Donald Trump’s address found a favorable reception from its audience. Most Americans don’t want to give the presidency more power. And Democrats are now more likely than Republicans to be scared about the world. This is HuffPollster for Friday, March 3, 2017.
DONALD TRUMP’S SPEECH TO CONGRESS GETS LARGELY POSITIVE MARKS FROM VIEWERS - The president’s speech on Tuesday was positively received by much of its audience, according to two “snap” polls from CNN and CBS, and a subsequent survey from Gallup. In Gallup’s survey, 57 percent of Americans who watched the speech or followed news coverage of it, rated it as excellent or good. CNN/ORC and CBS/YouGov surveys found that 57 percent and 76 percent, respectively, of viewers who agreed to be polled after the speech gave it positive marks.
A few important caveats - HuffPollster, last year: “State of the Union speeches have a celebrated history of not making much of an impact. A 2010 Gallup analysis found that the speeches delivered since the beginning of the Carter administration resulted, on average, in a ‘less than a 1 percentage-point decline’ in presidential approval….Most Americans simply aren’t watching the addresses, let alone paying close attention to the content. In a 2015 HuffPost/YouGov poll, about one-quarter said they’d watched the previous State of the Union, and only 4 percent reported remembering it very well. (Given people’s predilection to pretend they’re paying more attention to civic events than they are, those numbers are likely a little high.) The people most likely to tune in to watch any president are also those least likely to need any convincing. Democrats [were] consistently more likely than Republicans or independents to say they’re interested in watching [Barack] Obama’s speeches — just as Republicans were more likely to watch George W. Bush.” [HuffPost, more on the pitfalls of “instant” polls]
The same pattern holds true for Trump’s speech, which attracted somewhat lower ratings than Obama’s first speech to Congress, and saw a Republican-heavy viewership compared to the makeup of the American public as a whole. Given the advantage of a friendly audience, it’s not all that surprising that Trump ― like past presidents ― received a generally warm reception. In fact, CNN, which has tracked reactions to such speeches through several presidencies, notes that Trump’s two immediate predecessors both received ratings about 10 points higher for their initial addresses.
More from the surveys:
CNN/ORC snap poll: “President Donald Trump’s first address to Congress received largely positive reviews from viewers, with 57% who tuned in saying they had a very positive reaction to the speech, according to a new CNN/ORC poll of speech-watchers….In this case, the pool of speech-watchers was about eight points more Republican than the population as a whole….While the 57% who said they had a very positive reaction to Trump’s speech outpaces the marks received by his predecessor for any of his recent State of the Union addresses, they fell below the reviews either Barack Obama or George W. Bush received for either of their initial addresses to Congress.” [CNN]
CBS/YouGov snap poll: “Viewers nationwide strongly approved of President Trump’s speech Tuesday night, with many Democrats joining Republicans in calling it ‘presidential’ and positive in tone. Republicans and Independents found it ‘unifying,’ though Democrats were slower to come around on that measure….Republicans did tune in to watch it in much greater numbers than Democrats (as a president’s party typically does) which bolstered those approval numbers. Forty percent of Democrats at least somewhat approved; 18 percent strongly approved.” [CBS]
Gallup: “President Donald Trump’s address to Congress on Tuesday night had a positive effect on many of those who watched it or read news coverage about it later. Almost six in 10 of this group rated the address as excellent or good, and more than one in three said it made them more confident in Trump’s abilities to carry out his duties as president….Those who watched the speech seem to be in general agreement. Speech watchers skewed Republican, so to some degree this positive reaction reflects the friendly nature of Trump’s audience. Democrats who watched were not necessarily hostile in their reactions, but rather were most likely to say that the speech was just OK and that it made no difference in their views of Trump as president ― views that of course were strongly negative to begin with. It’s unusual for a single speech to make a major difference in how the public views a president.” [Gallup]
OPEN ELECTIONS, CHECKS AND BALANCES SEEN AS ESSENTIAL TO DEMOCRACY - Pew Research: “Large majorities of the public, Republicans and Democrats alike, say open and fair elections and a system of governmental checks and balances are essential to maintaining a strong democracy in the United States. However, there is less consensus about the importance of other aspects of a strong democracy – notably, the freedom of news organizations to criticize political leaders….Just 17% of Americans say that ‘many of the country’s problems could be dealt with more effectively if U.S. presidents didn’t have to worry so much about Congress or the courts,’ while 77% take the view that ‘it would be too risky to give U.S. presidents more power to deal directly with many of the country’s problems’ – including sizable majorities of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (87%) and Republicans and Republican leaners (65%).” [Pew]
Divides by partisanship, less by age - More from Pew: “Republicans (68%) are less likely than Democrats (88%) to view the right to nonviolent protest as very important. Similarly, while majorities in both parties say it is very important that the rights of people with unpopular views are protected, fewer Republicans (66%) than Democrats (80%) say this.
The sharpest partisan disagreement is over the importance of the freedom of news organizations to criticize political leaders….There is little difference across age groups in the importance given to checks and balances, open and fair elections, and press freedom to maintaining a strong American democracy.”
MOST AMERICANS AREN’T ‘VERY SCARED’ ABOUT THE WORLD - HuffPollster: “Only about a quarter of Americans say they’re ‘very scared’ by current world events, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds, and fewer than 1 in 10 harbor significant worries that they will be personally affected by an act of terrorism. Overall, 23 percent of the public say they’re very scared about the way things are going in the world today. Another 41 percent say they’re somewhat scared, and 27 percent say they’re not very or not at all scared…. Democrats are now 26 points likelier than they were last fall to say they’re ‘very scared’ about the way things are going in the world. Republicans, by contrast, are 18 points less likely than they were last year to describe themselves as ‘very scared.’” [HuffPost]
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FRIDAY’S ‘OUTLIERS’ - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:
-Gregor Aisch and Alicia Parlapiano look back at decades of data on what Americans find most important. [NYT]
-Geoffrey Skelley and Kyle Kondik explain how the 2018 midterms will differ from last year’s election. [Sabato’s Crystal Ball]
-Nate Silver introduces FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracking. 
-Quoctrung Bui, Claire Cain Miller and Kevin Quealy ask a panel of experts to determine what’s really abnormal ― and important ― about Donald Trump’s presidency. [NYT]
-Christopher Ingraham reviews research suggesting Trump is unlikely to modulate himself as president. [WashPost]
-Carlett Spike and Pete Vernon analyze data on White House press briefings. [CJR]
-A new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds most Americans are glad to see Barbie dolls becoming more diverse. [HuffPost]
-Six in 10 around the world think their society is “broken.” [Ipsos]
-Americans are split on the benefits of NAFTA, with Republican support at a two-decade low. [Gallup]
-Most of the American public supports a pathway to citizenship. [Marist]