Poll: Most Americans think Trump will be remembered as a subpar president

The survey also found Americans are the most pessimistic they have been in decades about the direction of the country.

  • By Domenico Montanaro/NPR

(Washington) — As President Trump is set to leave the White House after a tumultuous and chaotic four years, having been the first president to ever be impeached twice and having his last year dominated by a worldwide pandemic, most Americans say he will go down as either below average or one of the worst presidents in U.S. history, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey.

The poll also found Americans are the most pessimistic they have been in decades about the direction of the country. But they have more positive views of President-elect Joe Biden, how he’s handled the transition and whether he will do more to unite than divide the country. As for Biden’s inauguration, two-thirds believe it should be held as planned despite security concerns.

After he is sworn in, Americans are clear they believe vaccine distribution should be Biden’s top priority in handling the coronavirus pandemic. That’s followed by financial relief to small businesses, which have been hit hard by the economic impact of the virus with many Americans staying home.

The poll was conducted Jan. 11 through Jan. 13 with 1,173 adults and 1,012 registered voters interviewed. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points when discussing adults overall and +/- 3.7 percentage points when referring to registered voters specifically.

The margin of error reflects that polls are estimates and could be, when referencing adults, for example, 3.5 percentage points lower or 3.5 percentage points higher than the figures presented.

Trump’s Legacy And What Biden Brings

Almost half think Trump will be remembered as one of the worst presidents in history. Only about a quarter think he was an above-average president or one of the best.

By comparison, when President Barack Obama left office, more Americans thought he would be remembered as above average or one of the best presidents, as opposed to a subpar one.

Americans also think Trump has changed the country for the worse, by a 46%-to-38% margin. Usual partisan divides appear here, however, as 8 in 10 Democrats said he changed it for the worse, while 8 in 10 Republicans said he changed it for the better.

Approval rating

Trump leaves office with a 38% approval rating, near the lowest of his presidency in this survey. Throughout Trump’s term in the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, his approval never rose higher than 44% and was never lower than 35%.

Trump never seemed to reach beyond his base during his presidency, and the numbers reflect that. While 8 in 10 Republicans approve of the job he is doing, more than 9 in 10 Democrats disapprove. Independents are more split, 50% to 42%, but as on most issues in the last four years, they lean toward Democrats.

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