Donald Trump begins his presidency with an approval rating about half of what President Barack Obama had shortly after being sworn into office (37 versus 72 percent). Moreover, a majority disapprove of his cabinet appointments and are concerned that the United States is more vulnerable to those who wish to do us harm under his leadership. These and other findings emerge from the most recent statewide survey of Garden State adults from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind.
Garden State adults split 37-50% with a higher disapproval for the new president.  In 2009, shortly after President Obama was sworn into office, 72 percent of registered voters offered their approval. Men and women are sharply divided, with 45 percent of men approving and only 30 percent of women. Whites and non-whites also evaluate President Trump differently, with 46 percent of white respondents supporting Trump as compared with only 21 percent of non-whites.
President Trump’s recent executive order which temporarily bans immigration from seven majority Muslim countries does not appear to have affected his approval in the state. His approval was 38 percent in the days before the order was signed, and remained unchanged at 37 percent in the days following.
“President Trump begins his White House journey by facing an uphill battle with residents in the Garden State. The usual goodwill that extends to new administrations is missing when it comes to the 45th president,” said Krista Jenkins, professor of political science and director of PublicMind.
A majority of Garden State adults are also not pleased with President Trump’s cabinet appointments. Over half (54%) disapprove of his cabinet, with 36 percent who approve. As with his approval, men and women are starkly divided, with only 28 percent of women approving as compared with 44 percent of men. The almost exclusively white cabinet is also not sitting well with people of color in the state, as only 18 percent approve as compared with 45 percent of whites.
Trust in President Trump
The same survey finds opinion split over questions of safety, ethics, and the president’s business entanglements. By a spread of 53-44%, more believe the President’s foreign policy inexperience will render the U.S. more vulnerable to those who wish to do us harm as believe his leadership will leave the country safer. Men (54%), whites (52%) and Republicans (85%) are the only groups in which a majority believe the president can ensure the safety of Americans.
Garden State voters are decidedly of the opinion that he needs to do more to distance himself from private business holdings (57%) as compared with those who believe the steps taken so far are adequate (34%). The only group who believes sufficient steps have been taken is Republicans (67%).
Opinion is more divided over whether President Trump can be trusted to unconditionally put U.S. interests above his own when they are in conflict. Around equal numbers believe the president will always put U.S. interests first (47%) as say Trump will come first when they are in conflict (50%).
“In addition to beginning his administration with an upside down approval rating, President Trump is also struggling with questions of trust. Many in the state are unconvinced in his ability to keep us safe and make the right call when U.S. interests are at stake,” said Jenkins.
Who Do You Believe More?
Garden State residents put more faith in the intelligence community than the president and news media by a significant margin. Forty-four percent say they believe all or most of what is shared with the public by the intelligence community (FBI, CIA, etc.), whereas only about a quarter say the same about information derived from the television news media (23%), print news media (22%), and president (25%). The information source trusted the least is the president (29%), followed by the television news media (10%), print news media (9%), and the intelligence community (7%).
“People say they believe nothing that comes from President Trump about three times more than those who say the same about the news media and, to an even larger, degree, the intelligence community. When it comes to sources people say they trust all or most of the time, Trump ties with the news media, but falls short of the faith residents have in our intelligence agencies,” said Jenkins.
March on Washington: Attendance and First Timers
Finally, seven percent of Garden State adults attended the Women’s March on Washington or one of its sister marches. Another 43 percent say they know someone who attended the event on the day after President Trump’s inauguration.
One-in-ten women attended, with similar numbers of non-whites (9%), college educated (9%), and millennials (10%). Of those who attended, more than half (56%) joined a protest for the first time in their lives.
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Methodology – The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone January 25-29, a random sample of 921 adults in New Jersey. Results have a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.6 percentage points, including the design effect.