Views of Republican Presidents: Donald Trump, George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan
By a wide margin, President Donald Trump is substantially less popular than past Republican presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. Only 38% of Americans report a favorable view of Trump, while a majority (56%) of the public express an unfavorable opinion of him. In contrast, a majority of Americans have a favorable view of George W. Bush (53%) and Ronald Reagan (65%). Public views of Trump are also strikingly different from how George W. Bush1 (61% favorable) and Ronald Reagan2 (70% favorable) were viewed at a similar time in their presidencies.
Among Republicans, all three Presidents are highly regarded. Roughly eight in ten (79%) Republicans report a favorable opinion of Trump, while 85% hold favorable views of Bush and 91% hold favorable views of Reagan. Notably, Republicans are more likely to have “very favorable” views of Trump than Bush (44% vs. 32%, respectively). However, 61% of Republicans feel very favorable towards Reagan.
Trump is viewed far more negatively among nonwhite Americans than previous Republican presidents. Only 16% of black Americans view Trump favorably—fewer than half of the number who have favorable opinions of Bush (34%) and Reagan (49%). Only about one in five (21%) Hispanics view Trump favorably—half the number who view Bush (47%) and Reagan (50%) favorably. Nearly half (46%) of white Americans have a favorable view of Trump, while nearly six in ten (59%) have a favorable view of Bush and nearly three-quarters (72%) view Reagan favorably.
There is a significant education divide among whites, especially in opinions about the current president. Trump is viewed much more favorably among whites with no more than a high school education (54%) than he is among whites with a four-year college degree (34%). Bush is viewed about as favorably among whites who have no college experience (60%) and those with a college degree (59%). Reagan is also viewed favorably by both whites with a high school degree or less (73%) and those with a college degree (73%).
Similarly, there is a substantial gender divide in views about Trump that is absent in views of Bush and Reagan. Men are significantly more likely than women to have a favorable opinion of Trump (44% vs. 31%, respectively). Conversely, more than six in ten (62%) women feel negatively towards Trump, compared to about half (51%) of men. Majorities of men and women have a favorable view of Bush (52% vs. 54%, respectively) and Reagan (67% vs. 63%, respectively).
White evangelical Protestants maintain positive feelings toward all three Republican presidents. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of white evangelical Protestants have a favorable view of Trump, compared to 78% who view Bush positively and 92% with a favorable opinion of Reagan. Although Bush is viewed somewhat more positively than Trump overall, white evangelicals are more likely to express a very favorable opinion of Trump than Bush (36% vs. 26%, respectively).
The gender divide in views of Trump is also evident among white evangelical Protestants. More than three-quarters (76%) of white evangelical Protestant men feel favorably towards Trump, compared to 57% of white evangelical Protestant women.
Reagan vs. Trump: Who Represents Republican Values?
Among Republicans, Reagan is seen as the better representative of the party’s principles and values than Trump. More than two-thirds (69%) of Republicans say Reagan better represents the core principles and values of the GOP, compared to about one-quarter (24%) who say Trump better represents the party’s values. Among Republicans there are modest divisions by age and education.
Republicans with a high school education or less are more likely than those with a college degree to say that Trump best represents the GOP’s principles and values (33% vs. 13%, respectively). Perhaps surprisingly, Republican seniors (age 65 or older) are also more likely than those under the age of 50 to say Trump is the best representative of Republican values (36% vs. 20%, respectively).
Even Republicans who hold a favorable view of Trump say that Reagan is a better exemplar of Republican Party values and principles than Trump (63% vs. 30%, respectively).
Views of Russia and Vladimir Putin
Americans express generally negative feelings about Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Nearly six in ten (58%) Americans express a negative opinion of Russia, while only one-quarter (25%) have a positive view. Views have grown only slightly more negative since 2013, when 54% of the public reported feeling unfavorably toward Russia.3
The modest rise in negative sentiment was driven nearly exclusively by Democrats. More than two-thirds (68%) of Democrats express a negative view of Russia, compared to about half (51%) who reported feeling this way in 2013. Republican feelings toward Russia have been stable, with about six in ten (59%) expressing unfavorable views of Russia today and in 2013 (58%). The views of independents also remained largely unchanged during this period, with a majority (52%) expressing an unfavorable opinion about Russia today versus 53% in 2013.
There are only modest differences by race and ethnicity. About one-quarter (27%) of white Americans, compared to about one in five black (20%) and Hispanic (19%) Americans have a positive impression of Russia. Notably, there are no significant educational differences among whites.
Among religious groups there is a consensus of opinion about Russia. More than six in ten black Protestants (66%), white Catholics (65%), and white evangelical Protestants (63%), and majorities of religiously unaffiliated Americans (57%) and white mainline Protestants (57%) have an unfavorable view of Russia.
Young Americans are less likely to express hostility toward Russia. More than one-third (34%) of young adults (age 18 to 29) report having a favorable view of Russia, compared to only 18% of seniors. Half (50%) of young adults, but nearly seven in ten (69%) seniors, express an unfavorable view.
Vladimir Putin is viewed even more negatively than Russia. Roughly two-thirds (66%) of the public say they have an unfavorable opinion of the Russian leader while only 15% view him positively. Nearly one in five (19%) Americans offer no opinion or report being unfamiliar with Putin.
Strong majorities of Democrats (77%), Republicans (65%), and independents (63%) have an unfavorable view of Putin. Notably, half (50%) of Democrats have a very unfavorable view of him, compared to 31% of Republicans.
Russia: Enemy or Ally
Only about one-third of Americans consider Russia either an “ally” (8%) or “friendly” toward the U.S. (26%). A majority of the public see Russia as “unfriendly” (31%) or an “enemy” (24%) of the U.S.
