White House

Poll: More than half think Trump acted unethically or illegally in business conflicts

More than half of voters believe Donald Trump has done something illegal or unethical as he faces potential conflicts of interest by continuing to own his businesses while serving as president, according to a new McClatchy-Marist Poll.

Even more voters – nearly six in 10 – say Trump’s conduct as president makes them feel embarrassed, according to the poll.

Those who think Trump has done something illegal, unethical or embarrassing include large numbers of independent voters.

Matt Boyer, 40, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who does research for a large think tank, said he believes Trump is engaged in unethical behavior because he continues to profit from his businesses.

He is generating benefit to his enterprise,” he said. “The rest of the executive branch can’t participate in this behavior.”

Just before he became president, Trump announced he would put his businesses and assets in a trust to be run by his two oldest sons and that he would have “no involvement whatsoever” in the businesses. The agreement did not go as far as ethics officials wanted because he retains ownership and did not use a blind trust.

Twenty-eight percent of voters think Trump did something wrong while 25 percent think he did something unethical but not illegal. Forty-two percent said he has done nothing wrong while six percent are unsure.

Just a month after his inauguration, Trump’s presidency is mired in turmoil. He faced massive protests over his sweeping temporary halt on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, ousted his national security adviser after he lied about his contact with Russian officials and watched as his labor secretary nominee withdrew from consideration after fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill failed to support him.

Only 41 percent of registered voters say they approve of the job Trump is doing as president, compared to 49 percent who disapprove. Those numbers are weaker than other presidents at comparable time in their presidencies, according to national surveys.

Independents approve of the job Trump is doing by 40-51. Not surprisingly, Democrats approve by 11-81 percent. Republicans approve by 85-7 percent.

“This is unusual for a candidate that upon becoming president he is not given a honeymoon,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York, which conducted the nationwide survey. “He is paying in public opinion for the fact that most of what has done has been for his base.”

Trump, a businessman turned reality TV star, entered the White House as the least popular president in at least four decades following a bruising campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton in which he was accused of colluding with Russians and lying about a variety of issues.

“He doesn’t care about what’s true,” said Dannette Tucker, 37, a stay-at-home mom from San Jose, California. “He doesn’t seem to care about what’s real. He’s a blowhard. All he cares about is getting attention.”

A month into his presidency, 41 percent have a favorable impression of him while 53 percent have an unfavorable impression of him. Again that includes large blocs of independents.

Independents approve by 37-56. Just 12 percent of Democrats approve while 83 percent disapprove. By 87-10, Republicans approve of the job Trump is doing.

Yet voter opinion of Trump has generally risen over the last eight months, from 30 percent in July, 33 percent in September and 31 percent in November. In December, after his decisive electoral college victory over Clinton, his favorable impression spiked to 43 percent.

Forty-one percent of voters say they agree or strongly agree that Trump is honest and trustworthy while 55 percent say they disagree or strongly disagree. Fifty-six percent say Trump is doing more to divide the country while 39 percent say he is uniting it.

Trump, a political novice, is no traditional president. He insults people. He publicly argues with Republicans. And he uses blunt language like “build the wall” and “drain the swamp” as he taps into the anger in America about companies sending jobs overseas, terrorists sneaking into the country and politicians who don’t seem to get anything done.

“I’m not a fan of him — his personality,” said Sammie Calixtro, 26, a college counselor from Weatherford, Texas near Fort Worth. “Just his mouth.”

Calixtro said she is bothered by Trump’s constant stream of tweets, which includes those that criticize the media, Democrats and businesses, among others. “I think you should be above that, you’re the president,” she said.

Even if they don’t like him, they believe he is fulfilling his campaign promises. Forty-seven percent agree and 24 percent strongly agree he is doing what he pledged. Only 14 percent disagree and 11 percent strongly disagree. Only 4 percent are unsure.

Trump made many grandiose promises during the campaign of what he wanted to accomplish immediately upon taking office. He immediately withdrew from the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, revived plans to build the Keystone XL Pipeline and announced plans to build a wall on the border.

Right now so far he’s doing a good job. The stock market is up,” said David Mercado, 59, an Uber driver from Miami, Florida. “He’s a businessman. He wants to bring the jobs back to the United States.”

But many think he is doing too much too soon. Fifty-seven percent agree or strongly agree he is acting too fast while 41 percent say he isn’t.

Americans think the country is going in right direction by a rate of 39 to 55. That includes 62 percent of independents. It is the lowest rating for wrong direction since December 2012 after President Barack Obama was re-elected.

Owen Rayezzell, 57, a Wallace, N.C., who is disabled and doesn’t work, voted for Trump because he was inspired by his pledge to bring back jobs and particularly manufacturing back to the United States.

“If he can get the country back on track like he says he will, I think that'd be a good thing.” he said.


Franco Ordoñez contributed.

This survey of 1,073 adults was conducted February 15th through February 19th, 2017 by The Marist Poll, sponsored and funded in partnership with McClatchy. Adults 18 years of age and older residing in the contiguous United States were contacted on landline or mobile numbers and interviewed in English by telephone using live interviewers. Landline telephone numbers were randomly selected based upon a list of telephone exchanges from throughout the nation from ASDE Survey Sampler, Inc. The exchanges were selected to ensure that each region was represented in proportion to its population. Respondents in the household were randomly selected by first asking for the youngest male. This landline sample was combined with respondents reached through random dialing of cell phone numbers from Survey Sampling International. After the interviews were completed, the two samples were combined and balanced to reflect the 2013 American Community Survey one-year estimates for age, gender, income, race, and region. Results are statistically significant within ±3.0 percentage points. There are 865 registered voters. The results for this subset are statistically significant within ±3.3 percentage points. The error margin was not adjusted for sample weights and increases for cross-tabulation.