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Americans Mixed on Whether Trump Has Met Their Expectations

Americans Mixed on Whether Trump Has Met Their Expectations
by Justin McCarthy

Story Highlights

  • 21% say Trump is doing "better" than expected; 35% say "worse"
  • Trump deviates from expectations more than Obama, Clinton did
  • Half of Republicans says Trump has exceeded their expectations

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are split in their views on how President Donald Trump's performance in office compares with their expectations for him. About one in five (21%) say he has done better than they expected, while more, 35%, say he's done worse. The largest segment, 44%, says his performance has been about what they expected.

Americans' Assessments of Trump's Performance vs. Their Expectations
Overall, has Donald Trump done better than you expected as president, worse than you expected or about as you expected?
Better Worse About as expected
% % %
National adults 21 35 44
Republicans/Republican leaners 46 11 43
Democrats/Democratic leaners 5 52 44
GALLUP, Jan. 2-7, 2018

These data, recorded in a Jan. 2-7 Gallup poll, come as Americans look back on Trump's first year in office and as they await his State of the Union speech on Jan 30.

Party identification strongly influences how Americans view Trump's performance relative to their expectations of him.

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say Trump has exceeded their expectations. Nearly half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (46%) say Trump has exceeded their expectations, with another 43% saying he has met them. Just 11% say he hasn't measured up.

Meanwhile, most Democrats and Democratic leaners (52%) say Trump has done worse than they had anticipated, with another 44% saying he has done about what they expected. Few (5%) say Trump has done better than what they expected.

Trump Outperforms Own Party's Expectations at Higher Rate Than Obama, Clinton

Gallup has asked Americans about how the sitting president's job performance compares with their expectations on four previous occasions -- three times during President Barack Obama's first term and once in President Bill Clinton's first term, although none were conducted at the same one-year mark as the poll for Trump. Obama's relative performance was measured at his 100-day mark and twice in his third year in office, while Clinton's was measured once, at the 100-day mark.

Overall, Obama and Clinton were largely seen as meeting expectations, including 62% feeling this way about Obama at the 100-day mark, and 53% to 61% saying this about him in his third year. An even higher 72% said Clinton was meeting expectations leading up to his hundredth day.

Reviewing the results by party reveals that Trump has defied expectations on both sides of the aisle -- and to a much greater extent than was seen with Obama or Clinton.

Nearly half of Republicans (46%) say Trump has performed better than they expected, which is twice as high as the 23% average for Obama among Democrats across the three measures for him and dwarfs Clinton's 15% among his own party.

Trump is also unique from Obama and Clinton in that he receives a much higher "worse" than expectations rating from the opposing party. His 52% from Democrats is significantly higher than the 35% and 21% that Obama and Clinton, respectively, received from Republicans.


Bottom Line

Trump's performance as president does not conform to what Americans expected from him as much as Obama's and Clinton's performance aligned with expectations. His unconventional tendencies throughout his campaign and early presidency are a possible reason why his performance has not aligned with people's expectations, good or bad.

The finding that nearly half of the GOP-aligned responders say he has exceeded their expectations suggests that many Republicans might not have expected Trump to follow through on the tough talk he exhibited on the campaign trail. He ultimately rounded out 2017 with the passage of a massive tax bill as steady gains in the economy continue to be made across a number of measures.

A major accomplishment that transcends Republican ambitions -- such as striking an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal or solving the North Korea crisis -- may be key for improved assessments among those outside Trump's own party. Obama, for example, saw an immediate decrease in the percentage of Republicans who said he was performing "worse" than expected after U.S. Special Forces found and killed Osama bin Laden. This still didn't result in more Republicans saying Obama was doing "better" than expected, but it at least defused some of the acrimony against him.

Meanwhile, Trump's job approval ratings fall short of what would be expected based on Americans' ratings of the economy and the way things are going in the U.S. Abroad, esteem for U.S. leadership has plummeted -- which could impact how he is viewed at home as he prepares for his upcoming trip to the World Economic Forum.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 2-7, 2018, with a random sample of 1,024 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 70% cellphone respondents and 30% 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 the Gallup Poll Social Series works.