Majority of Americans Say Trump Can Keep Businesses, Poll Shows

  • 51 percent confident he will put U.S. interests first
  • Nearly two-thirds say he won’t build Mexico border wall

Trump Will Leave Business 'in Total' for Presidency

Two-thirds of U.S. adults think Donald Trump needs to choose between being president or a businessman, but slightly more -- 69 percent -- believe it goes too far to force him and his family to sell their business empire to avoid conflicts of interest.

The first Bloomberg National Poll since the election shows 51 percent of those surveyed are very or mostly confident the billionaire businessman will put the nation’s best interests ahead of his family’s finances when he deals with foreign leaders.

The president-elect has has made a vague pledge on Twitter that he will seek to distance himself from his businesses to avoid any appearance of a conflict, although ethics experts have suggested that selling his corporate assets is the only sure way to separate them from his new position of power. He’s scheduled a Dec. 15 news conference to address the topic.

The poll underscores the continuing cost of a virulent presidential campaign and the challenges in bridging the polarization that remains. While 55 percent of the respondents say they’re more optimistic about a Trump presidency because of his actions and statements since the Nov. 8 election, 35 percent are more pessimistic. Among Trump voters, 87 percent say they’re more optimistic as opposed to the 69 percent of Hillary Clinton voters who say they’re more pessimistic.

Read the questions and methodology here.

Trump is, however, enjoying the post-election bump in popularity common among winning candidates. He’s viewed favorably by 50 percent, up from 33 percent in August. But that’s still well below President Barack Obama’s 78 percent favorability in a January 2009 Gallup Poll after his first-term win.

At least for now, Americans are also allowing Trump some room for flexibility regarding his pre-election positions. Almost three-quarters say it’s acceptable for him to re-calibrate his campaign pledges, including reversing himself on calling for the prosecution of Clinton for her use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state.

“The public seems to be giving him a long leash,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, who oversaw the survey. “Most Americans don’t seem concerned about him changing positions that were the core of his campaign.”

Americans do want the often-combative Trump to be less confrontational, with 79 percent saying he should tone down the vitriol he displayed on the campaign trail. That includes 65 percent of those who voted for him.

Right Direction?

While still low by historic standards, the share of Americans who see the nation headed in the right direction –- 37 percent -– is at its highest level in a Bloomberg National Poll since February 2013.

Still, almost half –- 49 percent -– think the country is headed in the wrong direction, although that’s down from 68 percent in August. The change can mostly be attributed to Trump supporters, with almost two-thirds now positive about the nation’s direction.

Trump’s favorability rating of 50 percent includes 51 percent of independents and 16 percent of Democrats and those who lean that way. That’s only slightly below Obama, who is viewed positively by 56 percent and scores a 54 percent job approval rating.

Americans have confidence Trump will deliver on some of his campaign pledges, while they’re skeptical on others. Almost seven in 10 think Obamacare will be repealed and replaced and almost two-thirds expect his administration will create trade deals with other nations that are more beneficial to the U.S.

Americans are more divided -– 50 percent yes and 44 percent no -- on whether he’ll really be able to invest $1 trillion in roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects. On his pledge to make life better for those living in inner cities, 45 percent think he’ll accomplish that and 51 percent don’t.

More than half –- 57 percent -– don’t expect him to deport millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, while 65 percent don’t expect him to actually build a wall along the Mexican border.

Cabinet Divide

A plurality of 47 percent want congressional Democrats to mostly go along with the agenda Trump and Republicans put forward during his first year in office, while 28 percent say they should mostly oppose and 25 percent are unsure.

There’s a sharp partisan divide when it comes to those people Trump has selected for his Cabinet. Overall, 51 percent approve of his selections so far, with 91 percent of Trump voters approving and 76 percent of Clinton voters disapproving.

A 48-percent plurality don’t want to see Obamacare repealed until there’s a replacement ready, while 19 percent say repealing first is fine and 27 percent want the program left alone.

Another partisan divide surrounds the Electoral College, which allowed Trump to win the White House even as Clinton collected at least 2.5 million more votes.

A majority of 54 percent say the president should be picked by the popular vote, a number that jumps to 80 percent among Democrats and those who lean that way. Among Republicans and those who lean that way, 68 percent back the Electoral College.

Honeymoon Period

During his honeymoon period with Americans, Trump is mostly competitive with Obama when poll participants are asked to pick who they think will ultimately do a better job on key issues.

Obama has the advantage only on foreign policy, 51 percent to 40 percent, while Trump does better on jobs and employment (54 percent to 39 percent) and Wall Street banking regulations (50 percent to 38 percent). Americans are more closely split on which man will ultimately do a better job on health care, immigration and national security.

In regards to relations with other nations under a Trump administration, majorities expect things to get worse with Iran (70 percent), Mexico (62 percent) and China (54 percent). Majorities expect improvements with Russia (62 percent), the U.K. (60 percent), Israel (56 percent) and Germany (52 percent). There’s division on Cuba, with 44 percent saying better and 46 percent worse.

GOP Boost

Trump’s White House victory appears to be boosting the standing of other Republicans, with each Republican tested in the poll scoring higher favorability ratings than in the previous poll.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is viewed positively by 47 percent, up from 40 percent in August. Indiana Governor Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, is seen favorably by 48 percent, up from 43 percent in August.

Favorability scores for other Republicans close to Trump or being considered for administration jobs include former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 47 percent, 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney at 42 percent and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 42 percent.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Trump’s incoming White House chief of staff, remains unknown to many Americans. He’s viewed positively by 32 percent and negatively by 28 percent, while 40 percent say they’re not sure.

That’s also the case for Steve Bannon, a controversial senior adviser to Trump who will be joining him in the White House. He’s viewed more negatively than positively, 37 percent to 27 percent, while 36 percent don’t have an opinion.

The Republican Party is also viewed favorably by more respondents than the Democratic Party, 44 percent to 42 percent. The Democratic number is unchanged since August, while the Republican one has surged up from 35 percent. The score for the Republican Party marks the first time in the history of the poll, which started in September 2009, that as many feel good about that party as bad.

Democrat’s Overhaul

While 55 percent say the Democratic Party is in need of a major overhaul following its electoral losses in November, just 39 percent of Democrats and those who lean that way go that far. Modest changes are supported by 44 percent of the party’s faithful and those who lean that way.

Asked who should be the leading voice for the new minority party, Obama is the choice for 25 percent of Democrats and those who lean that way, followed by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont at 24 percent, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts at 17 percent, Vice President Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton both at 11 percent and former President Bill Clinton at 7 percent. Even among her own voters, Clinton ranks fourth behind Obama, Warren and Sanders.

The 2016 Democratic nominee is viewed favorably by 41 percent of Americans, essentially unchanged from August. Sanders, who was Clinton’s primary rival, is viewed positively by 53 percent.

Biden, a 74-year-old veteran of Washington who this week suggested he might run for president in 2020, is viewed positively by 56 percent. Among Democrats and those who lean that way, 87 percent see him favorably.

The poll of 999 American adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, higher among subgroups. It was conducted Dec. 2-5 by Iowa-based Selzer & Co.

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