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Majority of American Voters Say Trump Is Harming GOP

Although Donald Trump is leading the Republican horse race, nearly 60 percent of Americans say he's harming the Republican Party's image.
Image: A young supporter holds up a campaign sign for U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Madison Mississippi
A young supporter holds up a campaign sign for U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump at Madison Central High School during at a campaign rally in Madison, Mississippi March 7, 2016. RICK GUY / Reuters

Although Donald Trump is leading the Republican horse race in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, a majority of American voters believe his comments on the campaign trail are insulting; six in 10 say he's harming the Republican Party's image; and nearly two-thirds have a negative opinion of him — making Trump the most unpopular figure in the poll.

What's more, just half of Republican primary voters — 53 percent — say they'd be satisfied with Trump as the party's presidential nominee.

That's compared with 72 percent of Republicans who said this about Mitt Romney in March 2012, and 78 percent of Democratic primary voters who currently say this about Hillary Clinton.

"It may be fair to say that the GOP seems to be in disarray with the very real prospect that Donald Trump may be its nominee," said Democratic pollster Fred Yang of Hart Research Associates, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies.

Decision 2016 Full Coverage

The poll — conducted March 3-6 — comes as Trump won big victories Tuesday night in Michigan and Mississippi and remains the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.

But it also shows how politically radioactive Trump is, especially outside the universe of GOP primary voters.

Sixty-one percent of all voters say Trump represents something that is harmful to the Republican Party, versus 27 percent who believe he represents something positive for the GOP.

Republican primary voters are split on this question: 45 percent say positive, 43 percent say harmful.

And half of all voters — including 33 percent of Republicans — say Trump's comments are frequently insulting, and that he has the wrong approach to many issues. Twenty-one percent (including 34 percent of Republicans) answered that while his language is problematic, he is raising important issues. And 18 percent of all voters (and 26 percent of Republicans) said that Trump has the right approach and is telling it like it is.

Related: Will a Divided GOP Support Trump as Nominee?

Asked what kind of change a Trump presidency would bring, just 27 percent said it would bring the right kind of change, and 52 percent said it would bring the wrong kind of change; 18 percent said it wouldn't bring much change either way. (By contrast, 25 percent said a Hillary Clinton presidency would bring the right kind of change, 29 percent the wrong kind of change and 45 percent no change either way.)

Sixty-Four Percent Have a Negative Opinion of Trump

The NBC/WSJ poll also shows that Trump is, by far, the most unpopular figure measured in the survey, especially among those still running in the 2016 field.

Twenty-five percent of all voters have a positive opinion of Trump, versus 64 percent who have a negative opinion (-39) — down from his -31 score last month.

By comparison:

  • John Kasich: 33 percent positive, 14 percent negative (+19)
  • Bernie Sanders: 43 percent positive, 36 percent negative (+7)
  • Barack Obama: 47 percent positive, 43 percent negative (+4)
  • Marco Rubio: 28 percent positive, 39 percent negative (-11)
  • Hillary Clinton: 38 percent positive, 51 percent negative (-13)
  • Ted Cruz: 27 percent positive, 45 percent negative (-18)
  • Mitt Romney: 22 percent positive, 44 percent negative (-22).

Rubio's -11 score is an eight-point drop from February. “In the last month, you can absolutely see the wear and tear [of Trump and Rubio],” said McInturff, the GOP pollster.

Obama’s Approval Rating: 49 Percent

As for President Obama, his approval rating in the poll stands at 49 percent — unchanged from a month ago.

"President Obama is looking more like an asset for the Democrats than a liability," said Yang, the Democratic pollster.

The national NBC/WSJ poll was conducted March 3-6 of 1,200 registered voters (including nearly 500 by cell phone), and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 2.8 percentage points. It also surveyed 410 Democratic primary voters (plus-minus 4.8 percent) and 397 GOP voters (plus-minus 4.9 percent).