American views appear strongly conditioned on political affiliation. More than four in ten (43%) Republicans view Russia as an ally or friendly, a view shared by only 28% of Democrats. About half (49%) of Republicans believe Russia is unfriendly or an enemy, compared to two-thirds (67%) of Democrats. Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to say Russia is America’s enemy (37% vs. 18%, respectively).
Attitudes differ markedly by generation as well. Young adults are about twice as likely as seniors to perceive Russia as either an ally or a friend to the U.S. (42% vs. 20%, respectively). More than seven in ten (71%) seniors say Russia is unfriendly toward the U.S. or is an enemy, a view shared by fewer than half (49%) of young adults. Seniors are more than twice as likely as young people to say Russia is America’s enemy (35% vs. 16%, respectively).
Americans with a favorable view of Trump are much more likely to have a positive opinion of Russia. Nearly half (48%) of Americans who feel positively about Trump perceive Russia to be America’s ally or friend. In contrast, only about one-quarter (26%) of Americans who have an unfavorable view of Trump say the same.
Russian Interference in the 2016 Election
Fewer than half (48%) of Americans believe there is clear evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help the Trump campaign. More than four in ten (43%) disagree while about one in ten (9%) offer no opinion.
Views are sharply divided by party. Eight in ten (80%) Democrats, compared to only 20% of Republicans, agree there is conclusive evidence of Russian involvement. Independents align with the public overall.
There is considerable disagreement between Americans by race and ethnicity. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of black Americans and a majority (52%) of Hispanics agree there is evidence of Russian interference. Only 43% of white Americans agree; nearly half (49%) disagree. However, the views of whites are highly stratified by education level. Nearly six in ten (58%) whites with a college degree say there is clear evidence of Russian election interference, compared to only 36% of whites without a college degree.
Another important part of Trump’s base—white evangelical Protestants—are also unlikely to believe Russia played much if any role in the 2016 election. Seven in ten (70%) white evangelical Protestants do not believe there is clear evidence of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
Increasing Support for Impeachment
Support for impeaching the president has increased significantly over the last six months. Currently, four in ten (40%) Americans believe Trump deserves to be impeached, up 10 percentage points from 30% who expressed support for this action in February. A majority (53%) of Americans do not believe Trump should be impeached and removed from office, a view held by 65% of the public in February.
Much of the shift in attitudes about impeachment is the result of a substantial increase among Democrats. More than seven in ten (72%) Democrats now favor impeaching President Trump, compared to 58% who expressed support for this action in February. Fewer than four in ten (38%) independents say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, but this is up from 27% who said he should be impeached in February. Views of Republicans remain roughly unchanged. Only seven percent of Republicans believe Trump should be impeached, compared to four percent who held this view in February.
There is a gaping gender divide in views about impeachment. Only about one-third (32%) of men, but nearly half (47%) of women, say the President should be impeached and removed from office. Compared to men, women have become much more supportive of impeachment over the last six months. Only 35% of women favored impeaching Trump in February compared to 26% of men.
Americans of different racial and ethnic backgrounds also express quite divergent views about impeachment. More than seven in ten (72%) black Americans and a majority (53%) of Hispanic Americans say Trump should be impeached and removed from office. Fewer than one-third (31%) of white Americans agree. White Americans with a college degree are somewhat more likely to express support for impeachment than those without a college education (39% vs. 27%, respectively). In February, only about one-quarter (24%) of whites with a college education supported impeachment while fewer than one in five (19%) whites without a college degree said the same.
White evangelical Protestants are among the most resistant to the idea of impeachment. Nearly eight in ten (79%) white evangelical Protestants say Trump should not be impeached. More than six in ten white mainline Protestants (63%) and white Catholics (61%) also oppose impeaching the President. Religiously unaffiliated Americans are divided with about as many in support of impeachment (46%) as opposed to it (45%)
Violating the Constitution
Americans are divided over whether Trump has acted in ways that violate the U.S. Constitution. Approximately half (49%) of the public believes Trump has violated the Constitution, while nearly as many (43%) disagree. Notably, there has been no shift in views about whether Trump violated the Constitution over the past six months. In February, close to half (47%) of Americans said Trump had violated the Constitution.
Views about whether Trump violated the Constitution are conditioned by party affiliation. More than eight in ten (85%) Republicans reject the notion that Trump violated the Constitution, while nearly eight in ten (78%) Democrats say he has. The views of independents closely track those of the public overall.
There is a similar gender divide on this issue. A majority (54%) of women, but only about four in ten (43%) men, believe Trump has acted in ways that contravene the Constitution.
Young adults are far more likely than seniors to believe Trump violated the Constitution. Nearly six in ten (59%) young adults, compared to about four in ten (41%) seniors, believe Trump’s actions violated the Constitution.
Most white Christian religious groups do not believe Trump acted in ways that contravened the Constitution. A majority of white evangelical Protestants (66%), white Catholics (55%), and white mainline Protestants (54%) do not believe Trump violated the Constitution. In contrast, a slim majority (52%) of religiously unaffiliated Americans say Trump has violated the Constitution.
1 Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Favorability Poll, July 2001.
2 NBC News/Associated Press Poll, July 1981. Reagan’s favorability is based on a slightly different question: “Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Ronald Reagan?”
3 Pew Research Center for the People and the Press/Council on Foreign Relations, America’s Place in the World Survey, October 2013.
Jones, Robert P., and Daniel Cox. “Support for Impeachment Grows; Half of Americans Believe Russia Interfered with Election.” PRRI. 2017. https://www.prri.org/research/poll-trump-russia-investigation-impeachment-republican-party/
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