Nearly six in 10 don’t think Trump understands the complicated problems a president faces

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

Intelligence Leaks and Improper Communication with Russian Agents

About a week after Michael Flynn resigned from his job as national security adviser, Americans are concerned about the possibility of improper contact with Russian agents by some of President Trump’s associates – information that came to light possibly due to the leaking of information by members of U.S. intelligence agencies. Fifty-one percent of Americans are more bothered that communications with Russian officials may have occurred, while 38 percent are more bothered by the leaks.

There are significant partisan differences.  Eight in 10 Democrats and half of independents are more concerned about possible improper communication with the Russians, while seven in 10 Republicans are more concerned about the leaks.

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Most Americans – 57 percent - think these leaks are okay because releasing this information to the media by members of the U.S. intelligence community provides information the public needs to know about.  Just 37 percent think these leaks are not all right because they put the country at risk.  Here again, most Democrats (75 percent) and independents (58 percent) think these leaks are okay, while most Republicans (58 percent) disagree.

Nevertheless, about seven in 10 Americans think Congress should investigate both the possibility of improper communications with the Russians (72 percent) as well as the leaking of classified material to the news media (69 percent).  Democrats and independents are more concerned with the former, while Republicans are more concerned with the latter.

Sanctions and Relations with Russia

Amidst these reports from U.S. intelligence agencies, many Americans remain concerned that Mr. Trump is too friendly towards Russia.  Forty-three percent think so, while another 44 percent think his approach is about right.  Views are largely partisan:  Eight in 10 Republicans think his approach is about right, while three in four Democrats think he is too friendly toward Russia.  Independents are more divided.      

Sixty-two percent of Americans think the sanctions enacted against Russia by the outgoing Obama administration should remain in place.  Just a quarter of Americans think these sanctions should be lifted.  The view that sanctions against Russia should remain in place is held by most Democrats and independents, but just under half of Republicans.

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Fifty-three percent of Americans view Russia as unfriendly to the U.S., including 24 percent who think of Russia as an enemy.  While these percentages are roughly similar to what they were a month ago, the partisan make-up of these opinions has shifted dramatically since 2015.  

Back in February 2015, 62 percent of Republicans thought of Russia as unfriendly or an enemy; now just 43 percent do.  In contrast, the percentage of Democrats that views Russia as unfriendly or an enemy has risen 15 points – from 52 percent in 2015 to 67 percent today. A similar shift can be seen in partisan views of Russian President Vladimir Putin.  

In May 2014, Democrats and Republicans held similar views of the Russian leader.  Today, unfavorable views of Putin have risen 12 points among Democrats, while unfavorable views of Putin among Republicans have dropped 13 points.

The Trump Administration and the Media

This poll finds Americans don’t trust either the news media or the Trump administration to tell the truth a lot of the time.  More than six in 10 Americans say the news media tells the truth only some of the time or hardly ever, but a similar percentage says that about members of the Trump administration.

There is a divide along partisan lines, however. Republicans are more critical of the news media and more likely to think the Trump administration tells the truth. The reverse is true among Democrats.

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President Trump: One Month in Office

Just over a month after taking office, President Trump’s overall job approval rating is 39 percent -- similar to what it was earlier this month. Fifty-one percent of Americans disapprove, and 10 percent don’t have an opinion.  Views continue to be strikingly partisan.

President Trump has described his administration as a “fine-tuned machine,” but 49 percent of Americans say it is more disorganized than previous administrations at this point in time. Forty-eight percent say the Trump administration is more organized (17 percent) or just as organized as previous administrations (31 percent).  

Much of Mr. Trump’s campaign for president focused on jobs and keeping the country safe. Six in 10 Americans are very or somewhat confident that President Trump’s policies will create jobs, but they divide on whether his policies will keep the country safe from terrorism -- 50 percent are very or somewhat confident his policies will keep U.S. safe from terrorism, and 49 are not very or not at all conifdent in those policies. 

There continues to be some concern about Mr. Trump’s ability to handle an international crisis. Sixty-two percent are uneasy about his approach, and only 35 percent say they’re confident about his ability to deal with an international crisis. However, among Republicans, 75 percent are confident, and 22 percent are not. 

The opposite is true for Democrats -- 92 percent are uneasy with his approach, and only six percent are comfortable. Sixty-four percent of independents are also uneasy about the president’s approach to international crises. 

A slim majority views President Trump as a strong leader but he gets more negative ratings on other characteristics. A majority (58 percent) of Americans don’t think he understands the complicated problems a president has to deal with and most (57 percent) don’t think he has a clear plan for solving the country’s problems. About eight in 10 Republicans think Mr. Trump does have a clear plan and that he understands the problems he faces, while about nine in 10 Democrats don’t think he does.

