The FINANCIAL -- As a number of Republican Party leaders express dissatisfaction with Donald Trump being their party's presumptive nominee, rank-and-file Republicans have become more positive about the billionaire businessman. Over the last seven days, Trump's favorable rating among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents has reached 66%, the highest since Gallup began tracking him nine months ago. His unfavorable rating is at 30%.
Trump has always been perceived more favorably than unfavorably by Republicans. His ratings were most negative in late February/early March, but in recent weeks, as his nomination has become all but certain, Trump's net favorable image among Republicans has improved steadily.
Trump's image among Republicans, however, is still significantly more negative than that of the last three Republican nominees at about this point in their presidential campaigns. Mitt Romney, John McCain and George W. Bush had coalesced their party's support into a more universally positive image by May or early June of 2012, 2008 and 2000, respectively, with favorable ratings in the 80% range and low unfavorable ratings.
The fact that Trump has a significantly more negative image than has been the norm for his party's nominees at this point in recent campaigns could partially reflect the time frame of the nomination process. Trump's battle against his competitors, for example, has gone on much longer than Bush's in 2000, who was never seriously challenged that year as his party's presumptive nominee. Similarly, McCain essentially became the presumptive GOP nominee by February 2008. Romney, like Trump, didn't sew up the GOP nomination until late April, but he held an 82% favorable rating among Republicans by mid-May, a contrast to Trump's current 66%.
Another Gallup measure reinforces the conclusion that Trump faces a more difficult than usual challenge in his effort to unite Republicans behind his candidacy. Republicans in May 13-15 interviewing were split down the middle when asked if they are pleased with Trump as their party's nominee, or if they wish it was someone else -- 48% pleased and 50% wishing there was someone else.
There is no history of this measure providing a comparison with previous GOP nominees.
The groups of Republicans most likely to be pleased with Trump as the nominee include those who are older, men, conservatives and those without college degrees -- generally adhering to the profile of those who have held the most favorable view of Trump throughout the primary process.
Trump's image among his fellow Republicans is improving and is now more positive than it has been at any point since the campaign process heated up last summer. But Trump's image is substantially more negative than the images of his predecessors at this point in their campaigns, and half of Republicans say they wish someone else was their party's nominee.
The relative lack of enthusiasm for Trump among his own party may not be his biggest challenge to winning the presidency -- twice as many Americans overall have an unfavorable (60%) as a favorable (34%) opinion of him, reflecting strongly negative views among independents and Democrats. His likely competitor, Hillary Clinton, however, also has a negative image among all Americans, at 39% favorable and 55% unfavorable.
Both Trump and Clinton's next major opportunities to improve voters' perceptions will be their selection of a vice presidential running mate, and then the conventions in July.