Donald Trump has had a rough time since the end of the GOP convention. After getting verbally hammered by virtually every Democrat that took the stage at the Democratic convention, the Republican candidate has made a series of verbal gaffes and has been on the receiving end of a continued oral assault by the Democrats and media pundits. As if that weren’t enough, some Republican leaders have renewed their demand that he step down and let another candidate represent the party in November.
But a new study among Christian conservatives released today by the American Culture and Faith Institute shows that not everyone has purely negative views of the brash New Yorker. The same survey also indicates that their views of his running mate, Mike Pence, largely compensate for Mr. Trump’s perceived weaknesses of character and competence.
Positives for Trump
Survey respondents were asked to indicate which, if any, of 33 descriptions accurately portrayed Donald Trump. The respondents were allowed to pick as many or as few of the qualities as they felt were an accurate reflection of the New York billionaire.
Overall, there were five positive qualities that a majority of the SAGE Cons – the Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives who answered the survey – chose to describe Mr. Trump. Those included tough (72%), a problem-solver (66%), fearless (58%), strong leader (56%), and good negotiator (54%).
Four other descriptions were selected by at least four out of ten respondents. Those included worth supporting (49%), charismatic personality (45%), entertaining (40%), and effective communicator (40%).
Just 5% said he is a typical politician – which, depending on your perspective, might be viewed as a highly positive outcome.
Negatives for Trump
There was only one negative attribute that a majority of respondents assigned to the GOP nominee: arrogant, chosen by almost six out of ten (58%).
Other negative adjectives included rude (selected by 41%), vague policies (31%), bully (24%), and dishonest (11%).
Another kind of negative reaction, though, is reflected in the very low percentage of SAGE Cons who picked positive descriptions for Mr. Trump. Examples of such unflattering evaluations included the low scores for devout Christian (selected by just 1%), godly character (1%), physically attractive (4%), genuine conservative (5%), and highly ethical (8%). Nearly as low were the scores aligned with two other adjectives: reliably pro-life (13%) and presidential (16%).
Positives for Pence
Based on the same 33 adjectives, the profile that SAGE Cons offered of Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence was a major contrast to that of Mr. Trump. In total, at least half of the survey respondents chose nine different characteristics to describe the Governor of Indiana. Those included experienced (66%), genuine conservative (63%), worth supporting (60%), reliably pro-life (58%), honest (57%), genuinely Christian (56%), electable (56%), godly character (51%), and trustworthy (50%).
An additional four descriptions that were chosen by a bit less than half of the respondents: highly ethical (48%), caring (45%), effective communicator (44%), and strong leader (42%).
Negatives for Pence
There were no negative adjectives that a majority of people assigned to Mr. Pence. In fact, most of the negative terms received very low scores: dishonest (1%), bully (2%), rude (4%), arrogant (5%), and typical politician (6%).
However, there were some positive-tone descriptions that generated low scores, as well. Those terms were popular (12%), physically attractive (14%), charismatic personality (15%), good negotiator (16%), strategic (16%), visionary (17%), fearless (17%), and tough (19%).
The data table at the end of this article provides the profile statistics.
Changes in Views about Trump
The ACFI survey was also compared to a previous profile collected of Mr. Trump from SAGE Cons. The comparison shows that there has been a substantial reshaping of the Trump image since early March, when Mr. Trump was engaged in the primary battle for the party nomination.
In the last five months there have been nine statistically significant, positive changes in Mr. Trump’s image in the eyes of Christian conservatives. Those include increases in those who see him as caring, electable, experienced, a good negotiator, a problem-solver, a strong leader, trustworthy, visionary, and worth supporting. In addition, fewer people than was true in March now view him as being arrogant, a bully, dishonest, rude, and having vague policies.
During the same period there has been one change in which Mr. Trump’s image has taken a turn for the worse: SAGE Cons are less likely to consider him to be popular than they did in March. Back then, four out of ten said he was popular; today, just one-quarter believe that to be the case.
A Good Fit?
When compared side-by-side, the profiles of the two men suggest that each compensates for the other’s weakness, according to George Barna, who directed to survey for the American Culture and Faith Institute. “There are 13 instances where one of the two men received less than half of the SAGE Cons associating an attribute to him but a majority then associated that same attribute with the other candidate,” he commented. “That suggests that the Trump-Pence pairing may be a more intelligent match than many people have understood it to be.”
Barna also pointed out that some of the low scores accorded to Mr. Pence reflect the uncertainty of voters more than a criticism of the candidate. “Keep in mind that a majority of Americans, including Christian conservatives, still don’t know much about Mike Pence,” the researcher noted. “The fact that just one-third described him as a problem-solver does not mean they think he is not good at solving problems as much as it reflects the fact that they do not know if he possesses that skill.”
The much ballyhooed gender gap in candidate support was also largely absent in the perspectives measured in this survey. “Men and women who are Christian conservatives held very similar opinions of both men heading the Republican ticket,” according to Barna. “Men were a bit more likely than women to describe Mr. Trump as presidential and electable. They were also slightly more likely than women to position Mr. Pence as electable and as an effective communicator. Besides those few differences, men and women in the SAGE Con segment view the candidates alike.”
The opportunity for the Trump-Pence team to gain ground in the election remains real, according to Barna. “Because the real battle for people’s support occurs during the Labor Day through Election Day window, the gains that Mr. Trump has made in his own reputation, plus the benefit of having Mr. Pence on the ticket, provides a genuine opportunity for the GOP tandem to get elected. The challenge will be for them to quickly and convincingly overcome some of the doubts that voters have. Among the more important doubts they must overcome have to do with perceptions of electability, policy competence, ethical behavior, being inspirational, and thinking strategically. Although Mrs. Clinton has her own substantial image challenges to overcome, the weight of the mainstream media’s efforts to keep the Republicans out of the White House make this shift in image all the more important.”
About the Research
The research described in this report is part of the RightView™ longitudinal survey, a national online study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives who are registered voters – a segment known as SAGE Cons. The survey involved 1,200 qualified adults, conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute under the direction of George Barna.
In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. They represent about 12% of the national adult population, which constitutes a segment of approximately 30 million individuals.
The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians related to the political process. The organization does not support or promote individual candidates or political parties.
Additional information about this and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com.