Major new polls in the U.S. say that President-elect Donald Trump is starting his four-year term in the White House as one of the least popular American chief executives in decades, a conclusion he immediately dismissed.
The Washington Post-ABC News Poll said Tuesday, three days ahead of Trump's inauguration Friday, that he is the most unpopular of at least the last seven newly elected U.S. presidents. In addition, its survey and one by CNN in recent days showed American voters have sharply negative views of Trump's handling of his transition to power since the November election, falling far short of recent presidents.
"The same people who did the phony election polls, and were so wrong, are now doing approval rating polls," Trump said in a Twitter response. "They are rigged just like before."
The president-elect said, "People are pouring into Washington in record numbers. Bikers for Trump are on their way. It will be a great Thursday, Friday and Saturday!"
Both CNN and the Post-ABC poll pegged Trump's approval rating at 40 percent, about half that for President Barack Obama when he took office in 2009 and well below Obama's current 61 percent approval rating as he leaves.
Since 1976, the seven other newly elected U.S. presidents have started their terms with favorability ratings ranging from 56 to 79 percent. On the flip side, no recent president has come close to Trump's 54 percent unfavorable polling at the start of his presidency.
The negative views of Trump are partly a reflection of the contentious 2016 election, in which the president-elect stunned political analysts in his upset win over Democrat Hillary Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state looking to become the first female U.S. president. Clinton won nearly three million more popular votes than Trump, but he prevailed where it mattered, in the Electoral College, the system of state-by-state outcomes the U.S. uses to pick its presidents.
Trump is set to become the country's 45th president as he is sworn in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Despite the negative perceptions of him, the Post-ABC poll found that a majority of Americans are optimistic that he will be able to meet his campaign pledges to boost job growth in the U.S. and deal with the threats of terrorism. His worst ratings came on handling race relations and issues of concern to women.
The poll found that only 44 percent of Americans believe that Trump is qualified to be president, compared with 52 percent who say he is not. The 52 percent unqualified figure, however, is the best recorded since he became a candidate a year and a half ago.
Only 4 in 10 of those polled approved of Trump's choices for his Cabinet, with many of them older white men who have collected vast riches over decades of running businesses and have not previously served in the U.S. government. By contrast, about 6 in 10 approved of the Cabinet choices made by Obama and former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.
CNN said about 53 percent of those it surveyed say that Trump's statements and actions since the election have made them less confident that he will be able to handle the presidency. The television news network said it found Americans split at 48 percent apiece on whether he will be a good or poor president.
CNN found that 61 percent believe Trump will be able to boost employment in economically challenged parts of the U.S. and about half think he will be able to simplify the country's labyrinth tax code and protect sensitive electronic information from being stolen by foreign governments.
It said the president-elect's approval rating is almost 30 percentage points higher in rural areas of the country over metropolitan regions, nearly 20 points higher among men than women and among whites than racial minorities and 13 points higher among whites without college degrees than those who completed college. All of the demographic patterns cited in the poll are similar to findings of voter preferences recorded on Election Day, November 8.
The Post-ABC and CNN findings were similar to those recorded in a Quinnipiac University poll released last week.
Quinnipiac said its poll showed Trump's personal characteristics were all rated lower in early January compared to shortly after the election. The survey said Americans, by a 45-34 percent margin, believe Trump will be a worse president than Obama, with 15 percent saying they think the two will be about the same.
"President-elect Trump gets points for strength and intelligence," said Quinnipiac pollster Tim Malloy, "but voters' feelings about his personality traits, empathy, leadership and level-headedness, are headed south."