As his term comes to an end, a Monmouth University Poll finds President Donald Trump with his highest approval rate since taking office despite Americans believing the country has become more divided in the last four years.
President Trump’s current job rating stands at 46% approval and 51% disapproval in a Monmouth’s national poll. The approval number matches his prior high recorded in March this year, just as the coronavirus outbreak hit the country. Two months earlier, Trump had a 41% approve to 53% disapprove rating.
The poll found 76% of Americans believe that we are greatly divided when it comes to the nation’s most important values—with just 21% feel the country is in agreement on what these values are. While similar numbers of Republicans, Democrats, and independents are in agreement that the country is fundamentally divided, there is no census when it comes on how much of this is due to President Trump.
Draining the Swamp
“We agree on the problem—the country is deeply divided at its core,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, in a press statement. “However, we don’t quite agree whether compromise or principle will get us out of this political quagmire.”
In assessing the Trump Presidency, 29% feel President Trump has made progress on his promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington. Another 32% say he has actually made “the swamp” worse and 34% say nothing has really changed.
Forty-five percent of those surveyed believes President Trump has done more to undermine the U.S. Constitution compared to past presidents, compared with 37% of those who are in the opinion Trump has done more than his predecessors to protect the Constitution. Another 15% believe he has been no different than other presidents when it comes to upholding the Constitution.
No Hope for Unity
“No one who truly appreciates our country’s founding document can see the last four years as a high-water mark for upholding Constitutional norms,” opined Murray. “This speaks to the success of Trump and his allies in completely reframing the terms of political engagement, a development that started long before the current administration.”
More than two-thirds of Americans feel the country has become more divided since Trump took office. This number hit 70% in the current poll, up from 52% in March 2017 and 66% this past summer. Partisans differ on this opinion, as 90% of Democrats say the country has become more divided under Trump while 49% of Republicans agree.
Only 31% of the public believes the country will grow more united over the next year. Twenty-five percent of Americans expect to become more divided and 35% expect to see little change. About half (49%) of Democrats expect the U.S. to become more united, but a similar number (48%) of Republicans expect that the divide will widen.
Elected officials unwilling to compromise was cited as causing the most problems in the federal government at 51%. Conversely, 42% say Washington’s problems actually stem from elected officials who are not willing to stand up for their principles.
“The public consistently expresses a preference for compromise and cooperation, but there is also a deep-seated distrust of the other side,” said Murray. “If there’s one thing political leaders have learned over the past decades, playing up that distrust is a path to short-term political gain even if it may erode public faith in the system as a whole.”
Looking ahead to the new administration, 62% think it is more important for Congressional Republicans to find ways to work with President-elect Joe Biden compared with 34% say it is more important for them to keep the new President in check. Half the country expresses confidence that President-elect Biden will be able to get Congress to be more cooperative, although only 13% are very confident about this while 38% are somewhat confident.
A majority of the public (56%) has a great deal of concern that the country would suffer lasting damage if people who hold core political principles different from their own were able to put their policies in place. Another 29% have some concern about this. These findings have been fairly consistent since Monmouth started asking this question four years ago.
Majorities of Republicans (64%) and Democrats (55%) have a great deal of concern about the lasting damage that would be done if the other side had policymaking power.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from Nov. 12 to 16, 2020 with 810 adults in the United States.