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Americans: Best and Worst Things About a Trump Presidency

Story Highlights

  • Trump's personality is a negative for many, a plus for some
  • Americans most negative about his perceived impulsiveness
  • Trump's business background and immigration policies are pluses

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Asked to name the best or most positive thing about a possible Donald Trump presidency if he were to be elected in 2016, Americans most commonly volunteer his business background, policies on immigration and honesty -- that he says what he feels. Other positives mentioned by at least 5% of Americans are his confidence -- that he doesn't back down -- and that he would improve the economy. More than four in 10 cannot name anything positive about a potential Trump presidency.

Suppose Donald Trump is elected president in 2016. In your view, what would be the best or most positive thing about a Donald Trump presidency? January 2016 results

These results are from a Gallup survey conducted Jan. 6-10, which asked a nationally representative sample of Americans to say what would be the best and the worst things about a possible Trump presidency. The substantive responses can be grouped into two major categories: personal characteristics and Trump's positions on specific issues, along with smaller categories of political and other mentions.

Among the issues, Trump's positions on immigration -- exemplified by his proposals to build a wall along the Mexican border and to restrict Muslims from entering the country for a time -- are most likely to come through as positive aspects of a Trump presidency, mentioned by 9%. Some also mention Trump's ability to affect the economy as a positive, including managing the economy better, controlling spending, and producing more balanced trade. Others mention his ability to fight terrorism.

In terms of personal traits, Americans are most likely to talk about Trump's business background and ability to follow through, that he is honest and tells it like it is and that he is confident and doesn't back down. A small percentage say the best thing is that a Trump presidency would be entertaining and that he is not a career politician. Five percent say Trump would turn things around, presumably meaning either the country as a whole or as a change from the current presidency.

A third of Americans, mostly Democrats, specifically say there is "nothing" they see as the best thing about a Trump presidency, while another 10% have no opinion.

Negatives Associated With a Trump Presidency Focus Mainly on His Personality

Americans are much more likely to mention potentially negative aspects of a Trump presidency than to mention positive aspects -- only 8% say "nothing" when asked about the downsides of such a presidency, with another 9% not having an opinion.

The list of possible negatives that would be associated with a Trump presidency are most focused on his personality and style. Americans say Trump as president would be too outspoken and impulsive, as well as arrogant, offensive and rude, ill-tempered and hot-headed, and "stupid and idiotic." Others mention that he lacks experience, is racist and discriminates against minorities, and that he would embarrass the U.S. and lose the respect of other nations.

And what would be the worst or most negative thing about a Donald Trump presidency? January 2016 results

Issue-wise, Americans focus most on the assertion that a Trump presidency would have poor foreign relations, and that his immigration policies would be a negative -- the latter showing that immigration functions for Trump as both a plus and a minus. Other Americans say he would lead the U.S. into war, mention his perceived discriminatory policies and that the economy would suffer under a Trump presidency.

Two other common but nonspecific negatives are "that he would be president," which receives 6% of mentions, and "chaos," at 4%. "Chaos" is a term Trump rival Jeb Bush used to describe a potential Trump presidency in a recent debate.

Republicans Focus on the Positives; Democrats, on the Negatives

As would be expected, Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to give a substantive answer to the question asking about the potential positives associated with a Trump presidency. Over six in 10 Democrats do not name anything or answer "nothing" in response to the question, more than three times the percentage of Republicans who don't give an answer.

Republicans' views of Trump's positives break into the two main categories discussed previously, except with generally higher percentages for each than is the case for the national population as a whole.

Suppose Donald Trump is elected president in 2016. In your view, what would be the best or most positive thing about a Donald Trump presidency? Among Republicans, Democrats, and Leaners, January 2016

The relatively few Democrats who offer a response when asked about the positives that would come with a Trump presidency are most likely to mention his business background, his honesty and his policies on immigration.

Small percentages of Democrats and Republicans sneak a somewhat more negative tone into their responses, saying the best thing would be that he would not last long in the office, while a similar number say he would be entertaining.

Democrats Have Plenty of Opinions on the Negatives Associated With a Trump Presidency

Democrats have no shortage of views of the negatives of a potential Trump presidency, with less than 10% unable to provide an answer. Democrats' views of a Trump presidency's downsides divide across the personal and the issue categories. Their single highest personality-oriented response is Trump's perceived racism and discrimination, and their highest issue-related negative is a tie between his immigration policy and that he would have poor relations with other countries and poor foreign policy.

And what would be the worst or most negative thing about a Donald Trump presidency? Among Republicans, Democrats, and Leaners, January 2016

Even though Trump is a Republican, those who identify with the GOP are not shy about suggesting negatives about a possible Trump presidency, with a relatively small 12% saying "no opinion" and another 11% not giving an answer.

Implications

Americans are significantly more likely to mention negatives than positives when asked about a possible Trump presidency, consistent with Trump's having a significantly more negative than positive image among Americans as a whole. A clear majority of Republicans are able to come up with a negative aspect of Trump in the White House, also underscoring that by no means do all of those who identify with his party view him positively.

Trump's outsized personality is a dominant part of the way Americans are judging him and his campaign for the presidency. In particular, his personal style and way of expressing himself have become a major part of what Americans say would be the worst things about a possible Trump presidency. At the same time, some of Trump's personality traits are viewed as positives, including his saying what he feels and not backing down from his controversial statements.

All in all, in addition to his positions on issues and policies, Trump clearly will rise or fall in his quest for the White House to a significant degree based on how the public ultimately perceives the impact of his unconventional style and personality. Some obviously see all of this as a refreshing and important change from the status quo, while many others are alarmed by what it would mean if Trump were to become the nation's 45th president.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 6-10, 2016, with a random sample of 1,012 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 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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