POLL: Donald Trump ends first year with record low approval

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A year in the presidential spotlight hasn't been kind to Donald Trump. (KTRK)

A year in the presidential spotlight hasn't been kind to Donald Trump: His approval rating is the lowest in modern polling for a president at this point, with deep deficits on policy and personal matters alike. Strikingly, the public divides evenly on whether or not he's mentally stable.

That question aside, a lopsided majority, 73 percent, rejects Trump's self-assessed genius. Seventy percent say he fails to acquit himself in a way that's fitting and proper for a president. Two-thirds say he's harming his presidency with his use of Twitter. And 52 percent see him as biased against blacks - soaring to 79 percent of blacks themselves.

Just 36 percent of Americans approve of Trump's job performance, while 58 percent disapprove, essentially unchanged since midsummer. Next lowest at one year was Gerald Ford's 45 percent in 1975; average pre-Trump approval- since Harry Truman's presidency - is 63 percent.

Women are especially critical of Trump in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates: A mere 29 percent approve of his work, vs. 44 percent of men. And a remarkable 55 percent of women doubt Trump's mental stability.

Trump's signature achievement, the new tax law, is unpopular; 60 percent say it favors the wealthy (even most well-off Americans say so), and the public by a 12-point margin, 46 to 34 percent, says it's a bad thing for the country. At the same time, a majority celebrates his most prominent failure, on Obamacare; 57 percent say the program's continuation is a good thing.

A vast 87 percent support the DACA immigration program that Trump ended and whose fate in Congress is uncertain - including two-thirds of strong conservatives, three-quarters of evangelical white Protestants and as many Republicans, core Trump groups. And 63 percent overall oppose a Mexican border wall, essentially unchanged since before the 2016 election.

As reported Friday, Trump - and his party leaders - also are at greater risk in the event of a government shutdown, with Americans 20 points more likely to say they'd blame Trump and the Republicans in Congress than the Democrats in Congress.

MORE ISSUES - In a controversy that continues to cloud his presidency, half of Americans think members of Trump's 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia to try to influence the election. About as many, 49 percent, think Trump himself obstructed justice in the Russia investigation.

That said, far fewer, 26 percent, think there's been "solid evidence" of obstruction; the rest call it their suspicion only. And approval of Robert Mueller's handling of the investigation has ebbed, from 58 to 50 percent in 11 weeks.

Trump's ratings might be yet worse were it not for sharply improved economic sentiment. Fifty-eight percent say the economy is in good (or even excellent) shape, the most in 17 years. But just 38 percent say the Trump administration deserves credit; many more, 50 percent, credit the Obama administration. It's axiomatic that a successful economy doesn't guarantee presidential popularity, it merely makes it possible - and Trump's other challenges tie his shoelaces.

There's criticism for the Democrats, as well, in their response to Trump's unpopularity, but it's eased to some extent. In November, 61 percent of Americans said the Democratic Party's leaders were criticizing Trump without presenting alternatives; that's down to 53 percent. However, just 31 percent say the Democrats are offering alternatives, essentially unchanged from 28 percent last fall. Instead more now are simply unsure.

It's true, too, that some Trump initiatives, while unpopular, are not broadly opposed. Three divide the country about evenly: the federal crackdown on undocumented immigrants (46 percent say it's a good thing for the country, 47 percent a bad thing); reduced business regulations (44-42 percent); and a reduction in the federal workforce (44-43 percent).

Among other results, 60 percent say Trump's accomplished not much or nothing in his first year; Bill Clinton did as badly on that score, but still ended 1993 with an approval rating that's 22 points higher than Trump's today. Most, in another result, say Trump's policies haven't affected their own families, but more say they've been hurt (26 percent) than helped (20 percent).

APPROVAL - Trump's gone from 11 points under water in job approval last spring to 22 points today, a shift that occurred by July and has stabilized since. That's a vast swing from his 12 predecessors, who averaged 29 points to the positive after a year in the White House.

Four previous presidents - Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Truman - were at 51 to 53 percent approval after one year; Bill Clinton saw 56 percent and the rest ranged from 63 percent (Richard Nixon) to 83 percent (George W. Bush, after 9/11). Ratings at one year don't predict a career trajectory. That said, a score in the 30s, this early in a presidency, is uncharted territory.

Indeed just six of the past 12 presidents ever went as low or lower in approval as Trump is now - Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Nixon, Carter and both Bushes - and all but Truman, much later in their presidencies.

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