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CNN Poll: Economy and trade are bright spots for Trump

Updated 1:03 PM ET, Thu October 11, 2018

(CNN) - Donald Trump's approval rating for handling the economy edged above 50% for the first time since May, while his approval rating for handling foreign trade is up eight points to 43% following the President's announcement of a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.

The poll also finds that 52% of Americans feel the president is doing a good job keeping the important promises he made during the presidential campaign, his best reviews yet on that score.

Americans' views on trade have shifted more positive in the wake of the President's announcement of the US Mexico Canada Agreement -- USMCA. Seven-in-10 now see foreign trade as an opportunity for economic growth through US exports, up from 59% who said so the last time the question was asked in 2014. It's the highest share to see foreign trade as an opportunity since CNN began asking this question in 1992. Eighteen percent say foreign trade is a threat to the economy from foreign imports.

Among whites without college degrees, a core group of Trump supporters, there's been a sharper shift toward opportunity. In 2014, 52% of whites without degrees described trade as more of an opportunity for economic growth, 41% saw it as an economic threat. Now, 68% describe it as an opportunity, 21% as a threat.

Partisan views on the economy and almost everything else

Just over half of Americans -- 53% -- say things in the country are going very or fairly well. Overall, that's down a touch from May (57% said things were going well then), but there's been a push toward the extremes on both ends in this poll. The number who say it's going very well has increased five points over that time, and the share who say things are going "very badly" has increased by eight points.

That appears to be the result of partisanship. Among Republicans, the share who think things are going very well in the country has been increasing since January 2017, when President Trump was elected, and now stands at 44%, up sharply from 30% who said so in May. On the Democratic side, the share who describe things in the country as going "very badly" has bumped up 15 points from 20% in May to 35% now.

The President's approval ratings on foreign affairs have increased since last month, from 36% approval to 41% now, and his ratings for handling immigration rose from 35% in September to 39% now. Trump's favorability has bumped up as well, 41% say they have a favorable opinion of him, up from 36% in September.

These bumps are possibly a result of an increased focus on foreign trade by the President, as he announced USMCA as a replacement on NAFTA.

Trump's tax questions

Nearly 7-in-10 Americans want President Trump to release his tax returns, according to the poll, conducted shortly after the release of a New York Times story suggesting the Trump family used shady tax practices to shield their wealth from the IRS.

Overall, 68% think he should release his returns for public review, down from 73% in December 2017. That shift comes largely among independents, 75% wanted his returns released last year, 68% say so now.

Based on what Americans have heard about Trump and how his family handled their taxes, about a third (34%) say that the President did something illegal, 29% that he did something unethical but not illegal, and 25% think he didn't do anything seriously wrong.

Among Republicans, 53% say the president did not do anything seriously wrong, but more than a quarter think he acted either unethically (23%) or illegally (4%).

The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS October 4-7 among a random national sample of 1,009 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.


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