Poll: Trump approval remains stable; Republicans unmoved after Capitol violence

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Carrie Dann
·5 min read
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WASHINGTON — Donald Trump is the only president in history to be impeached twice — this time for his role in encouraging a deadly assault on the Capitol by his supporters — but he is poised to leave office with a job approval rating that is fairly typical of his entire time in office.

A new NBC News poll found that 43 percent of voters nationwide gave Trump a positive job approval rating, just barely down from 45 percent who said the same before the November election and the 44 percent who approved of his performance shortly after he took office in 2017.

The same poll found that 35 percent of voters — including 74 percent of Republicans but just 30 percent of independents and 3 percent of Democrats — believe President-elect Joe Biden did not win the election legitimately.

Sixty-one percent of all voters — but just 21 percent of Republicans — say Biden did win legitimately.

While a record 10 House Republicans broke ranks to vote for Trump's impeachment last week, his approval rating among Republicans shows few signs that GOP voters are widely disillusioned with him.

Almost 9 in 10 Republicans — 87 percent — give Trump a thumbs-up, compared with 89 percent who said the same before the November election.

And even for the half of Republicans who say they prioritize the GOP in general over allegiance to Trump, his high approval remains unmoved by recent events.

Among Republicans who say their primary loyalty is to Trump over the party, 98 percent approve of his performance. For those who say they prioritize the party over the president, his approval still stands at 81 percent — virtually unchanged from October. (The findings contrast with some other recent national polls showing Trump's job rating lower. Unlike other surveys that sampled all U.S. adults, NBC News' poll surveyed registered voters.)

In the NBC News survey, nearly a third of GOP voters surveyed — 28 percent — said Trump's words and actions related to the violence at the Capitol reinforced their vote for Trump.

Just 5 percent said they now regretted their support for him, and two-thirds — 66 percent — said their feelings had not changed.

While 52 percent of voters overall say Trump is solely or mainly responsible for the protests that led to rioters' overtaking the Capitol, including 91 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of independents, just 11 percent of Republicans agree. (About half of Republicans, however, place responsibility on "social media companies" and "Antifa.")

Hart Research
Hart Research

"While a few Republican elected officials have broken with Trump, Republican voters are sticking with him for now," said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research, who conducted the poll with Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies. "As we've seen over the course of his term, major event after major event does little to shake Trump's standing with Republicans."

Trump's standing among those outside the GOP remains similarly unchanged. He gets a positive job assessment from 44 percent of independents and just 5 percent of Democrats in the latest poll, shares that are also nearly identical to those in pre-election surveys.

Previous NBC News polling has, indeed, found Trump's approval among voters to be remarkably stable despite his tumultuous presidency, fluctuating only between a high of 47 percent and a low of 38 percent.

The latter rating came in late 2017, after Trump was widely criticized for his response to violence after a gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Half of voters call Trump 'worst than most' presidents

About half of the electorate — 49 percent of voters — ranks Trump as "definitely worse than most" presidents, a share recently rivaled only by the 48 percent who said the same of the departing President George W. Bush in late 2008.

An additional 9 percent say Trump is "not as good as most."

Forty percent of voters rank Trump as either "one of the very best" presidents (19 percent) or "better than most" (21 percent). That's significantly lower than majorities who gave above-average reviews to Bill Clinton (56 percent) or Barack Obama (55 percent) when they left office.

But Trump's lukewarm review still doubles the 20 percent of voters who gave Bush an above-average ranking when he departed the White House in 2009.

Trump's legacy, like views of his performance throughout his presidency, is defined by hard partisan lines.

Those viewing his presidency as "better than most" or "one of the best" include 82 percent of Republicans but just 40 percent of independents and just 4 percent of Democrats.

When Obama and Clinton exited office while enjoying relatively high approval ratings, a higher share of those in the opposite party — 20 percent and 27 percent of Republicans, respectively — ranked their presidencies as above average.

Biden, Harris best Trump on favorability scale

While the poll finds Trump's personal favorability ratings underwater, the Democrats heading to the White House fare better.

Biden has a net favorability rating of +4 (44 percent positive, 40 percent negative), while Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has a net rating of +0 (41 percent positive, 41 percent negative).

That's compared with Trump's net personal rating of -13 (40 percent positive, 53 percent negative).

Biden's wife, Jill Biden, has a personal favorability rating of +14 (40 percent positive, 26 percent negative). Notably, however, a majority of Republicans — 59 percent — give her a negative rating, a particularly high marker of antipathy for an incoming first lady from members of the opposing party.

Before Obama's inauguration, 33 percent of Republicans gave Michelle Obama a negative personal rating. And before Trump's inauguration, 44 percent of Democrats gave Melania Trump a similarly poor grade.

The NBC News poll of 1,000 registered voters was conducted Jan. 10-13, 2021, by the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies and the Democratic firm Hart Research. The margin of error for registered voters is +/- 3.1 percentage points.