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April 16, 2024 3 min read

A new poll by The New York Times and Siena College finds that voters think highly of the former president’s record on the economy, but memories of his divisiveness largely remain intact.

Views of Donald J. Trump’s presidency have become more positive since he left office, bolstering his case for election and posing a risk to President Biden’s strategy of casting his opponent as unfit for the presidency, according to a new poll by The New York Times and Siena College.

While the memories of Mr. Trump’s tumultuous and chaotic administration have not significantly faded, many voters now have a rosier picture of his handling of the economy, immigration and maintaining law and order. Ahead of the 2020 election, only 39 percent of voters said that the country was better off after Mr. Trump took office. Now, looking back, nearly half say that he improved things during his time as president.

Many voters still remember Mr. Trump as a divisive and polarizing figure, giving him low ratings on race relations and unifying the country. Yet, a larger share of voters see Mr. Trump’s term as better for the country than the current administration, with 42 percent rating the Trump presidency as mostly good for the country compared with 25 percent who say the same about Mr. Biden’s. Nearly half say the Biden years have been mostly bad for the country.

Many of Mr. Trump’s key constituencies, such as white voters without a college degree, are particularly likely to have a fond view of his time in office. But a broad swath of the country — including Hispanic voters, voters over 30 and most lower- and middle-income voters — now see Mr. Trump’s years in office as more good than bad.

Maya Garcia, 23, described herself as a former “Trump hater.” But now, she says, she has come to believe that Mr. Trump’s contentious style helped control crime and maintain order in the country.

“When he was first running, I was, like, what is this guy even yapping about? Like, what is he even saying? Like, he’s saying all the wrong things,” said Ms. Garcia, a restaurant worker from Canoga Park, Calif. “But to be honest, if you look deep into his personality, he actually cares about the country.” She added: “You know at first I didn’t like it. But sometimes we need that type of person in our lives.”

Ms. Garcia voted for Mr. Biden four years ago but has been unhappy with his handling of the border, crime, mental health and the rising cost of living. She plans to back Mr. Trump in November.

The shift in the perception of Mr. Trump is not unusual: Presidents are typically viewed in a better light after leaving office. President George W. Bush’s average approval rating while in office was 49 percent; voters now give him a 57 percent approval rating for his time in the White House. And President Barack Obama received a 15 percentage point bump after leaving the White House, according to Gallup.

What’s unusual about the 2024 race is that Mr. Trump is running again, transforming sentiment about his presidency into a salient and potentially influential voting issue.

Some of the changed opinions about Mr. Trump may stem from his diminished visibility. Since leaving office, Mr. Trump has faded some from public view, spending the bulk of his time at Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Palm Beach, Fla., and at court hearings. He dominated the Republican presidential primary without participating in any debates; his social media posts on his own platform get less attention than they did on Twitter; and while he still holds large rallies, they are not covered to the same extent as his previous campaigns.

Source: Four Years Out, Some Voters Look Back at Trump’s Presidency More Positively - The New York Times

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