DAVID GREENE, HOST:
We have a report card this morning for President Trump as we approach the one-year anniversary of his inauguration. It comes from a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll fresh out this morning, and it is not good news for the president. A majority of Americans, 53 percent, say his first year in office has been a failure. NPR's lead political editor Domenico Montanaro is here with more details. Hi, Domenico.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there, David.
GREENE: So we've heard all year that President Trump's approval ratings have been, you know, at record lows. So I guess this isn't too surprising, but can you dig into why exactly Americans have been unhappy with his performance?
MONTANARO: Yeah. If you look at the issues, I mean, look at foreign policy. Fifty-four percent of Americans say American foreign policy has deteriorated in the last year under this president. Most pressing for a lot of people is North Korea. Fifty-eight percent disapprove of this president's handling of North Korea, and more than 70 percent say they're worried about war breaking out with the country.
GREENE: Wow. That's striking that that people would think a war could be happening soon.
MONTANARO: Absolutely. And it's a huge number, and it's why so many people you can see were so scared when that false alarm went out in Hawaii over the weekend. You know, more than 60 percent say that he's done more to divide the nation than unite it. That's a huge number, 2 to 1. And, not surprising perhaps, given that he's largely played to his base as the president, but, you know, that has helped him keep his base. Among the base, 91 percent say that his year has been a success, but he hasn't played much to the middle.
GREENE: OK. So if he can look at his base as really being behind him, as one positive, are there any other positives in these numbers that the president could look at?
MONTANARO: Yeah, and they shouldn't be overlooked because they're big things - the economy and his handling of ISIS. You know, they're OK numbers for him. You know, by a margin of 48 to 40, people say that they approve of the way he's handled going after the terrorist organization ISIS. And the economy, most people say, is pretty good. So, you know, those are big things, obviously, especially in an election year. But his signature legislative achievement, the tax bill, still unpopular. And he's going to try to sell that today. He's underwater with that. You know, only 36 percent of the country approves of it, and most people, 6 in 10, think that his policies are aimed at helping the rich. Just a quarter say that he's trying to help the middle class.
GREENE: You know, we've been talking about setting up this election year, and there seem to be some competing narratives. I mean, the Republican National Committee seems to have more money than the Democratic Party but the Democrats have won some races that suggest that maybe they could be looking for a good year. Are you learning anything in this poll that might help you predict where these congressional elections might go?
MONTANARO: We always like to have the pollsters test what I call the generic ballot - who do you want to control Congress? And right now Democrats are ahead on that score by six points, but that's not a comfortable lead for Democrats and those hoping that Democrats will take back the House or Senate this fall. You know, I asked our pollster about this, and he said that there largely seems to be a change depending on how Trump comports himself. You know, whether or not he's embroiled in controversy. And we should say that this poll was taken before Trump's disparaging remarks about African countries relating to immigration. And the point was that if he stays cool then it looks like he's plus - you know, that Democrats are plus five or six points as opposed to 17 like we've seen in other polls. That could be worrying for Democrats and also a lesson for President Trump.
GREENE: Domenico, I mean, tell me if I'm wrong, but I think both people who support this president and oppose him would agree that that this first year has been sort of a defining moment in this country. I mean, is there a way to step back and get a sense for where people see this country in, you know, a year into the Trump era?
MONTANARO: So again, this president's got a 37 percent approval rating right now, and 42 percent of the country think the country's changing for the worse. Thirty-six percent think it's changed for the better. So again, we see that mid-30s number for the president on a lot of these scores for his positive marks. Nearly 6 in 10 think the country's going in the wrong direction. And what's fascinating about that is that it's been exactly almost the same number since Barack Obama was in office, but if you look below those numbers, it's been a complete partisan flip. We've seen three-quarters to, you know, 8 in 10 Democrats think that the country's is going in the wrong direction when about that exact same number said they thought it was going pretty well under President Obama.
GREENE: Amazing. OK. A new poll we're seeing this morning as we hit the one-year mark in President Trump's presidency. Speaking about that poll with NPR lead political editor Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, thanks.
MONTANARO: All right. You're welcome.
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