New Firehouse/Optimus Survey – After Year in Office Trump Remains Polarizing Figure

February 26, 2018

Over the past year, we have partnered with the data analytics team at 0ptimus periodically to see how midterm voters are feeling about the administration. After a year in office, how have swing state voters’ opinions of Donald Trump changed? We interviewed 2,553 likely midterm voters in the swing states of Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania as a follow-up to our April and August surveys to find out.

Our survey showed that Trump is an increasingly polarizing figure. For example: We asked voters if they believed Trump or Robert Mueller is more honest and trustworthy: Republicans overwhelmingly picked the president, while Democrats picked the Special Counsel. By our measure, the partisanship is getting stronger: Republicans are significantly more likely to believe today that Trump is honest and that his presidency has been a success than they were as recently as last summer.

Key Findings:

  • Donald Trump remains a highly polarizing figure in these four states. Overall, 43.4% of voters have a favorable opinion of Trump, while 48.4% have an unfavorable opinion. Most of these opinions appear to be sturdy- fully 73.4% of those surveyed have a strongly favorable or unfavorable opinion. This represents a modest improvement for Trump since our August 2017 read (41.9% favorable to 51% unfavorable), but not as good as our April 2017 read (44.5% favorable to 42.5% unfavorable).
  • KEY POINT: While Trump’s favorability ratings bounce around a bit, they consistently show that he is deeply polarizing (fig 1).
  • Voters have seen enough of Trump’s performance to earnestly judge the success of his presidency – and they are very divided on how he’s doing. 38.9% believe that Trump has been successful, while 42.4% say he has been unsuccessful and 18.7% believe it is still too soon to tell. In contrast, in August, 27.7% believed it was premature to judge the success of his presidency, and in April 30.6% said it was too early.
  • Of the Republicans surveyed, 60.7% now say Trump has been successful, a sharp climb from the 43.9% willing to say so in August. 20.2% of Republicans believe he has been unsuccessful, an almost identical figure to what we found in August (20.4%). Of all voters who think he has not been successful thus far, 70.6% believe it is because of his own actions, compared to 60% in April.
  • KEY POINT: Voters are not giving Trump the benefit of the doubt on time anymore, but Republicans think he has been successful by a 3 to 1 margin (fig 2).
  •  On trustworthiness, the same pattern of polarization holds. Of those surveyed, 46.0% believe Donald Trump lies intentionally to mislead people on a regular basis, 31.5% believe he exaggerates the truth with good intent, and 22.5% believe he does not lie. Notably, the percentage who believe he does not lie has ticked up from 14.6% in August. 74.7% of Democrats believe that Trump lies intentionally, while only 21.5% of Republicans believe so.
  • Additionally, voters are divided on who to trust between Mueller and Trump. 35.1% believe Mueller is more honest and trustworthy, 38.5% believe that Donald Trump is, and 26.5% are not sure. The partisan split is almost perfectly symmetrical: 58.2% of Democrats choose Mueller and 14.1% choose Trump, while 58.5% of Republicans choose Trump and 15.3% choose Mueller. Independents lean towards Mueller, with 39.8% picking him compared to 35.8% picking Trump.
  • KEY POINT: The public collectively is very divided on who to trust between Mueller and Trump, with Republicans backing Trump (fig 3).

Methodology: Between 2/23/2018 – 2/25/2018, we surveyed 2,553 modeled likely midterm voters in Florida (N = 820), Wisconsin (N = 478), Pennsylvania (N = 641) and Ohio (N = 614) via IVR, landline only. Likely voters were defined as registered voters having voted in the 2010 or 2014 midterm elections, plus the 15% additional most likely to turnout based on in-house turnout score modeling. Margin of error varies by question and segment, but is generally +/- 2.1% for topline results. Sample was weighted by state, age, gender, and party based on 2014 midterm turnout in the latest L2 voter file for each state. Results were then re-balanced based on these cohorts.