Vice President Pence More Popular Than President Trump, Polls Show

Vice President Mike Pence has outperformed President Donald Trump in recent opinion polls, as Trump has come under fire during his first months in office that have included no major legislative accomplishments and the ongoing Russia investigations.

Although vice presidents typically underperform presidents in opinion polls, Pence so far has fared slightly better in the eyes of voters.

Voters see him as a much better spokesman for the Trump administration than the president, a recent Monmouth University poll found. According to a recent Fox News Poll, 42 percent of voters approve of Pence, while 43 percent disapprove. Fifty-three percent of voters disapprove of Trump, while 40 percent approve. Other recent polls have also found Pence slightly more well-liked than Trump.  

Pence has seemingly been able to isolate himself from the biggest story-line engulfing the Trump administration: the Russia Investigations.  

“At the end of the day, the VP really hasn’t become embroiled in the controversies and scandals in the public’s eyes,” Evan Siegfried, a GOP strategist, said.  

The reality may be different than the perception, however, as Pence was tangled up in the resignation of the administration’s first national security advisor, Michael Flynn. Flynn misled Pence on the nature of his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, leading Pence to respond erroneously to a question on television.

As the leader of the transition after the election, Pence also drew heat for saying he was not aware that Flynn was under investigation related to his work as a lobbyist for the Turkish government.

“The popularity of Mike Pence compared to Donald Trump is the result of Pence being stable and reliable,” Siegfried said. “He hasn’t gone out and made waves the way Trump has.… While he seems to be ensnared in Michael Flynn’s resignation and the firing of [FBI Director] Jim Comey, most Americans don’t realize it.”

Voters consider Pence a better representative of the administration than Trump, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway and Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, according to the Monmouth poll. Pence was seen by a majority of voters as boosting the administration with his public statements, with 53 percent saying he helps the administration and 29 percent saying he hurts it.  

"It shouldn't escape D.C.'s attention that the vice president is seen as a better mouthpiece for the administration than the man who actually occupies the Oval Office, even among their fellow Republicans," Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a statement.

Sixty-one percent of voters think Trump does more harm than good when he speaks on behalf of his administration, the poll found. While 87 percent of Republicans think Pence helps the administration when speaking publically, only 67 percent think Trump does.

That Pence polls higher than Trump puts him in a different position than many other former vice presidents, Joel Goldstein, a vice presidential scholar and a professor at the St. Louis University School of Law, said. This has been particularly notable in the last three Republican administrations, as Dick Cheney and Dan Quayle polled below George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, respectively, and the elder Bush trailed Ronald Reagan.  

“The nature of the vice presidency does not present the same opportunities as the presidency to demonstrate forceful public leadership,” he said. “The vice president’s role, at least as the public perceives it, is as a follower.”

Interactions with other heads of state on international trips and formal events such as the State of the Union address usually improve the president’s polling, Goldstein said. The vice president’s portfolio, on the other hand, often includes less glamorous tasks.

Pence, for instance, has spent much of his time working on Capitol Hill on the GOP’s attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare, and he is gearing up to do more political events moving forward.  

Over the summer, the VP is expected to criss-cross the country, speaking on behalf of the administration. Pence will tour traditionally conservative Southern states as well as some Midwestern swing states, Politico reported.

As thoughts turn to the mid-term elections in 2018, Pence will meet with donors and attempt to stir enthusiasm for Republican candidates in what’s shaping up to be a difficult midterm election for Republicans.

“If the election were being held in the next few weeks, Pence would be a much more valuable stumper if you’re trying to get swing voters to stay with you than the president would be,” Siegfried said.  

However, Trump’s continued support among the Republican base may make him an asset on the campaign trail, and with 19 months to go until the midterm elections, there is still time for the administration to push forward. So far, however, Siegfried said the lack of legislative accomplishments is troublesome for the administration.

But vice presidents often take a bigger role in midterm campaigns than presidents do, Goldstein said.

“Pence has the advantage of being more removed from some of the baggage the administration has in respect to the investigation of communication with Russia, he said. “I think Pence might be a more inviting figure for some candidates than the president will be.”

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