Attitudes toward President Donald Trump have been carefully tracked since he first announced his candidacy and during his first eight months in office. Hard measures of favorability and job approval reveal a polarizing president who elicits intense emotions and reactions from Americans across the political spectrum.
To understand the nature of those emotions a bit better and give Americans the chance to describe the President in their own words, the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll asked respondents the following question: “What ONE WORD best describes your impression of Trump? Just the one word that best describes him.”
Of the 1,002 total respondents to the poll, 942 (94 percent) were willing to provide an answer to the open-ended question of what word best describes their impression of President Trump.
It would seem that just as President Trump is not afraid to weigh in on just about any political or cultural issue, respondents were similarly unafraid to weigh in on how they feel about President Trump.
Here are some of the takeaways from the 384 unique responses we got to that question.
The words we saw most often
Overall, the most frequent response to the question of what word best describes your impression of Trump – “incompetent” (4 percent).
The ten most common words that respondents gave were: “incompetent,” “arrogant,” “strong,” “idiot,” “egotistical,” “ignorant,” “great,” “racist,” “a——” and “narcissistic.”
The word “strong” (3 percent) was the most frequent positive word respondents used to describe the president, a sign that while many respondents had reservations about Trump’s ability to do the job, many still view him as a powerful figure. Other top positive words include “determined” (1 percent), “American” (1 percent) and “patriotic” (1 percent).
Overall, 9 percent of respondents used words that spoke to the president’s ability to do his job effectively. These included words like “unqualified” (2 percent), “ignorant” (2 percent) and “unfit” (1 percent).
Calculating the frequency of those words included combining synonymous words such as “egotist” and “egotistical,” “great” and “greatness” and “idiot” and “idiotic.”
It’s not policy, it’s personal
One major theme that emerged from the national survey of Americans was that attitudes towards Trump appear to be chiefly driven by his personality and not by his policy or his ideology.
On the positive side, the words “strong” (3 percent), “great” (2 percent), “determined” (1 percent) and “leader” (1 percent) were among the words many used.
Some of the more negative responses that appeared the most often were words like “arrogant” (3 percent), “egotistical” (2 percent), “idiot” (2 percent) and “narcissistic” (2 percent).
Some of the responses were too heated to mention. Six words respondents used to describe the president had to be abbreviated because the language was not suitable for publication.
Overall though, the answers were devoid of policy. Not a single respondent described the president as “conservative” or “Republican.”
A consultant’s view
ABC News gave the results of the open-ended question to Republican political consultant and ABC News contributor Alex Castellanos, who offered his opinion on how he would advise a candidate described in these terms.
“A candidate who has this word cloud isn’t listening to anybody,” Castellanos said.
Castellanos also zeroed in on the concept of strength, saying that while many people describing the president as strong, taken as a whole, the descriptions paint a broader picture.
“Unpredictable strength, that’s plutonium. You don’t know whether the plutonium will heat your home or blow up your town,” Castellanos said, “People see him as personally dangerous.”
Castellanos also said he’d advise the president to embrace his unpredictability.
“People don’t see you as tied to an ideology but you’re paying the price for that ideology anyway. You’re being hammered for being a Republican as well as unpredictable. I think we’ve seen signs that maybe Trump saw this word cloud about a week ago because he sat down with old Nancy [Pelosi] and Chuck [Schumer],” Castellanos said.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Sept. 18-21, 2017, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 31-23-36 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.
Consistent with all ABC News polling methodology, the results of our poll were weighted to ensure an accurate representation of the American population based on demographic data. See here for more information on ABC News’ weighting methodology.