The Takeaway: Trump's Very Bad/Very Good Year One

The Takeaway: Trump's Very Bad/Very Good Year One
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Intriguing tidbits from the week in election surveys and public opinion polls.

Master of Disaster: A Quinnipiac University poll released on Tuesday asked voters to choose one word that best described President Trump’s first year in office. The top three responses to the open-ended question were “disaster,” “chaotic” and “successful.”

Buried amid a number of unfavorable assessments of Trump’s character and leadership skills, however, was a striking statistic: The number of people who believe the U.S. economy is in “excellent” shape has surged from 2 percent in November 2016 -- just after Trump’s election -- to 18 percent today.  The number of people who say the economy is in “good” shape stands at 48 percent, up 11 percentage points over the same period.  Meanwhile, the number of people who say the economy is in “not so good” or “poor” shape has declined by 15 points and 12 points, respectively, over the past year.

Despite the drastic improvement in the public’s view of the economy, Trump himself hasn’t received any noticeable benefit. His job approval in the latest Quinnipiac poll stands at 36 percent.  Last year, just after taking office, Quinnipiac pegged Trump’s approval rating at … 36 percent. 

Indies Rule – Again: Gallup’s annual survey of Americans’ party identification shows Independents dominating the landscape again in 2017: 42 percent of those surveyed called themselves Independents, a rebound of three points from last year (which is higher than the one-point average rebound Gallup has found historically) and just one point off of their 20-year high recorded in 2015.  Meanwhile, just 29 percent self-identified as Democrats, matching the party’s low since 1988, and an even paltrier 27 percent self-identified as Republicans.  The Democrats’ two-point advantage over Republicans expanded to five points when Independents were pushed to express a “leaning” toward one party or another. 

Time to Talk About Oprah: On Sunday night, Oprah Winfrey gave a rousing speech at the Golden Globes after receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. By Monday morning, fueled by a couple of jokes by host Seth Meyers and an off-the-cuff comment by her longtime friend and companion Stedman Graham, Democratic tongues were wagging about the possibility that Oprah would run for president in 2020. Rasmussen Reports wasted no time in capitalizing on the Oprah boomlet, surveying 1,000 likely voters about a hypothetical matchup between the former talk show host and President Trump.  The result? Oprah would win in a walk, 48 percent to 38 percent for Trump, with 14 percent undecided. Asked about his potential competitor in the wake of the news frenzy, the president said he “knew her well” and “liked her” but that he would also beat her in 2020. Trump added that he thought she would ultimately decide not to run.

Arizona Free-for-All: Some jaws dropped this week when former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio – recently pardoned by President Trump after he was convicted of criminal contempt for disobeying a judge’s order to stop enforcement tactics that were deemed to be racial profiling – declared he was running for Senate.  Arpaio, who turns 86 in June, was a surprise entrant into the race to fill the vacancy created by Republican Jeff Flake’s retirement, which stands as one of the Democrats’ best – and perhaps only  -- chances to pick up a Senate seat in 2018. Shortly thereafter, reports surfaced that Rep. Martha McSally will declare her candidacy on Friday, joining Kelli Ward in what is now a wide-open GOP primary.  A snap poll, taken on Jan. 9 after the news of Arpaio and McSally getting into the race, demonstrates what a free-for-all this primary will be: McSally leads with 31 percent of the vote, followed closely by Arpaio with 29 percent, and Ward a close third at 25 percent.  Strap in for a long, grueling battle: The primary election won’t be held until Aug. 28.

Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly cited percentages, rather than raw numbers, for the one word respondents used to best describe President Trump’s first year in office.

Tom Bevan is the co-founder and publisher of RealClearPolitics and the co-author of "Election 2012: A Time for Choosing." Email:, Twitter: @TomBevanRCP

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