Trump's Ethics' Ratings Have Fallen to an All-Time Low
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Photo: Mike Peters

Trump's Ethics' Ratings Have Fallen to an All-Time Low


WASHINGTON DC — September 15, 2018

A majority of Americans say President Donald Trump's ethical standards are lower than those of every U.S. presidents elected in the past 50 years. Less than half say Trump's ethics are lower than Richard Nixon's, but the 43% saying this still outweighs the 37% who say Trump's ethics are higher than Nixon's.

According to the recent Gallup poll, Trump scored a record low number of votes in relation to his eight predecessors Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. and George W. Bush, each of whom has a greater than 2-to-1 advantage over Trump in perceptions of having higher vs. lower ethics. Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have smaller, but still sizable, advantages over Trump in the public's perceptions of their ethical standards. Nixon is the closest to being on par with Trump.

Trump's ethics' ratings have fallen to an all-time low

Nixon, who was charged with obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress as a result of his involvement in the Watergate scandal, is the only U.S. president to resign from office, which he did in 1974, before his expected impeachment. Clinton was impeached in 1998 on the grounds of perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from his extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, but he was acquitted when his case went to trial in the Senate.

Similar percentages of Americans think Trump's ethical standards are higher than Clinton's and Nixon's. However, significantly more say Trump's ethics are below Clinton's than below Nixon's. This is accounted for by higher percentages saying Trump's ethics are the same as Nixon's, or who are unsure.

Gallup asked this question about Clinton in 1997, before the revelations about his involvement with Lewinsky but during the investigation into the Whitewater real estate matter. Respondents at that time were asked to compare Clinton's ethics with those of Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Bush. Majorities said Clinton's ethical standards were lower than Carter's, Reagan's and the elder Bush's, but Clinton was viewed as more ethical than Nixon, albeit by less than half of Americans.

Trump's ethics' ratings have fallen to an all-time low

Trump has been pursued by allegations of sexual misconduct since before he took office, and the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia continues. Yet more than eight in 10 Republicans still approve of the job he is doing.

Republicans are much more likely to say Trump's ethical standards are higher than those of Democratic presidents Obama (73% say Trump's are higher) and Clinton (78%), and are modestly more likely to say Trump's ethics are higher rather than lower compared with Carter's (47% higher, 36% lower).

However, Republicans do not rate Trump's ethics universally more positively compared with previous GOP presidents. Republicans on balance view Trump's ethical standards as lower than those of George H.W. Bush and Reagan, but higher than those of George W. Bush and Nixon.

A majority of Republicans view Trump as more ethical than Nixon, with 69% rating him as such. Rank-and-file Republicans are nearly three times more likely to say Reagan had higher ethical standards than Trump. While a plurality of Republicans rates Trump as more ethical than George W. Bush, a similar plurality says Trump is less ethical than the elder Bush.

Meanwhile, broad majorities of Democrats rate Trump as less ethical than all seven of his predecessors

As for the data of other of administration officials near Trump, 7% rate the officials' ethics as "excellent," 31% "good," 17% "not good" and 40% "poor."

These findings are virtually identical to those from a May Gallup poll when 37% rated them excellent or good and 59% not good or poor.

Gallup has asked this question at least once for each president since Ronald Reagan, with limited measurements on each, and ratings of Trump's top officials remain the lowest historically.

The American public's ratings of the ethical standards of Trump and his administration's top officials are generally much worse than their ratings of his predecessors. Trump is viewed as having lower ethical standards than all presidents since Nixon, who resigned when faced with imminent impeachment.

In General, the ratings are predictable. Trump is perhaps the most extraordinary US President in modern history. He gives extremely sharp statements, and pursues a rather harsh policy against all those he doesn't like. Most importantly for many of his predecessors, Trump can violate all of their past decisions, annul them, and act as he sees fit. But perhaps in this way, as Trump himself says, it is possible to make America great again.

Rank-and-file Republicans continue to solidly approve of Trump. The strong economy and his follow-through on a number of campaign promises that appeal to the party's conservative wing are likely keeping him afloat. However, if special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation were to indicate that Trump acted unethically or unlawfully, Republicans' support for the president could erode.

Author: USA Really