Nearly Two-Thirds Say They Will Be Paying Attention to Midterm Elections

ST. LEO – President Donald Trump gained a higher approval rating for his job performance in a Saint Leo University Polling Institute ( survey conducted in late May, with 46.1 percent of a national sample saying they strongly or somewhat approve of the job he is doing.

The survey collected opinions of 1,000 adults (U.S. residents) from May 25 through May 31, and the results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. At the same time, the institute collected opinions of another 506 adults in Florida to gauge public sentiment in the politically important state. Those results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Of those polled nationally, 23.4 percent say they strongly approve of the job the president is doing, and 22.7 somewhat approve. Another 14 percent say they somewhat disapprove and another 37.6 percent strongly disapprove, for a combined unfavorable rating from 51.6 percent of respondents.

Even with the negative views of the president outweighing the positive ones, this approval rating is a noticeable improvement from February 2018, when 40.7 percent of national respondents were approving. Those somewhat disapproving in February were calculated at 11.9 percent, and those strongly disapproving came to 44.4 percent, yielding a combined negative rating from 56.3 percent of respondents.

Detailed Overall Approval Ratings over Time for President Trump

Rate President Trump’s job performance May 2018


U.S. |  FL

Feb. 2018


       U.S.  |    FL

     Nov. 2017


   U.S.   |  FL

     Sept. 2017

             – %

       U.S. |   FL

Combined approvals 46.1 45.8 40.7 42.6 41.2 41.8 42.8 43


23.4 24.5 17.8 23.2 17.7 21.6 20.2 22


22.7 21.3 22.9 19.4 23.5 20.2 22.6 21


Florida responses were similar to the national results.

“As the public has become more polarized, presidential approval has become very stable,” said Frank Orlando, director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute, and a political scientist. “Republicans have consistently supported the president, while Democrats have not approved of his work. This poll shows a spike in independent approval for the president, which gives him his best numbers in over a year.”

The same survey asked respondents to rank the nation’s most pressing issue, and to rate Trump’s job performance on an issue-by-issue basis. Jobs and the economy was the single issue ranked highest by the largest group in the national sample, specifically by 18.3 percent, with health care ranked second, selected by 15.9 percent. (In Florida, it was health care that was ranked highest with 15.8 percent, and jobs and the economy following closely behind at 13.8 percent.)

Trump earned among his highest approval ratings in May on jobs and the economy, with 56.4 percent of national respondents approving or somewhat approving of his job performance. The president earned the widest approval for support of troops and the military, with 65.9 percent nationally saying they strongly support or somewhat support his work in this regard.

Other specific areas of concern where Trump’s combined approval rating came in above his overall 46.1 percent approval rating are: protecting the United States from terrorism at 56 percent; handling North Korea at 50.4 percent (this reflects sentiment before the recent summit); and immigration decisions at 47.3 percent.

“The economy continues to do well in terms of employment,” noted Orlando, adding that “Trump’s work with North Korea has been received positively thus far. It is interesting to note that despite the negative publicity from interactions at the border with families and children, almost half of the people approve of how he is handling immigration.”

Trump’s work was ranked in the mid-40s—right around this overall approval rating—on relations with other nations, revamping Obamacare, and addressing the opioid crisis. Handling the U.S. budget process and relations with Russia are issue-areas where he ranked lower, but still in the 40-percent range. In the Florida survey, Trump generally got his highest rankings in the same issue areas.

When it comes to addressing racial relations, Trump is given approving ratings by 39.1 percent nationally, and by 41.3 percent in Florida.

A new topic was added to both the national and Florida samples in May: handling gun violence. Nationally, 40.5 percent of respondents gave Trump approving ratings, and in Florida, 42.1 percent were approving.

Electorate Gauges Its Own Interest in 2018 Elections
Come Election Day on Nov. 6, 2018, voters will be asked to choose candidates to fill 35 seats coming open in the U.S. Senate and all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Additionally, governors will be elected in 36 states.

The polling institute asked survey respondents to consider the upcoming mid-term elections and say “how active do you expect to be on behalf of your preferred political party and candidates, such as staying informed or attending events, posting on social media, volunteering and donating?” The national sample base was constructed with respondents who described their own parties, and who were represented at these percentage levels: 27 percent Republican, 31.1 percent Democratic, and 39.7 percent independent or unaffiliated, mirroring the public at large. The Florida survey base was: 34.6 percent Republican, 37.5 percent Democratic, and 25.5 percent independent. In both samples, low percentage levels were unsure or from another party.

Expected level of political activity/engagement in 2018 election cycle U.S. % FL %
Very active 29.3 30.2
Somewhat active 36.4 43.7
Combined active population groups 65.7 73.9
Somewhat inactive 14.5 9.5
Not at all active 12.4 10.7
Unsure 7.4 5.9


Commenting on the midterm-related responses, Orlando said that “people seem to be engaged in the 2018 election cycle, but it remains to be seen how that will translate to votes in November. Democrats are hoping that young voters in particular follow through on their engagement.”

Presidential Candidate Preferences for 2020
Survey respondents from both major parties were asked to think ahead to their party primary processes for a presidential candidate for the 2020 election, and whom they support if the primary was being held at the time of the survey.

Republican respondents were asked if they prefer President Trump, some other Republican candidate, or if they are unsure. Nationally, 63.2 percent said they want President Trump; 23.6 percent want some other Republican; and 13.2 percent are unsure. In Florida, Trump supporters accounted for 68.4 percent of respondents while 18.4 percent want some other Republican candidate. The balance of 13.2 percent are unsure.

Democratic respondents were given a list of 15 prominent politicians or individuals to select from, along with options to say they want none of those listed, are unsure, or simply “other.”

Nationally, the leading answer was “unsure” at 21 percent, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden at 19.8 percent. Television personality Oprah Winfrey was cited by 14.5 percent. In Florida, Biden led the pack at 21 percent, with Oprah Winfrey selected by 17.4 percent, and the “unsure” line checked by 16.9 percent of respondents. Former presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders was chosen by 9 percent of U.S. Democratic respondents and 10.8 percent of those in Florida.

“At this point,” Orlando observed, “it doesn’t look like there is a popular movement to replace President Trump inside the Republican Party. The Never-Trump movement gained more traction among conservative intellectuals than among Republican voters. Recent primary results reinforce this idea. On the other hand, unlike in 2016, there doesn’t seem to be a clear Democratic front-runner. Joe Biden has an early lead, but it will be interesting to see if he can turn his name recognition into more popularity, should he decide to run.”


About the Poll
METHODOLOGY: The poll sampled opinions of 1,000 adults approximately proportional to state population nationwide. The survey was conducted May 25 through May 31, 2018. All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument. The poll has a +/- 3.0 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level (on a composite basis). The poll also sampled opinions of 506 Florida respondents during the same timeframe and using the same method. The poll has a +/- 4.5 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level (on a composite basis) with questions asked of all 506.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.


Media contacts: Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-8237 or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).
Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-7118 or (813) 610-8416 (cell/text).


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