Poll: Majority of Americans Say Trump Can Keep Businesses

(Bloomberg News/TNS) —

Two-thirds of U.S. adults think Donald Trump needs to choose between being president or a businessman, but slightly more — 69 percent — believe it goes too far to force him and his family to sell their business empire to avoid conflicts of interest.

The first Bloomberg National Poll since the election shows 51 percent of those surveyed are very or mostly confident the billionaire businessman will put the nation’s best interests ahead of his family’s finances when he deals with foreign leaders.

The president-elect has made a vague pledge on Twitter that he will seek to distance himself from his businesses to avoid any appearance of a conflict, although ethics experts have suggested that selling his corporate assets is the only sure way to separate them from his new position of power. He has scheduled a Dec. 15 news conference to address the topic.

The poll underscores the continuing cost of a virulent presidential campaign and the challenges in bridging the polarization that remains. While 55 percent of the respondents say they’re more optimistic about a Trump presidency because of his actions and statements since the Nov. 8 election, 35 percent are more pessimistic. Among Trump voters, 87 percent say they’re more optimistic as opposed to the 69 percent of Hillary Clinton voters who say they’re more pessimistic.

Trump is, however, enjoying the post-election bump in popularity common among winning candidates. He’s viewed favorably by 50 percent, up from 33 percent in August. But that’s still well below President Barack Obama’s 78 percent favorability in a January 2009 Gallup poll after his first-term win.

At least for now, Americans are also allowing Trump some room for flexibility regarding his pre-election positions. Almost three-quarters say it’s acceptable for him to re-calibrate his campaign pledges, including reversing himself on calling for the prosecution of Clinton for her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

“The public seems to be giving him a long leash,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, who oversaw the survey. “Most Americans don’t seem concerned about him changing positions that were the core of his campaign.”

Americans do want the often-combative Trump to be less confrontational, with 79 percent saying he should tone down the vitriol he displayed on the campaign trail. That includes 65 percent of those who voted for him.

While still low by historic standards, the share of Americans who see the nation headed in the right direction – 37 percent – is at its highest level in a Bloomberg National Poll since February 2013.

Still, almost half – 49 percent – think the country is headed in the wrong direction, although that’s down from 68 percent in August. The change can mostly be attributed to Trump supporters, with almost two-thirds now positive about the nation’s direction.

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