The FINANCIAL -- The controversy Donald Trump created when he questioned the heroism of Vietnam veteran John McCain on July 18 may have reversed the upward momentum the Republican presidential candidate enjoyed in mid-July, although his ratings have mostly reverted to where they were earlier in the month. Last week, 51% of Republicans viewed him favorably, down from 59% the week prior but similar to 53% in the second week of July.
Meanwhile, Trump's image among all national adults continues to tilt negative, with 31% viewing him favorably and 57% unfavorably, essentially unchanged this month.Trump was under fire at the start of July as a number of corporations distanced themselves from the real estate mogul after he accused Mexico of sending immigrants to the U.S. who are not "their best [people]" and who are "bringing drugs," "bringing crime" and "rapists."
Gallup began tracking the favorable ratings of all 16 announced Republican presidential candidates, as well as the five announced Democratic candidates, on July 8, in the midst of the media firestorm over Trump's Mexico comments. In a column published by The New Yorker on July 16, McCain was quoted saying Trump had "fired up the crazies," in reference to a large crowd that assembled to hear Trump speak in McCain's home state of Arizona. Trump initially used that to his advantage by sounding populist themes in defense of the Phoenix audience, but the tone changed on July 18 when he suggested McCain's experience as a prisoner of war didn't make him a hero. More recently, Trump has been on the defensive over a statement one of his top aides made diminishing the seriousness of marital rape, and an accusation (now recanted) that Trump has faced on that issue, according to Gallup.
Gallup's three-day rolling averages during this period show Trump starting to gain in favorability among Republicans around July 13, peaking at 63% in interviewing conducted July 16-18. His favorability then turned downward following his comments about McCain, reaching 52% in interviewing July 21-23, similar to where he was at the start of tracking. The more recent trajectory of his favorable score is a bit unclear, as it initially rose to 56% in the three-day average through July 26, but has since dipped below 50%.
Other Republican candidates who either have found or have put themselves in Trump's crosshairs this month include former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Graham and Trump traded verbal insults last week, and at one point Trump upped the ante by urging his supporters to call Graham, giving out the senator's personal cellphone number. Meanwhile, both Perry and Bush have taken strong stands against Trump's statements about Mexico and Mexican immigrants, and have chided Trump for his rhetoric.
Among these three candidates, only Graham's image may have suffered with Republicans, with his favorable rating slipping from slightly positive earlier in July -- 29% favorable, 24% unfavorable -- to slightly negative in the past week, at 25% favorable and 30% unfavorable. By contrast, Bush's and Perry's ratings are largely unchanged.
Trump enjoyed a bump in Republican favorability earlier this month as he swatted away criticisms from corporate sponsors, took a hard line against illegal immigration and drew crowds of enthusiastic fans. However, since questioning McCain's heroism and getting personal in his attacks on several fellow Republican candidates, he has lost those gains. Whether those actions are the cause of Trump's slide isn't clear, but they do coincide with it.
The most recent three-day average through July 28 shows Trump with a 49% favorable score, identical to where he started in July. The fact that Trump not only survived the firestorm that erupted in June over his immigration comments, but initially thrived on it, suggests that he has staying power in the GOP race. But it will soon become clear if his image is now suffering either from a delayed reaction to the McCain controversy, or from more recent issues. Either way, these figures will serve as valuable reference points for evaluating the impact of the first Republican candidate debate coming up next week.