Trump Enters Presidential Fray with Unfavorable Image and Low Poll Positioning

by Frank Newport

The New York businessman's image is more negative than positive, and in several polls he shows up poorly as a Reform Party candidate compared to Buchanan, Ventura and others

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Businessman Donald Trump's announcement that he will form an exploratory committee to look into a possible run for the Reform Party presidential nomination will apparently not create an immediate ground swell of enthusiasm among Americans. Recent polling conducted by Gallup and other organizations shows that Trump has a more negative than positive image nationwide, and that he runs significantly behind other possible Reform Party candidates such as Jesse Ventura and Pat Buchanan in hypothetical election match-ups.

One problem for Trump: although he is already a well-known personality among Americans, his image is perceived as more negative than positive. In some ways this is worse than a situation in which a newly announced candidate has low existing name recognition, because this type of candidate has at least a chance to create a positive image as he or she becomes better known. The challenge for Trump, on the other hand, will be to rehabilitate an already existing negative image, which is usually a more difficult process.

In a Gallup Poll conducted September 23-26, Trump was viewed negatively by 47% of Americans, compared to 41% who had a favorable image. These percentages are actually slightly more positive than the ratings given to Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot, but are in sharp contrast to the much more positive opinions Americans have of such major party contenders as George W. Bush, Al Gore, and Bill Bradley.

Trump is a registered Republican, but at this point his image is not significantly different across the various partisan groups in the country. He is viewed roughly the same by Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Trump is thus in a different situation than Pat Buchanan, whose image is more favorable among Republicans and much less so among Independents and Democrats. While the current data suggest that a Buchanan Reform Party candidacy would hurt a Republican candidate more than a Democratic candidate (a fact which worries the George W. Bush campaign), a Trump candidacy at this point would not appear to have such an unequal impact on the two major parties.

Trump Behind Buchanan and Ventura
Several polls in recent weeks have tested Trump against other Reform Party candidates in terms of nationwide voter preference measures. A CNN/Time poll conducted September 21-23 showed that Trump is a weak third party choice when voters are asked for which of four different possible Reform Party candidates they might vote. Pat Buchanan, despite having an even more unfavorable image than Trump, wins with 28%, followed by Jesse Ventura with 24%, Trump with only 11%, and former Connecticut governor Lowell Weicker with 8%. The fact that Trump scores only slightly more votes than Weicker is important given that Weicker has much lower name identification nationally than does Trump. In similar fashion, a recent Newsweek poll conducted October 1 found that only 6% of a national registered voter sample said that Trump would be the most effective Reform Party candidate, behind Buchanan with 24%, Perot with 16%, Ventura with 13%, and behind even actor Warren Beatty, whom 10% of voters say would be the most effective Reform Party candidate.

Survey Methods
The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,039 adults, 18 years and older, conducted September 23-26, 1999. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Next, we'd like to get your overall opinion of some people in the news. As I read each name, please say if you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of this person -- or if you have never heard of him or her. First, ... How about...

  Favorable Unfavorable Never heard of No opinion
Al Gore
National Adults
(NA) 1999 Sep 23-26 55% 40% *% 5%
(NA) 1999 Aug 16-18 58 37 * 5
(NA) 1999 Aug 3-4 52 40 1 7
(NA) 1999 Jul 22-25 53 35 1 11
(NA) 1999 Jun 25-27 56 39 1 4
(NA) 1999 Apr 30-May 2 55 37 1 7
(NA) 1999 Apr 13-14 54 39 1 6
(NA) 1999 Feb 19-21 59 33 1 7
(NA) 1999 Feb 4-8 61 31 * 8
Former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley
National Adults
(NA) 1999 Sep 23-26 44 14 21 21
(NA) 1999 Aug 16-18 48 11 18 23
(NA) 1999 Apr 13-14 46 10 20 24
(NA) 1999 Feb 19-21 38 9 33 20
Texas Governor George W. Bush
National Adults
(NA) 1999 Sep 23-26 71 22 1 6
(NA) 1999 Aug 16-18 68 21 1 10
(NA) 1999 Jun 25-27 69 16 4 11
(NA) 1999 Apr 13-14 73 15 3 9
(NA) 1999 Feb 19-21 69 12 5 14
Political Commentator Pat Buchanan
National Adults
(NA) 1999 Sep 23-26 32 45 8 15
(NA) 1999 Mar 5-7 31 40 9 20
Minnesota Governor, Jesse Ventura
National Adults
(NA) 1999 Sep 23-26 51 25 12 12
(NA) 1998 Dec 28-29 53 14 16 17
Former Connecticut Senator, Lowell Weicker
National Adults
(NA) 1999 Sep 23-26 13 12 57 18
Ross Perot
National Adults
(NA) 1999 Sep 23-26 35 54 2 9
(NA) 1997 Sep 25-28 35 49 2 14
Likely Voters
(LV) 1996 Nov 3-4 37 48 1 14
(LV) 1996 Nov 1-2 39 46 1 14
(LV) 1996 Oct 30-31 41 45 * 15
(LV) 1996 Oct 26-29 38 50 * 12
(LV) 1996 Oct 19-20 32 54 * 14
(LV) 1996 Oct 17-18 32 55 * 13
(LV) 1996 Oct 15-16 32 55 * 13
(LV) 1996 Oct 13-14 31 53 1 15
(LV) 1996 Oct 11-12 31 55 * 14
(LV) 1996 Oct 4-5 29 55 1 15
(LV) 1996 Oct 2-3 30 56 1 13
(LV) 1996 Sep 27-29 28 56 1 15
(LV) 1996 Sep 3-5 27 57 1 15
Registered Voters
(RV) 1996 Sep 2-4 27 58 1 14
(RV) 1996 Aug 30-Sep 1 28 62 1 9
(RV) 1996 Aug 16-18 32 58 * 10
(RV) 1996 Aug 5-7 38 53 * 9
National Adults
(NA) 1996 Jul 18-21 40 48 1 11
(NA) 1996 May 28-29 39 52 1 8
(NA) 1996 May 9-12 38 54 1 7
(NA) 1996 Mar 15-17 44 46 * 10
(NA) 1996 Feb 23-25 38 52 * 10
(NA) 1996 Jan 12-15 37 50 1 12
Businessman, Donald Trump
National Adults
(NA) 1999 Sep 23-26 41 47 3 9
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