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New Poll Reveals Just How Ethical Americans View the Trump Administration To Be

United States President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in Langley, Virginia. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

At one time in United States history, the office of the president was held in high esteem by most Americans, almost beyond reproach. Presidents could be viewed unfavorably, but generally over beliefs and policies, not their moral character.

But the Watergate scandal, involving the presidency of Richard Nixon changed that. Suddenly the president was viewed in a new light. They could be fallible, corrupt, or unethical.


Since 1983, during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, the Gallup polling company measures the public's perception of each presidential administration's ethics. And the latest numbers for our current president are not good.

Just 37 percent believe the ethical standards of the Trump administration are either excellent or good. That sets a new record low for the poll.

Poll respondents are asked to rate the ethics as: excellent, good, not good, and poor. The Trump administration garnered 7 percent for excellent ethics, 30 percent for good ethics, 19 percent not good, and 40 percent poor.

Trump's 40 percent poor ethics rating, the lowest rating available in the poll, also set a record as the highest poor ethics rating in the history of the poll.

The previous low point was during the Clinton presidency, at the beginning of its second year in 1994 which coincided with the Whitewater real estate scandal. Only 43 percent thought the administration of Bill Clinton was ethical at that time.

The highest rating goes to President George W. Bush in 2002, coming into the second year of his term just after the terrorist attacks of 2001. Then 74 percent of Americans thought the Bush administration was ethical.

By comparison, President Barack Obama's administration garnered a 50 percent rating of excellent or good ethics. That is 13 percentage points higher than Trump's "drain the swamp" political ethics reputation.

But how did someone who campaigned to remove corruption from Washington, to "drain the swamp" gain such poor ethics ratings?

The poll question itself gives some insight into the record low positive and record high poor ethics ratings for the Trump administration. Respondents are asked to evaluate the entire administration, including the vice president, cabinet, and top officials.

Trump's presidency has been mired in ethics scandals leading to record turnover in the White House. Top officials, including those in cabinet positions, had to resign or were fired.

Currently, Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt is embroiled in several ethics issues regarding his spending on travel, misuse of taxpayer funds and accepting gifts from lobbyists. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Housing and Urban Development head Ben Carson also were called to task for their excessive spending on furniture and travel.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos faces serious questions about her competence to hold the position she has as well as how the billionaire campaign donor acquired a position for which she has no experience. No or low experience levels leading to later incompetence has also plagued Trump appointees.

Also hurting the Trump administration? All those resignations.

Rob Porter, a White House adviser to the president resigned over an undisclosed history of domestic abuse that made him ineligible for a security clearance. His resignation led to inquiries into the lack of security clearances for a record number of Trump staff members, including his son-in-law and daughter, attending high level briefings with classified information.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned over his own travel spending scandal, something people have suggested Zinke, Carson, Mnuchin, and Pruitt should also do.

Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin was fired after a VA inspector general report found that he misused government resources. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was fired just 25 days into the Trump presidency then plead guilty and began cooperating with the Russia investigation.

Which leads to Trump himself. His campaign is under investigation. His family members took meetings with Russian officials, lied about the meetings with input from the president, then revealed several different versions until settling on a truth that matched the accounts of other meeting participants.

The president is also facing scandals involving pay offs through his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to various women. Cohen is currently under investigation as well for possible criminal activity.

All of these scandals hurt the credibility of the Trump administration and contributed to their rating as the least ethical in modern United States history.