Public Opinion Strategies conducted a national survey of 800 adults January 18-22, 2017, that asked respondents how likely it is Donald Trump will bring real change to the direction of the country, and whether that change is the right kind or the wrong kind.
The results may be a shock to most Americans who have, over the past week, been bombarded by a steady stream of images and stories about the number of protesters in the streets of major U.S. cities and the urgent voices of bow-tied movie stars at the podiums of entertainment award ceremonies.
The expectations for Trump to bring change are about the same as they were for Obama 8 years ago. A plurality, 42%, said it is “very likely” Trump will bring real change with another 12% saying it was “fairly likely,” and 19% saying he was “somewhat” likely. Twenty-two percent (22%) of Americans say Trump is “not that” likely to bring real change in the direction of the country. And, the 5% balance of respondents was unsure or didn’t answer.
Americans were similarly expectant of change just after Obama first occupied the Oval office. In February 2009, The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found 43% said it was “very likely” Obama would bring real change with 18% saying it was “fairly likely,” and 20% saying he was “somewhat” likely. Seventeen percent (17%) of Americans said Obama was “not that” likely to bring real change in the direction of the country.
Most Americans expect President Trump to deliver the RIGHT kind of change to how things are done in government. The 73% of respondents that expected real change from Donald Trump were asked whether they expected his presidency to bring the right kind of change or the wrong kind of change in the way things are done in government. By more than two-to-one margin (63%-26%), Americans say the “change” they believe that Trump will bring will be “the right kind of change.” Fully 90% of Republicans, 66% of Independents, and 21% of Democrats who expected change said they expect the “right kind.” NBC-WSJ did not ask the follow-up question about Obama’s change in 2009.
The follow-up question was only asked of the 73% of respondents who expect Trump to bring real change. When we look at the results across the two question based on all respondents, which is a representative sampling of all American adults, this data says more than twice as many Americans overall are positive instead of negative about Trump’s brand of change.
- A plurality, 46%, of Americans expects Trump’s presidency to bring the RIGHT kind of change in how things are done in government.
- Just 19% of Americans expect Trump’s presidency to bring the WRONG kind of change in how things are done in government.
- Another 35% of Americans don’t expect any real change (27%) or aren’t sure whether he will bring good or bad change (8%).
Positive expectations for Trump’s brand of change remained strong in interviewing conducted the days immediately following Trump’s Inaugural address. Trump’s inaugural address, much like his subsequent executive actions, was notable in that it closely matched and reflected Trump’s campaign in tone and substance.
In the interviewing following Trump’s Inaugural address (January 20-22), the more optimistic view about the change expected from a Trump presidency held steady.
Actually, the data shows Democratic voters interviewed after the inaugural address moved more toward saying Trump will deliver the “right kind of change” with most of that movement coming from Democrats that were previously undecided or mixed about the type of change a Trump presidency would bring to the way things are done in government. Some of that movement could be due to a higher percentage of White Democrats in the post-inaugural interviewing. But directionally, we can say from this data that the inaugural address was not a flash-point that drove Democrats (or anyone else) sharply away from the Trump brand of change and, actually, for some chunk of Democrats, the inaugural struck a positive clarifying chord.
Like in 2008, the election of Donald Trump in 2016 was America voicing their strong desire for a change agent that could fix Washington and the way government works. America has nearly exactly the same expectations for President Trump to bring real change in the direction of the country as they did about President Obama 8 years ago. Of those Americans who expect Trump will change the direction of the country, by more than two-to-one they say it will be the right kind of change. There is evidence that the inaugural worked to strike a positive clarifying tone among Democrats who had not formed a strong opinion before then.
After among the most consequential first days in office in American history, this question and its follow up will be critical to track – and we’re looking forward to tracking it – to continue to monitor American attitudes about the new president and the dimension of “change” that is central to his presidency.