AP-GfK Poll: Decisiveness key for Trump among GOP voters
WASHINGTON >> Most Americans don't have much affection for Donald Trump. Even Republicans tend to think he's not so likable.
But he's running for president, not for Mr. Congeniality.
Trump is overwhelmingly viewed by Republican voters as decisive and competent. And that's what mattered most to Republicans surveyed in a new Associated Press-GfK poll.
Nearly 6 in 10 Americans had an unfavorable view of the Republican presidential front-runner. That's the worst rating of any candidate in either party, a reminder that decisiveness alone might not be enough for Trump to prevail in the 2016 election if he becomes the GOP nominee.
The poll was taken before Trump called for a ban on Muslims coming into the United States and does not reflect reactions to that statement.
Among Republican registered voters, nearly 6 in 10 offered a favorable opinion of Trump. But just 31 percent said he is at least somewhat compassionate. Only 43 percent found him at least somewhat likable.
Yet 8 in 10 Republican voters, and 55 percent of all Americans, called Trump very or somewhat decisive. In short, he is seen as the most decisive candidate of either party — both by Republicans and by Americans at large.
"I wouldn't give him a 10 on the compassionate scale," said poll respondent Lisa Barker, 55, of Worcester, Massachusetts, an unaffiliated voter who says she's all in for Trump. "I'd probably put him in the middle. But I love the fact that he's decisive."
After rocketing to the front of the Republican pack in the race for president, Trump has stayed there for months with a brash approach that has captivated a healthy slice of the GOP electorate.
People frustrated with the status quo appear to love his style — even when his policies draw widespread condemnation and his facts are wrong. Trump drew criticism from within his own party and from leaders around the world this week after calling for the ban on Muslims entering the United States.
In the new national survey, three-quarters of Republicans said Trump would have a chance of winning the general election if nominated, significantly more than said so of any other GOP candidate.
"Donald Trump is saying what 95 percent of the people of this country, that belong to this country, that were born and raised in this country, feel and think," said 83-year-old J.W. Stepp, a registered Republican who lives in Phoenix.
"Donald Trump is exactly what this country needs," Stepp said. "He's probably the most decisive person in the race."
The GOP's early voting contests, which begin with the Iowa caucuses in less than eight weeks, tend to feature the party's most passionate voters, who have been excited about Trump's candidacy.
While Trump is considered the most decisive of the five GOP candidates tested in the poll, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz earned the next highest mark, with 56 percent calling him very or somewhat decisive. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson had 53 percent, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio 52 percent and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush 42.
Carson, who's been slipping in recent polling of voter support, is viewed as the most compassionate and likable, with 7 in 10 Republican voters saying each word describes him at least somewhat well. He threatened Friday to leave the party and, presumably, run as an independent if GOP leaders treat him unfairly.
Unfortunately for Carson, likeability isn't among the most desired attributes among Republicans in this campaign.
Nine in 10 say decisiveness and competence are extremely or very important, according to the poll. Just 6 in 10 rate compassion as that important, and only half say it's important for a candidate to be likable.
Nine in 10 Republican voters also say that honesty is an important quality in a presidential candidate, and they're split on whether that's a description that applies to Trump.
Fifty-five percent say "honest" describes him very or somewhat well and 43 percent say it describes him only slightly or not at all. Bush, Rubio and Cruz don't do much better. Carson, by contrast, is viewed as at least somewhat honest by 66 percent of Republican voters.
Trump has repeatedly made false or dubious assertions, such as his debunked claim to have seen thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering the 9/11 attacks. But that doesn't seem to matter to the Republican electorate, which is deeply skeptical of the media.
Two-thirds of Republican voters believe media coverage is generally biased against Trump. Fifty-four percent say it's biased against Carson, close to half say that about Bush and Cruz and 40 percent about Rubio.
Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.
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