8-bit Donald Trump

Illustration by Bruno Moraes

Trump is a divisive figure in a campaign season defined by divisiveness.

Is Donald Trump likable? A majority of Americans seem to think the answer is no.

An estimated 59 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican nominee, according to a July CNN/ORC poll. But Trump's not alone. With a bevy of scandals fresh on the public's minds, Hillary Clinton's likability at 43 percent is the lowest it's been since she began her campaign. Yet, the Democratic nominee still has a four-point lead over Trump in likability. 

This election may have helped, rather than harmed, the real estate tycoon's reputation. The opposite is true for Clinton. If we look at previous years of CNN polling, Trump is doing better today in the likeability column than he was in 2011, when 64 percent of Americans had a negative assessment of Trump. That said, more Americans today have an unfavorable impression of Trump than don't, and (with the exception of a single CNN poll in 2005), that's always been the case. 


People's dislike of Donald Trump dates way back before the 2016 election and even The Apprentice era. Before this election, Trump was lampooned in pop culture for the better part of two decades, from The Simpsons to SNL to The Daily Show with John Stewart to the White House Correspondent's Dinner. Whether it's his hair, his penchant for excess, or his manner of speech, Trump was always an easy target. 

A Yahoo Answers thread from 2011 struggles to answer the question, "Why does everyone hate Donald Trump?" The answer voted best out of over 90 replies suggests that the key reason why hasn't much changed for those who oppose the businessman's style.

"He is comical, but he also represents the worst of this country," wrote Yahoo user yellow.45 in 2011. 

Even back in 1987, Trump's future seemed to show a lot of promise. Trump's successful takeover of the Wollman Rink's renovation, an ice skating rink the city of New York had long neglected, won him scores of good publicity. His had his sights on building the largest construction project in New York City history, a $4.5 billion complex he dubbed Television City. His memoir, The Art of the Deal, was number one on the New York Times bestseller lists. 

The mainstream media loved Trump for a brief period back in the 80s—something that seems hard to believe in 2016. Media consultant David Garth told the New York Times that the press of the day was responsible for transforming Trump's image from real estate tycoon to "folk hero." 

Garth said of 39-year-old Trump, "He's the kid with a smile and a shine who looks like he's selling the Brooklyn Bridge, only it turns out he owns it.''

But the media's love affair with Trump was short-lived. There was no sugar-coating Trump's ugly feud with New York City Mayor Ed Koch that ended up putting an untimely end to Television City. Or the myriad of Trump properties that failed to turn a profit. Or the highly-publicized divorce between Trump and his wife, Ivana, due to his affair with Marla Maples, which further tarnished his image. 

''Like it or not, the Trump name stands for a man who's the master of wheeling and dealing—the king of excess,'' advertising agency head George Lois told the New York Times in the aftermath of Trump's split with Ivana back in 1990. ''People have always either loved or hate him. In the long run [...the divorce] could make his name even bigger.''

Fast forward to 2016. No other presidential candidate in the election, including Clinton, has received more earned media than Trump. His remarks on the campaign trail have alienated women, Hispanics, Muslims, African-Americans, and fellow Republicans. Trump's infamous tendency to stretch the truth broke records at fact-checking organizations Politifact, the Washington Post's Fact Checker, and Factcheck.org. 

“In the 12 years of FactCheck.org’s existence, we’ve never seen [...Trump's] match,” states Factcheck.org on its site. 

As such, Trump's behavior on the campaign trail has spawned a new generation of Trump haters: 

But why exactly do people hate Donald Trump? Turns out there are many reasons behind the Trump animosity. As this poll from Morning Consult found, people are divided on exactly what offends them the most about The Donald. We took a deeper dive into Trump's most commonly criticized traits below: 

1) Trump's privilege 

Celebrating the Grand Opening of @trumpturnberryscotland! ⛳️

A photo posted by Trump Hotels (@trumphotels) on

Trump's background as a rich, white man who inherited much of his wealth doesn't exactly resound with most of the American public. Trump's campaign has swung his privileged upbringing into a narrative of self-made success and achieving the American Dream. But the reality is that Trump didn't build a real estate empire by himself. 

Trump relied heavily on inheritance money from his father, real estate developer Fred Trump, in order to get the empire of lavish properties off the ground—and to bail them out of financial trouble in the years to follow. The Washington Post reported that Trump borrowed at least $9 million from his future inheritance in order to bail himself out of financial troubles.

2) Trump's lies

Trump was prone to half-truths, exaggeration, and an intentional blurring of specific details even before he ran for public office. Trump once spread a rumor about the British Royal Family scoping condos at Trump Towers to boost sales. Trump claimed no income on his taxes in 1984, after bragging to the media about the cash he was raking in. He misstated his salary from The Celebrity Apprentice  and lied about hand-picking faculty at Trump University. He regularly lied about donating money to charities throughout his career, as the Clinton campaign gleefully points out. He has been accused of cheating at golf by Alice Cooper, Oscar de La Hoya, and Samuel L. Jackson, among others. 

If Trump's lies appear to have escalated while on the campaign trail, it may be due to the relentless fact-checking performed on presidential candidates. Trump in 2015 won FactCheck.org's "King of Whoppers" award, Politifact's "Lie of the Year" award, and earned more "Four Pinnochios" ratings from the Washington Post's fact-checking team than any other presidential candidate. 

