With the government shutdown over and the prospect of a wide-ranging China trade deal, the nation's mood has brightened considerably. Reflecting this, President Donald Trump approval ratings snapped back smartly in March after dropping sharply the month before, a new IBD/TIPP Poll shows.
The March poll showed across-the-board strong gains in key IBD/TIPP confidence indexes and subindexes. Among the biggest gainers in March were Presidential Leadership (up 9.2%), Federal Policies (14.3%), U.S. Standing in the World (10.7%), Morals and Ethics (17.4%) and, largest of all, Direction of the Country (27.6%).
Overall job favorability for President Trump rose two percentage points, from 39% in February to 41% in March. Meanwhile, his job disapproval dropped from 57% to 53% in March.
On a separate leadership measure, the president's net favorability rating improved to -9, as 42% held a favorable opinion of Trump's leadership, up from 40% in February. Meanwhile 51% held an unfavorable view. March's -9 net favorability is a sharp gain from February's -15.
Trump also improved sharply in the IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership Index. That measure, exclusive to IBD/TIPP, combines questions on presidential approval, favorability and leadership. The index rose 7.2% to 44.9 in March, from 41.9 in February, when it fell 4.8%.
IBD/TIPP: Direction Of The Country
Elsewhere, in February, just 35% said they were satisfied with the direction of the country, while 63% were dissatisfied, the IBD/TIPP Poll said. But in March, that key measure of national well-being jumped back up to 46%, up 11, while dissatisfaction dropped 10 points to 53%. Likewise, the Federal Policies component, often below the make-or-break level of 50, surged 14.3% to 52.9 in March from 46.3 in February.
Why the big turnaround? The end of the shutdown no doubt played a major role, as did news that China and the U.S. might be close to a comprehensive trade deal. China trade deal optimism has fueled the current stock market rally. President Trump may have also gotten a boost from his meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un in Hanoi.
"The government shutdown is already fading in people's memories — a big reason for improvement in Trump approval," said Raghavan Mayur, president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which conducts the monthly IBD/TIPP Poll. "President Trump performed better among 17 of the 24 segments we track. Large improvements came from households with $50K to $75K incomes and Conservatives. The negative press Trump got from Michael Cohen hearings has been largely neutralized by his meeting with Kim Jong Un."
In February, IBD/TIPP asked Americans to grade President Trump on how he was doing in budget talks with Congress. Just 31% of those queried gave him a grade of A or B, while 54% gave him a D or an F.
In March, 35% gave Trump an A or B, while 50% gave him a D or an F. Still, while his grades improved, neither Democrats nor independents give Trump high marks in his negotiations with Congress over the budget, despite the end of the shutdown.
While 79% of Republicans gave Trump grades of A or B, just 3% of Democrats and 29% of independents did.
That even appeared to have an impact on the monthly question about the direction of "morals and ethics" in the country. That index rose 17.4% to 29 from 24.7.
"The economic picture showed better clarity in February," IBD/TIPP's Mayur added. "Americans are expecting a trade deal with China soon. The stock market has had a good run-up in January and February. The job market is still strong. Gasoline prices are stable. All these factors go to help stabilize approval ratings for President Trump."
Socialism Takes A Hit
The IBD/TIPP Poll also asked respondents a series of general policy questions, mainly having to do with the current national debate over the role of government in the economy.
A key finding: The Democratic Party's embrace of policies that some have described as socialist took a hit. President Trump, in particular, has hit on this theme repeatedly in recent days.
Some 55% of Americans said they had an "unfavorable" view of socialism, vs. 20% who called their view favorable. 22% said they didn't know enough to have a definite opinion.
But, as often the case, Republicans and Democrats split sharply on the question. Some 40% of Democrats said they had a favorable opinion of socialism, while 24% viewed it unfavorably. And 32% said they didn't know enough to have an opinion.
Republicans, not surprisingly, represented the other edge of the political spectrum on this question. Just 3% called their view of socialism "favorable," while 84% called it unfavorable. Once again, independents came somewhere in between, with just 21% favorable to socialism, and 54% unfavorable.
IBD/TIPP also asked Americans how they felt about capitalism, the free-market idea most associated with the U.S.
Overall, 54% had a favorable view, while only 18% had an unfavorable view. But once again, data show a clear partisan split.
Just 39% of Democrats had a favorable view of capitalism, while 26% called it unfavorable. And 29% said "they're not familiar enough" with capitalism to say one way or the other. And, surprisingly, more Democrats had an unfavorable opinion of capitalism than of socialism.
Among Republicans, 76% had a favorable view of capitalism, while 7% called it unfavorable. And 15% weren't familiar enough with capitalism to have an opinion. Among independents, 57% were favorable, while 21% were unfavorable.
How Much Government Do We Want?
The IBD/TIPP Poll also asked a number of questions intended to find out how Americans feel about the size and scope of government.
When asked if they were "willing to pay higher taxes in order to support more social programs," 53% disagreed while just 32% agreed. As usual, the Republican-Democrat split was wide, with just 8% of GOP members saying they would be willing to pay more taxes, compared to 57% of Democrats and 32% of independents.
In another question, the poll asked respondents whether they "believe the government should control or own key industries such as health care and energy?"
Some 60% disagreed, while just 22% agreed. But 40% of Democrats supported the idea, compared to just 8% of Republicans and 20% of independents.
Another strong response came to a question whether it was the government's "role to redistribute wealth and income."
On that question, 57% said no, and 23% said yes. Among Democrats, 44% supported the idea, while just 10% of Republicans and 19% of independents did.
Which Way Will U.S. Go?
IBD also asked Americans whether they felt the U.S. was "evolving into a socialist state?"
In a response that might cheer up free-market supporters, 50% disagreed, and just 21% agreed. And all three major political groups were fairly close to one another in their view. No group showed a big belief that socialism was in the U.S.' future, though a large component of people overall — roughly 25% of those who answered — indicated no strong feeling either way.
Finally, by a whopping 66% to 24% margin, Americans said the economy performs better with "less government control" than with "more government control." Only among Democrats did "more government control" beat "less government control," by 45% to 37%.
Methodology: IBD/TIPP conducted the March poll from Feb. 21 to March 2. It includes responses from 907 adults nationwide, who were asked questions by live interviewers on phones. The poll's margin of error is +/-3.3 percentage points. (Toplines from the poll will be posted here later this week.)
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