Poll Finds Trump Adds to Divisions in Unhappy Country

Battered by the coronavirus pandemic, high unemployment and civil rights protests, even 63% of Republicans say the country is heading in the wrong direction.

A June 13 protest of police brutality in Philadelphia. (AP photo/David Goldman)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are deeply unhappy about the state of their country — and a majority think President Trump is exacerbating tensions in a moment of national crisis, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

With less than five months until Election Day, the survey offers few bright spots for a president confronting a historic pandemic, a sharp economic decline and national outrage over police brutality against black people. Most Americans — including 63% of Republicans — say the country is heading in the wrong direction. And close to two-thirds — including 37% of Republicans — say Trump is making America more divided.

“Instead of bringing us all together, he’s pulling us all apart,” said Donna Oates, a 63-year-old retiree from Chino, California.

Oates said she was a Republican until March, when her mounting frustration with Trump and the Republican Party prompted her to change her voter registration to the Democratic Party. Trump’s tenure, she said, has made her “dread getting up to turn on the TV and see any of the news.”

That pessimism poses reelection challenges for Trump in his face-off against Democrat Joe Biden. Presidents seeking a second term typically rely on voters being optimistic about the direction the country is headed and eager to stay the course — a view most Americans do not hold today.

Just 24% say the country is headed in the right direction, down from 33% a month ago and 42% in March. That’s when the Covid-19 pandemic began taking hold in the United States, killing more than 120,000 Americans to date, driving the unemployment rate above 13% and upending most aspects of daily life.

Overall, 37% of Americans say they approve of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak — a dip from 44% in March.

The fallout from the pandemic has been sweeping. Beyond the public health risks, the economy suffered from a sudden jolt as states implemented strict stay-at-home orders. Though some of those restrictions have started to ease and businesses in many places are beginning to reopen, the unemployment rate still sits at 13.3%, down from 14.7% in April.

The nation has also been jarred by the deaths of George Floyd and other black Americans at the hands of police, which prompted protests across the nation. Trump responded aggressively to the protests, some of which became violent, and vowed to send the active-duty military into states that couldn’t contain the demonstrations. The Pentagon publicly opposed that step and it was never carried out.

A new AP-NORC poll finds that only about a quarter of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction.

Trump’s overall approval rating during this moment of tremendous upheaval sits at 39%. Though that’s down slightly from the 43% who approved of his job performance in February and March, it’s well within the narrow range where his ratings have stayed throughout his time in office. That suggests that his most enthusiastic supporters have remained loyal throughout the pandemic and other crises.

Trump’s strongest ratings continue to center on the economy, as has been the case throughout his tenure. About half of Americans say they approve of Trump’s handling of the economy.

Still, that’s down somewhat from 56% approval in March — a warning sign to Trump, who planned to run for reelection on a booming economy, that Americans are aware of the shifting economic landscape. Even with the dip in the unemployment rate as some businesses reopen, economic forecasts for the rest of the year remain uncertain, particularly as new virus hot spots emerge. Trump’s economic argument has shifted to focus on promises about what the nation’s financial situation could look like in 2021 if he’s given a second term.

The protests over police brutality against black Americans have proven to be a particularly searing moment for the nation, as well as Trump’s presidency. And he gets low marks for his handling of them.

A majority of Americans — 54% — say Trump has made things worse during the unrest after the death of Floyd, an unarmed and handcuffed black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Seventy-two percent of black Americans and 51% of white Americans think Trump has made things worse after Floyd’s death.

Floyd’s death has prompted a broad discussion about the legacy of racism in America, with business leaders acknowledging inequality in the workplace, prominent brands reconsidering names rooted in racial stereotypes and statues of Confederate figures being taken down across the country.

Trump, however, has questioned how systemic racism is in America and suggested that inequalities can largely be addressed by boosting the economy. Just 32% of Americans say they approve of Trump’s handling of race relations, while 67% disapprove.

Views of Trump are particularly negative among black Americans, a group that votes overwhelmingly for Democrats.

About 9 in 10 black Americans disapprove of how Trump is handling his job overall, and roughly the same percentage disapprove of how he is handling race relations. Among white Americans, 45% approve of how Trump is handling his job overall and 37% approve of how he’s handling race relations.


The AP-NORC poll of 1,310 adults was conducted June 11-15 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. NORC is the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Margin of error means that if the poll were repeated, the results would be expected to fall within that margin.

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