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Most Americans think North Korea can be contained; Republicans like how Trump conducts himself

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

As President Donald Trump prepares for his first presidential trip to Asia, Americans are more likely than they were in September to think North Korea can be contained without resorting to military action.

Meanwhile President Trump gets strong approval from rank-and-file Republicans and most Republicans also say they like how President Trump personally conducts himself as president, though most Americans disagree. And Republicans say neither Congressional Republicans nor President Trump should publicly criticize each other.

Today, just 25 percent of Americans think military action is needed to address the development of nuclear weapons by North Korea, an eight-point drop from the high of 33 percent recorded in September.


The drop is primarily among independents and Republicans.  Now most Republicans think North Korea can be contained; in September, half of Republicans said military action was needed.

There is far less consensus about how President Trump is currently handling North Korea:  eight in 10 Republicans approve, while nine in 10 Democrats and most independents disapprove.  


By a measure of two-to-one, Americans think other countries in Asia like China and South Korea should be the ones to take the lead in dealing with North Korea.  Majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and independents all agree on this.


Trump and Congress

The President's overall job approval rating is 39 percent. Approval among Republicans is up to 84 percent from 80 percent in September - and it's up among Republican-leaning independents as well - helping to boost the overall approval number.  About nine in ten Republicans also approve of how he's handling the economy specifically, and most think President Trump is fighting for their economic class.


Twenty-five percent of Americans say they like how President Trump personally conducts himself as President. A majority 58 percent of Republicans like it, though that number is lower than his overall approval among them.


The President faced criticism from senators in his own party in recent weeks, but rank-and-file Republicans don't think President Trump should hit back with criticism.  Instead, 83 percent think he should ignore such criticism and try to work with any congressional Republicans who disagree with him.  


The same goes for Republicans in Congress: nine in 10 Republicans think that members of Congress from their own party should ignore when Donald Trump disagrees with them and try to work with him instead.


Republicans are divided over whether they think the president and his Republican counterparts in Congress have the same goals.  Forty-four percent think Mr. Trump has the same policy goals as Republicans in Congress, while slightly more – 49 percent - do not.    Most Republicans, however, do think their own party's members of Congress are getting in the way of President Trump's agenda. Even those who think President Trump and Republicans in Congress are working towards the same policy goals tend to say that Republicans in Congress are getting in the way.

More broadly, a majority of Republicans thinks the overall tone and civility in American politics has been getting worse in recent years, though they are more optimistic than Americans overall.

Overall, optimism that Americans of different political views can still come together and work out their differences has faded.  Back in June – after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress – more than half -- 55 percent -- were optimistic.  Now, 47 percent are optimistic.


Pessimism has risen across party lines, but particularly among independents.

A majority of Americans remain concerned or scared about what President Trump is doing as president, but more than eight in ten of those in his own party continue to be optimistic or excited.

President Trump and the U.S. image in the world

A majority of Americans continue to think President Trump is making the U.S. image in the world weaker rather than stronger.  Fifty-three percent think so, similar to last month.  Most Republicans -- 67 percent -- however, think he is making the U.S. look stronger.  

Americans are more likely to want the U.S. to be liked around the world for its policies (49 percent) than to be respected for its military power (39 percent). Most Republicans favor respect for military power (59 percent), while most Democrats and half of independents think it's more important for the world to like the U.S. for its policies.

Most Americans who think it's more important for the U.S. to be liked for its policies say President Trump is making the U.S. look weaker.  Those who think it's more important to be respected militarily are more divided, though they are more inclined to say he is making the U.S. look stronger.


This poll was conducted by telephone October 27-30, 2017 among a random sample of 1,109 adults nationwide.  Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Glen Mills, 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. 

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