At almost 100 days into his presidency, Donald Trump’s national approval rating seems stuck at a record-low 40% or so. But a group of voters who helped put him in the White House say he’s doing just fine — even great.
The president scores a perfect 100% approval rating in the USA TODAY Trump voter panel, a nationwide group of 25 Trump voters who make up a sort of floating focus group on how the president fares among those who backed him.
”He’s not being pushed around,” Deidra Brady, 48, of Broadway, N.C., says approvingly. Tara Kimble, 61, of Breaux Bridge, La., predicts with Trump-like bravado that history will judge him as a great president: “He’s doing a better job than anybody has done.”
While reviews from presidential scholars and the broader public are mixed at best, these core supporters remain solidly in Trump’s corner. The sturdiness of that support, also reflected in national polls, gives the president a reliable political base even as he struggles to expand his appeal to those who didn’t back him on Election Day.
Indeed, their assessments are more positive now than they were amid the afterglow of his inauguration in January. Almost half now say Trump is doing better than they expected when they voted for him.
By an overwhelming margin, 23-2, they brush off the FBI’s probe into Russian election meddling as mostly partisan political allegations unworthy of investigation — an assertion at odds with top U.S. intelligence officials. “I didn’t see any Russians voting at the polls when I was there casting my ballot,” scoffs Ray Keener, 64, of Seminole, Texas. “So how did they change the outcome?”
The panel, drawn from Trump voters in a December USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, aims to provide an unscientific snapshot at how he’s doing among initial supporters. (One original panelist has died since February; another Trump voter from the same poll was added.)
Successes and setbacks
Asked for Trump’s biggest achievement so far, half name his decision to order a cruise-missile strike on a Syrian air base after government forces were blamed for a chemical-weapons attack on civilians in the civil war there. Several praise it as a show of U.S. muscle. “Letting the world know that we’re here; we’re not going to be pushed around by anybody,” says Rick Dammer, 45, of Zephyrhills, Fla.
The confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court also was cited by several as an important step.
There was a consensus as well on the president’s biggest defeat: The failure so far to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, something he had vowed to do during his first 100 days in office and a promise congressional Republicans have been making for more than seven years. GOP leaders pulled the bill from the House floor after it became clear it didn’t have the votes to pass.
“The Obamacare repeal: Totally inept,” says Ken Cornacchione, 65, of Venice, Fla. David McDonough, 55, of Brownsburg, Ind., demands, “Why couldn’t we get health care repealed?”
But he adds, “It may not be 100% Donald Trump’s fault.”
On several fronts, many supporters suggest that someone else, from recalcitrant Republicans to opposition Democrats, is to blame for Trump’s problems. “They’re not giving him a fair chance whatsoever,” Kimble says of Democrats. John Moon, 63, of Kamas, Utah, suspects a conspiracy: “I believe the Democrats and Russians are working together to slow down and stop Trump from completing his agenda.”
To be clear, there is no evidence of that.
His worst enemy?
Some of his strongest backers do worry that Trump creates trouble for himself. Jason Felts, 43, of Galax, Va., says the president is spending too much time on the golf course. “I think he’s his worst enemy,” says Pat Jolliff, 59, of Rochester, Ind. “He won’t keep his mouth shut.”
Trump’s propensity to post provocative tweets continues to alarm several of them. “I was disappointed when he tweeted about the surveillance,” says JoAnne Musial, 65, of Canadensis, Penn., in a reference to Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the campaign. “He threw something out there and then everybody was like, what?”
What they say they do like is Trump’s straight talk, as well as his focus on jobs and his energy. “He talked about ‘Make America Great Again,’ (and) he’s on the path,” says Monty Chandler, 45, of Church Point, La. “We’re not even 100 days in, less than three months in, and he’s already moving and shaking.”