The ability to manage the vast federal government is the factor Americans rated as most important among three leadership traits in judging presidents, according to a Gallup Poll released on Thursday.
The 37 percent who rated that as the top trait to look for in a president, however, represented a drop from the majorities of respondents who favored presidential managerial ability in polls taken under the Clinton administration.
About 29 percent said the president's issue positions are most important, and 21 percent chose his moral values. The poll was a random survey of 1,505 adults nationwide conducted by phone from July 30 to Aug. 5. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
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Also shown in the new results is a partisan divide, with more Republicans (42 percent) than Democrats (34 percent) and independents (35 percent) choosing managerial skills as paramount. The Republican number favoring management skills has been steady over three previous polls in the past 22 years.
Another change is that today’s Republicans are less likely than before to say moral values are important in a president, the poll found.
President Trump’s approval rating was a comparatively low 41 percent in this poll.
“At the same time that Republicans are putting less emphasis on moral values, Democrats are placing more emphasis on that dimension than they did in the past,” Gallup analysts wrote. “Democrats are much less likely now to emphasize a president's ability to manage the government than they were under [George W.] Bush and, especially, Clinton.”
One explanation for the shifts is that party loyalists are influenced by whether they support the incumbent president, the numbers suggest. “Democrats, who were inclined to support Clinton, gave more weight to managing the government and less to moral values when he was presiding over a strong economy but was tainted by personal scandals,” Gallup said. “Republicans appear to minimize the importance of moral values under Trump but said these were more important than the other factors when Bush was president.”
Previous recent Gallup polls have shown that government is the least popular of all major U.S. industries, and that some agencies—such as the Postal Service—are more popular than others, such as the Veterans Affairs Department.