On empathy, 47 percent of Americans think Mr. Trump cares a lot or some about the needs and problems of people like them, while 52 percent say he cares not much or not at all. 

While the President’s overall job rating may be underwater, his Vice President is viewed more positively. Fifty percent of Americans approve of the job Mike Pence is doing, while 35 percent disapprove. He gets especially high marks from Republicans and more independents approve than disapprove. 

Donald Trump and His Business Interests 

Mr. Trump announced that he was stepping down from running the Trump Organization, turning over operations to a trust controlled by his adult sons.  Most Americans - 55 percent - don’t think he’s done enough to prevent any conflicts of interest he may have between his business interests and his job as president.  

While most Republicans (69 percent) think he’s done enough, most Democrats (82 percent) and independents (56 percent) do not. And as they did before he took the oath of office, Most Americans  - 56 percent - think Mr. Trump needs to release his tax returns.  On this question as well, the public is divided along party lines.

Other questions have been raised as to how Donald Trump’s presidency will influence the Trump brand, including the product line of his eldest daughter, Ivanka.  Most Americans (57 percent) say having a product or service being associated with Donald Trump or members of his family would make no difference in their decision of whether or not to purchase it, though more than a third (35 percent) would be less likely to buy something associated with the Trump family.  Far fewer - just 7 percent -  would be more likely to “buy Trump”.  

Most Democrats (63 percent) would be less likely to buy a Trump product, while most Republicans (76 percent) and independents (61 percent) say the Trump brand would make no difference.

The Anti-Trump Movement

Following a Presidents’ Day holiday which saw witness to another wave of anti-Trump protests in various localities across the country, most Americans – 53 percent - think people who oppose the Trump Administration and its policies should give the administration more of a chance, while 44 percent think the protests are justified. Eighty-six percent of Republicans and 54 percent of independents think Mr. Trump should be given more of a chance, while 74 percent of Democrats think the protests are justified.

More than one in 10 Americans have either attended a rally or meeting in opposition to the policies of the Trump administration, or donated money to a group or organization that opposes the policies of the Trump administration. More than one in five Americans have shared an anti-Trump quote, article, or other information through a social networking site like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. 

Anti-Trump activists – those who have either donated money or attended a rally or meeting in opposition to the Trump administration – are far more likely than Americans overall to demand a stance of opposition from Democrats in Congress.  While 73 percent of Americans and half of Democrats (52 percent) want Congressional Democrats to try to work with Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress in order to get things done, just 41 percent of anti-Trump activists agree.  Instead, more - 49 percent - would rather Democrats in Congress oppose Mr. Trump and the Republicans even if it means not getting as much done.

The Affordable Care Act

A quarter of Americans now say the Affordable Care Act should be repealed, similar to last month and lower than two years ago. Sixty-four percent say it is working well but needs some changes. Forty-eight percent of Republicans would like to see the law repealed; just 6 percent of Democrats and 20 percent of independents say the same. Just over half of those who want the law to be repealed say that should happen once there is a replacement. 43 percent who favor repeal would do so immediately, even if there is no replacement for it.

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Americans are divided as to the law’s impact on the country’s health care system. About a third think it has made the U.S. healthcare system better, while about as many say the law has made it worse. Views are highly partisan. Americans are also divided in their overall views of the law -- 46 percent approve and 49 percent disapprove. Most Republicans disapprove, while most Democrats approve.

Congress and the Parties

Approval of Congress ticked up last month, and at 22 percent remains slightly higher now than it has been in recent years. Nearly a third of Republicans approve of the job Congress is doing. 

The public’s approval of their own Congressional representative is much higher – as has historically been the case. Although, ratings in recent years have been lower than they were about a decade ago. Forty-nine percent approve of their own members of Congress, and 34 percent disapprove.  

In October, Americans held more positive views of the Democratic Party than the Republican Party – but in the wake of last November’s election, that has changed. Positive views of the Democratic Party have dropped and now both parties are viewed in a negative light.  Positive views of the Republican Party have risen among Republicans, while positive views of the Democrats have dropped among members of their own party.

Israel

The last five years have seen a sharp uptick in the percentage of Americans who think there is too little U.S. support for Israel: 42 percent feel that way now, up from 33 percent in 2015 and 17 percent just over five years ago.
At 40 percent, Republicans are especially likely to say there is too little support for Israel.

Americans overall are divided about establishing a Palestinian homeland in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and a third don’t have an opinion. Nearly half of Republicans oppose that.


This poll was conducted by telephone February 17-21, 2017 among a random sample of 1,280 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 three 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.  

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