As in 1999, Most Do Not See Trump as Serious Candidate

As in 1999, Most Do Not See Trump as Serious Candidate

by Andrew Dugan

Story Highlights

  • 25% in U.S. consider him a "serious" presidential candidate
  • Three in 10 view Trump favorably, his lowest in Gallup's trend
  • Trump's image among Republicans better today than in 1999

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- One in four Americans consider Donald Trump a "serious candidate" for president. Americans view Trump's present bid for the Republican nomination no more seriously now than when the real estate mogul and media personality competed for the Reform Party's nomination in 1999.

Trump as Serious Candidate

These results come from a Gallup poll conducted July 8-12, roughly a month after Trump joined the 2016 presidential race and instantly made waves in the Republican field. If Trump's fame and colorful personality were not enough to ensure his candidacy attracted media attention, his announcement speech provided the extra incentive. In his nearly hour-long speech, Trump delivered a blistering critique of the current state of affairs in the U.S., asserting, "The American dream is dead." Trump offered his business expertise, his unwavering negotiating style and, less conventionally, his wealth as the ideal antidote to America's ills. But Trump's announcement speech produced considerable controversy; his claim that many immigrants arriving in the U.S. from Mexico are drug peddlers or rapists offended many Americans, and caused several companies to sever business ties with Trump and/or his companies.

Gallup first asked about a Trump presidential bid in 1999. Trump ultimately withdrew from the 2000 presidential race, and the Reform Party nominated Pat Buchanan for president.

Trump has become a fervent critic of President Barack Obama, and has routinely voiced his doubts regarding the authenticity of Obama's birth certificate, an accusation that carried more weight with Republicans than other political identities. Trump flirted with running for president in 2012 as a Republican, registering a respectable level of support among Republicans in an early poll before eventually declining a bid.

While a consistent percentage of Americans take Trump's presidential candidacy seriously, views by party groups have changed over time. Today, with Trump competing for the GOP nomination rather than a third-party bid, 41% of Republicans say they consider Trump a serious candidate, compared with 20% in 1999. Democrats, meanwhile, take Trump even less seriously as a candidate today (12%) than they did in 1999 (20%), while independents' views haven't changed.

Trump as Serious Candidate by Party

About One in Three Americans View Trump Favorably

While Trump is attracting a lot of attention, the percentage of Americans with a favorable view of him is at a nominal low. Thirty-one percent of Americans see Trump favorably, compared with 43% in March 2011, when he was discussed as a potential candidate for president. Trump's previous low (33%) was in October 1999, when he was actively seeking a presidential nomination.

Trump Favorability

In general, Trump typically has been seen more unfavorably than favorably since Gallup first asked about him in 1999, with the sole exception occurring in 2005, when 50% of the country viewed him favorably and 38% viewed him unfavorably. At the time, Trump starred in the hit show "The Apprentice" and was not actively involved in the political arena.

Trump fares better with Republicans overall, with a 49% favorable rating and 38% unfavorable score. But his high-profile candidacy appears not to have won him any additional admiration among Republicans -- his favorable rating among this group is about where it was in 2005. Trump's relatively high unfavorable rating among the GOP gives him a "net favorable" rating among Republicans of +11, well below several other candidates for the nomination. Among Democrats, Trump's favorable rating has cratered, from a high of 49% in 2005 to today's low of 17%.


Bottom Line

Donald Trump's candidacy has already shaped the presidential race in important ways, such as compelling other Republican candidates to address the issue of illegal immigration more forcefully. Yet even as Trump appears to be a prominent voice in the Republican race, nearly three-quarters of Americans do not take his candidacy for president seriously. The public sees his candidacy as no more credible now than in 1999, despite his decision to run for a major-party nomination this time around and his promise to spend his ample personal wealth in pursuit of his political ambitions.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted July 8-12, 2015, with a random sample of 1,009 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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