From the beginning of his campaign, Donald Trump has used his experience as a businessman as the central argument for why he’s qualified to be president, and Americans by and large buy it.
Despite his low favorability ratings in previous weeks—like the 63% who said they disliked or hated him or the 62% who deemed him unqualified to serve as president—Americans trust his skills as a businessman.
In the latest survey, a majority of registered voters nationwide (57%) give Trump an excellent or good rating as a businessman, while 41% rate him as only fair or poor in business.
That’s a far better rating than Hillary Clinton gets for the job she did as Secretary of State. Nationwide, just 43% of voters give her an excellent or good rating, while 56% rate her performance as only fair or poor. Nearly three times as many people gave her a poor rating as Secretary of State (37%) than gave her an excellent rating (13%).
This isn’t just about partisan politics. While only 10% of Republicans and Republican leaners give Clinton a positive job rating as Secretary of State, 32% of Democrats and Democratic leaners rate Trump positively as a businessman.
While Trump’s generally negative image holds down his vote totals, these perceptions of his business success have apparent consequence. Voters’ perceptions of his business success seem to be driving at least some of his support on the margins. Among independents who feel positively about his performance in business, he leads Clinton by nearly fifty points (70 to 21%). Among independents who are negative about Trump as businessman, though, he trails by an even wider margin (66 to 11%).
The Apprentice Paradox
Relatively few voters say they regularly watch Trump’s reality shows, The Apprentice or Celebrity Apprentice, either now (4%) or in the past (7%). And while a third (33%) say they’ve watched occasionally, the majority (54%) say they’ve never seen either program.
Interestingly, self-reported viewership of The Apprentice shows very little relationship to Trump’s job rating in business. The differences between people who have never seen the show, regularly watch it, or occasionally watch it are modest.
But the biggest surprise of all may be that Hillary Clinton wins voters who say they are or have been regular viewers of the Apprentice—and by a 23-point landslide (59 to 36%). Trump does best but still trails (47 to 44%) among voters who have watched the show only occasionally.
Odd? The demographics and partisanship of The Apprentice’s audience can explain a lot of it. Trump does worse among regular viewers because they are more likely to identify or lean Democratic (53%) than occasional viewers (44%) and those who have never seen the show (46%). The audience of regular Apprentice viewers is also far more African American (20%) than the audience of occasional viewers (12%) and the population of non-viewers (10%).
Once we hold party constant, the apparent paradoxical effect of watching the Apprentice largely disappears. Clinton wins 89 to 93% of Democrats and Democratic leaners whether they watch the Apprentice or not. Watching the show has similarly little apparent impact on the 84 to 86% of Republicans and Republican leaners who favor Trump.
Some things are just more real than reality TV.
This SurveyMonkey Election Tracking survey was conducted online from June 20-26 among a national sample of more than 6,556 adults aged 18 and over in the U.S. Respondents for this survey were selected from the nearly 3 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Results have an error estimate of 1.5 percentage points.
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