trump has been, and 37% say Trump is doing a better job than Obama did. Americans are divided on whether Trump is doing a better job than Hillary Clinton would have had she won the election in 2016 (47% say Clinton would’ve been better, 44% say Trump is better).
In addition to the improvements in Trump’s numbers on the issues, Americans are now more apt to approve of the way the President is handling his relationship with Republicans in Congress – 39% approve now, up from 35% in December. Americans overall continue to say they trust the Republicans in Congress (45%) over the President (33%) to handle major issues, but Republicans polled put more faith in Trump (64%) than in his GOP counterparts on Capitol Hill (26%).
Most of those who approve of the President say they do so because of his positions on the issues (71% say so), while those who disapprove say they are driven more by his personality and leadership qualities (54% of disapprovers say that’s more important than his issue positions).
Trump’s troubles with his Cabinet and ongoing controversy over an alleged 2006 affair with and 2016 hush payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels produce some of the more troublesome numbers for the President in the poll.
Trump’s worst marks come on his handling of top Cabinet officials: Just 30% approve while 55% disapprove. Broad and growing majorities say they believe that Trump did have extramarital affairs before becoming President (80% say that’s definitely or probably true) and that a payment from Trump’s lawyer to Daniels was made to protect Trump’s campaign (71% say that’s likely true). Two-thirds (67%) think Trump knew about the payment and what it was for at the time it was made.
The increased beliefs that Trump had an affair and that the payment to Daniels was made to benefit the campaign come almost entirely among Republicans. While 52% of Republicans in a February poll said they thought it was true that Trump had had extramarital affairs before taking office, that now stands at 64%. As for the payment, 43% of Republicans say it is true that it was made to help the campaign, up from 29% saying so in February.
The CNN Poll was conducted May 2-5 by SSRS among a random national sample of 1,015 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 3.6 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.