Trump's controversial claims about blacks and homicide, the criminal status of illegal immigrants, and the nation's underestimated unemployment rate were quickly debunked. A video that Trump claimed he watched that  showed "thousands and thousands" of people in New Jersey cheering the 9/11 attacks was found to have never existed. His estimate that the United States harbors around 30 million illegal immigrants was found to be about three times too large. Trump's claim that Obamacare lead to more part-time jobs and that Clinton slept through Benghazi were both found to be false. 

Trump's supporters seem immune to the mainstream media's Trump fact-checking engine. His campaign's falsehoods have riled up a base of voters who are as equally sick of establishment Republicans as they are of President Obama; they seem to be on Trump's side unconditionally. 

As American Enterprise Institute's Norman Ornstein told Politifact, "Trump came into an environment that was ripe for bombastic, inflammatory, outrageous statements without having to suffer the consequences."

3) Trump's racism 

Trump has been accused by many of being a racist. His tweeting out of a taco bowl on Cinco de Mayo and labeling of undocumented Mexicans as "rapists" and "criminals" has done nothing to help his case. Neither has retweeting  fictional statistics on black-on-black killings versus police shootings from a group that doesn't exist.

A New York Times dive into Trump's past reveals plenty of evidence. There was a Department of Justice investigation into housing discrimination against blacks by Trump's real estate firm. There are reports of racist comments by Trump in his biographies, including those directed at a black accountant employed at one of his companies. Trump has also retweeted tweets from white supremacist and anti-Semitic Twitter accounts. 

The power behind Trump's racist actions is that it taps into hidden fears and prejudices of certain factions of the American people that, for obvious reasons, have never been fleshed out into policy proposals. Trump's proposal to build a wall on the U.S.–Mexico border or a ban on immigration from Muslim countries are too extreme to see the light of day in Congress. Yet both ideas, as blatantly xenophobic as they are, gained Trump political traction. 

Racist or not, Trump has a poor track record among minorities. Contrary to his claims that "Hispanics love me," a July poll by Fusion and Latino Decisions found that 83 percent of Hispanic voters do not love the Republican nominee. A total of 1 percent of black voters support Trump, according to Quinnipiac poll results released in June. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist poll from July found Trump had support from zero percent of African-American voters in the key states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

4) Trump's debt

Donald Trump has made many investments throughout his career. Most of them are lavish and ornate hotel properties or condominiums. Many of them fail. Trump's casinos, including the Trump Taj Mahal, all went bankrupt in the 90s. The dozens of contractors hired by Trump to work on his casinos still complain about the debt they are owed. 

But Trump's failed deals aren't just limited to his properties. From Trump Airlines to Trump University to Trump Steaks, Trump's businesses have a dubious track record. USA Today found that Trump's businesses have spawned a total of 3,500 lawsuits—more than any other presidential candidate in history. 

Fortune estimated back in March that Trump's total debt is equal to $1 billion dollars. 

5) Trump's views on women

Donald Trump's sexism is no secret. 

Fox News' Megyn Kelly ignited a media storm when she confronted Trump about his sexist insults and comments towards women during a Fox News debate last year.  

"You have called women you don’t like 'fat pigs,' 'dogs,' 'slobs,' and 'disgusting animals,'" said Kelly during the debate. 

Instead of apologizing or clarifying his remarks, Trump lashed out at Kelly. Trump has insulted countless female celebrities and prominent figures, including Cher, Bette Midler, and Angelina Jolie. He's belittled female contestants on The Apprentice to mere sex objects and forced Miss USA pageant contestants to line up in front of him so he could rank them. He called Rosie O'Donnell a "fat pig" and made disparaging comments about former opponent Carly Fiorina's appearance. He's insulted or complimented female reporters based on their looks. 

6) Trump's vitriol

Trump has plenty of hatred to go around. He's not shy about derailing the people who've done him wrong, often by dismissing them as "losers." From politicians to journalists to protesters at his rallies, Trump often hits below the belt. He chided former rival and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for being "low energy" and breathed new life to a rumor that Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) father was behind JFK's assassination

Many political commentators have noted that the civility of political discourse took a dramatic shift south once Trump began running for president. Trouble is, Trump's hatred is a part of why he has so many supporters. 

Tablet's Paul Berman explained why supporters love Trump's hateful tendencies

Has he mocked a woman journalist’s period? Hah hah!—what other politician would dare do such a thing? Has he insulted John McCain? Here is bravery, given that everyone knows that McCain is a war hero. Has he ordered Jorge Ramos, the Univision news anchorman, to be escorted from the room? All the better! They like the fact that Trump doesn’t give a damn about being respectable or likable or courteous. He burps in your face. They will vote for such a man.

7) Trump's ignorance

Donald Trump holds a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania's prestigious Wharton School of Business. But with the exception of Trump University, he's had little to do with academia since his last time in a classroom almost 50 years ago.  He's famous for never reading and relying on television shows for  his knowledge of foreign affairs and the U.S. military. He's never touched a biography of a U.S. president, as the Washington Post noted

Trump didn't know what the term Brexit meant a month before the United Kingdom voted on the referendum to leave or remain in the European Union. After landing in Scotland on the eve of the vote, he remarked that the nation, who had overwhelming voted to stay, was "going wild" over "taking their country back". 

The response from across the pond at Trump's ignorance was utter indignation, in the form of Scottish and British-style jabs. 
More recently, Trump vowed during a July meeting with House Republicans to defend "Article XII" of the U.S. Constitution, according to Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.). The problem? There is no Article XII.

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