Americans sharply divided along partisan lines over travel ban, Trump: CBS News poll

By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus, Kabir Khanna and Anthony Salvanto

Two weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency, the country remains sharply divided along partisan lines. A large majority of Republicans approves of President Trump and his recent executive order temporarily restricting entry into the U.S. by foreigners and refugees, while Democrats disapprove in similar numbers.

Slightly more Americans disapprove (51 percent) than approve (45 percent) of President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning people from entering the U.S. from seven designated countries. Views on temporarily suspending entry for refugees are the same.  Opinions on these issues are highly partisan.

The public splits on whether a temporary ban on people from the seven designated countries will make the U.S. safer, but most Republicans (who support the ban) think it will.

On a more positive note for Mr. Trump, more Americans think the Senate should vote to confirm his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, than vote against him. However, 56 percent can’t say at this point. Republicans and independents are more supportive of Gorsuch than Democrats.

In the CBS News Poll’s first measure of Mr. Trump’s job performance as president, 40 percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing -- the lowest of any president just after his first inauguration since the Gallup Poll began taking those measures in 1953. Some 48 percent disapprove.

President Trump’s Executive Order Restricting Entry into U.S.

Americans are divided on the president’s executive order that temporarily bans foreigners from entering the U.S. who are from seven majority Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – though more disapprove (51 percent) than approve (45 percent).  The partisan differences are striking:  85 percent of Republicans approve, while an identical 85 percent of Democrats disapprove.  

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A third of Americans agree with the rationale given by the Trump administration for this measure:  that it will make the United States safer from terrorism.  Thirty-six percent of Americans agree that this provision will make the U.S. safer by preventing unwanted people from entering the country, but just as many – 36 percent -- think it will make the U.S. less safe by making people around the world angry at the U.S.  Another 22 percent think it will not have any effect. 

Another major provision of Mr. Trump’s executive order is to temporarily prohibit all refugees from any country from entering the U.S.  Here again, Americans are largely divided along party lines, though more Americans disapprove (51 percent) than approve (45 percent).

Fifty-seven percent of Americans think a temporary ban on refugees goes against the founding principles of the United States.  Nearly seven in 10 Republicans think that ban is in keeping with the country’s founding principles, while more than eight in 10 Democrats and most independents disagree.

Religion, the Travel Ban, and Views of Islam

President Trump signaled that Christians might receive preference when it comes to assessing whether travelers affected by the ban would be allowed to enter the U.S., but most Americans reject this as a condition for allowing immigration into the country.  Eight-right percent of Americans - and 87 percent of American Christians - think the government should treat all potential immigrants the same, regardless of religion.

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The seven countries singled out by the executive order all have Muslim majority populations. Some critics of the executive order have characterized it as a Muslim ban, a charge the administration has denied.  In principle, three in four Americans would oppose a ban on all Muslims from entering the U.S. – including large majorities of Democrats (92 percent) and independents (75 percent), and a slight majority of Republicans (55 percent).

And despite strong language before the election by the Trump campaign about the threat of violence from radical Islam, most Americans don’t believe that the Islamic religion as a whole is more violent than other religions. More than six in 10 Republicans think Islam is more violent than other religions, while most Democrats and independents think Islam is no different than other religions.

President Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee

Most Americans are taking a wait and see approach on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court – 56 percent can’t say at this point whether he should be confirmed. Still, more say Judge Gorsuch should be confirmed than not.

Democrats are three times as likely to think the Senate should vote against Judge Gorsuch rather than for him, but about six in 10 don’t have an opinion yet. Most Republicans want him confirmed. Among independents with an opinion, more would like to Judge Gorsuch confirmed than not.

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Similar percentages of Americans did not have an opinion on the confirmation of past nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court at this early stage. Overall public support for Gorsuch’s confirmation is in line with that of recent nominees.

One of the most controversial decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court was the Roe vs. Wade ruling that effectively legalized abortion. Fifty-four percent of Americans say they are looking for a Supreme Court justice who would uphold Roe v. Wade; only 30 percent want someone who would vote to overturn it.

Three in four Democrats are looking for a justice to uphold that 1973 decision. Republicans are more divided in their views but more want the next justice to vote to overturn Roe v. Wade (45 percent) than want the next justice to uphold it (39 percent).

Former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a conservative, and Mr. Trump vowed to name a conservative to fill his seat. Not surprisingly, 64 percent of Republicans want the next justice to be a conservative. Democrats are somewhat divided in their desire for a liberal (41 percent) and a moderate (39 percent). Independents are looking for a moderate.

Many Republicans think Judge Gorsuch is in line with their own ideology. Thirty-eight percent think he is about right ideologically, while far fewer say he is either too conservative (4 percent) or not conservative enough (2 percent). Democrats are more likely to say Judge Gorsuch is too conservative. Still, most Americans, including more than half of Republicans, don’t know enough about Judge Gorsuch yet to have an opinion

President Trump’s Job Rating

Amid the flurry of far-reaching executive orders signed during his first two weeks in office, the president’s first recorded job approval rating in the CBS News Poll is at 40 percent.  Some 48 percent of Americans disapprove, and 12 percent don’t have an opinion yet.  Views of the 45th president are strikingly partisan: More than eight in 10 Republicans approve and more than eight in 10 Democrats disapprove of how he is handling his job.  Independents are more likely to disapprove (46 percent) than approve (36 percent).

Mr. Trump’s first approval rating is a historic low when compared with other presidents during their first month in office, and he is the first president since 1953 (when Gallup started measuring the job performance of presidents just after their first inauguration) to have more Americans disapprove than approve of the job he is doing so early in his term.   

Ratings of the most recent U.S. presidents were far less partisan. About a third of Republicans approved of the job Barack Obama was doing at the start of his presidency, and a similar percentage of Democrats approved of George W. Bush at the start of his first term.

President Trump does better on a couple of specific issues. Forty-three percent of Americans approve of his handling of the economy, while 37 percent disapprove.  Americans split on how he is handling terrorism.  Again, these results are highly partisan.

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This poll was conducted by telephone February 1-2, 2017 among a random sample of 1,019 adults nationwide.  Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, PA.  Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.

The poll employed a random digit dial methodology. For the landline sample, a respondent was randomly selected from all adults in the household. For the cell sample, interviews were conducted with the person who answered the phone.

Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish using live interviewers. The data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables.

The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus four percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher and is available by request. The margin of error includes the effects of standard weighting procedures which enlarge sampling error slightly.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

This poll’s margin of error is 4 points.

CBS News poll on Trump travel ban, record low approval rating for Trump by CBS News Politics on Scribd