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Trump is a divisive figure—and his presidency has done little to change that.
Is President Donald Trump likable? A majority of Americans don’t seem to think so.
Back in July, a CNN/ORC poll estimated that 59 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of Trump. Today, Trump’s favorability ratings are better than they were during the 2016 election—but they’re still historically low for a new president. Just 42 percent of Americans holding a favorable view of him, while over 50 percent have an unfavorable view of the president.
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 Jon Stewart to the White House Correspondent’s Dinner. Whether it’s his hair, his penchant for excess, or his manner of speech, Trump has always been 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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2016
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. He 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 2017. 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 2017. No other candidate in the 2016 election, including Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, received more earned media than Trump. His remarks on the campaign trail 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:
I bet we agree more than you think. I have a couple conservative views. I just happen to hate Donald Trump as a human being.
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) July 19, 2016
— Dr. David Romei (@DavidRomeiPHD) July 9, 2016
me: ugh, i hate bees!
donald trump: i hate bees.
— kayla (@kaymillerr) July 11, 2016
sorry for ranting so much!!! i just really hate Donald Trump.
— mathias ference (@cheap_versace) July 9, 2016
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 Trump. We took a deeper dive into Trump’s most commonly criticized traits below.
Why people hate Donald Trump
1) Trump’s privilege
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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 pointed 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 led 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 former campaign’s falsehoods have riled up a base of voters who are as equally sick of establishment Republicans as they are of former 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
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 5, 2016
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 did not love the then-Republican nominee. A total of 1 percent of black voters supported Trump during his campaign, 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.
As far as actual election results go, Trump snagged just 8 percent of the African-American vote.
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 in 2016 that Trump’s businesses spawned a total of 3,500 lawsuits—more than any other presidential candidate in history.
Fortune estimated back in March 2016 that Trump’s total debt is equal to $1 billion dollars. Just prior to Trump’s inauguration on January 2017, the Wall Street Journal estimated that more than 150 financial institutions—including mutual funds and banks—hold the debt that Trump accumulated through his businesses as a private citizen. CNN noted a potential conflict of interest in that Wells Fargo—which is currently being investigated by the Department of Justice and SEC for creating millions of unauthorized bank accounts and credit card numbers—holds $14 million dollars worth of the president’s debt.
5) Trump’s views on women
“You have called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘disgusting animals,'” said Kelly during the debate.
While @BetteMidler is an extremely unattractive woman, I refuse to say that because I always insist on being politically correct.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 28, 2012
I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct. Instead I will only call her a lightweight reporter!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 27, 2016
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.
This issue was blown into the atmosphere in October, when a 2005 Access Hollywood tape revealed Trump bragging about his ability to kiss and grope women with impunity because of his celebrity.
“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them,” Trump said. “It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Trump’s 35-year old daughter, Ivanka Trump, an entrepreneur and mother of three, stands out as the only woman Trump has both acknowledged his respect for and hasn’t stopped being enamored by. None of Trump’s other relations with women—whether it’s his wife and First Lady Melania Trump, his ex-wives, his other daughter Tiffany, or the women in his inner circle such as White House counselor Kellyanne Conway—have come close.
Not even Ivanka is immune to Trump’s lascivious remarks, however; Trump has candidly complimented his daughter’s body from adolescence to adulthood in multiple interviews and outlets ranging from The Howard Stern Show to The View throughout the years.
6) Trump’s vitriol
If Cory Booker is the future of the Democratic Party, they have no future! I know more about Cory than he knows about himself.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2016
Sorry folks, but Bernie Sanders is exhausted, just can't go on any longer. He is trying to dismiss the new e-mails and DNC disrespect. SAD!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2016
Pocahontas bombed last night! Sad to watch.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2016
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 show 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.”
Just arrived in Scotland. Place is going wild over the vote. They took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2016
The response from across the pond at Trump’s ignorance was utter indignation, in the form of Scottish and British-style jabs.
Scotland voted remain you incompressible jizztrumpet https://t.co/5irQhKxV3h
— TechnicallyRon (@TechnicallyRon) June 24, 2016
you couldn't be more out of touch with reality if Nessie bit you on the arse you utter fool. Scotland voted REMAIN.
— Terry McDermott (@TerryMacMusic) June 24, 2016
— Stevie P ⭐️⭐️ (@Burgerspop) June 25, 2016
In early July, 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.
8) Trump contradictory claims
Trump’s seemingly fuzzy memory for names, dates, and details may have been funny while he was on the campaign trail. Now that he’s in the White House, it’s no longer a joke.
Trump once famously claimed to have “the world’s best memory”—an assertion he said he forgot about during deposition for a Trump University lawsuit. “I don’t remember saying that. As good as my memory is, I don’t remember that, but I have a good memory,” Trump said in the deposition.
In an interview with the Times of London and German newspaper Bild during the weekend of his inauguration, Trump said he had spoken with European Union head Jean-Claude Juncke recently. In fact, the president had not spoken with Juncke. Trump had spoken with Donald Tusk, who is the president of the European Council.
“Trump spoke to Mr. Tusk and mixed us up,” Juncker told Germany’s BR television. “That’s the thing about international politics. It’s all in the detail.”
Trump has a habit of stating that things are unprecedented when they are in fact not. For example, he told the audience at his inauguration concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial that he didn’t know if such an act had happened before.
“This started out tonight being a small little concert, and then we had the idea of doing it in front of the Lincoln Memorial,” Trump said onstage during the “Make America Great Again!” concert. “I don’t know if it has ever been done before, but if it has, very seldom.” Trump later stated to the crowd, “We didn’t even know if people would come tonight, this hasn’t been done before.”
In fact, it had. Former President Barack Obama held an inaugural concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial in 2009.
Trump also falsely stated that he campaigned in California or New York during a January interview with ABC News’ David Muir.
In defense of not winning the popular vote, Trump claimed that he never campaigned in California or New York. “I would’ve won the popular vote if I was campaigning for the popular vote,” Trump said. “I would have gone to California where I didn’t go at all. I would’ve gone to New York where I didn’t campaign at all,” said Trump.
Trump, in fact, has held several large rallies in both states. Trump held a particularly large rally in Costa Mesa, California, which received plenty of media attention for turning violent.
Here is a video of a campaign rally Trump held in Redding, California:
As well as of one he held in Fresno, California:
Trump also attended several high-profile campaign events in New York, including the Al Smith Dinner. He and Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the Economic Club of New York.
Here’s Trump at a massive rally in Bethpage, New York:
“I would’ve won the popular vote if I was campaigning for the popular vote,” Trump told Muir while defending his loss of the popular vote. “I would’ve gone to California where I didn’t go at all. I would’ve gone to New York where I didn’t campaign at all.”
Editor’s note: This article has been updated for relevance.
Amrita Khalid is a technology and politics reporter who specializes in breaking down complex issues into practical, useful terms. A former contributor to CQ, a Congressional news and analysis site, she's currently a master's candidate in international relations at the University of Leeds.