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New Poll Reveals The First Word That Comes To Mind When Americans Think Of Trump

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New Poll Reveals The First Word That Comes To Mind When Americans Think Of Trump

GOP, Right-Wing, Trump 2016

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

“What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Donald Trump?”

That’s the open-ended question a Quinnipiac poll asked Americans recently. The No. 1 answer: “idiot.”

Have you seen anything since then that would move the needle away from “idiot”? Or from “ignorant” (the ninth most frequent answer), or “stupid” (12th)? He doesn’t know what’s in the Senate’s health care bill. He’s not reading his intelligence briefings. He’s watching more Fox News than your cranky uncle. His behavior seems engineered to provoke responses like, “Can you believe what an idiot/ignoramus/stupid person Trump is?”

I’ll grant you those aren’t exact synonyms. As Mrs. Bustard, my honors English teacher at Union High, always said, the reason there are different words for the same thing is that they’re not the exact same thing. “Ignorant” implies a lack of knowledge that can be remedied by education, while “idiot” suggests an irremediable mental deficiency. The difference between “idiot” and “stupid” seems subtler, and involves attitude. I’d also put “moron” in that cluster, which I was surprised not to see on the list of nearly 50 words.

It was Roget’s Thesaurus that encouraged me to differentiate among synonyms. When I first bought it, I hadn’t a clue how to pronounce “Roget” or “thesaurus,” but a note from Mrs. Bustard on a book report—she had beautiful handwriting—persuaded me that the 35-cent pocket Roget’s, though it cost a dime more than Mad Magazine, was worth it.

Early in the 19th century, British physician Peter Mark Roget invented an ingenious system to categorize the meanings of tens of thousands of words and phrases in a hierarchy of classes and sections. His taxonomy, like Carl Linnaeus’s organization of the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms, revealed distinctions among related items that an alphabetical system didn’t.

Today, with synonyms just a click away, Roget’s project seems sadly antiquarian, unlike the log-log slide rule, also invented by Roget, which Miss Bialecki, my AP physics teacher, made us master, and which fully merits its obsolescence. It’s Roget’s lifelong obsession with word lists that makes me want to organize the Quinnipiac answers.

Second on the Trump list, after “idiot,” comes “incompetent.” “Unqualified” is fifth; below that, “disaster” and “inexperienced” show up. Each of those accurately describes the president. It would not be redundant to use them adjectivally—“incompetent ignoramus,” for example—since technically there’s a difference between being a dummkopf and being a screwup.

“Liar” comes in third in the poll; the related “dishonest” and “con-man” turn up lower down. To me, this trio suggests moral culpability, as do “racist,” “bigot,” “dictator,” “evil” and “greedy.” The effect that those traits cause in us is captured by another cluster: “disgusting,” “despicable” and “embarrassment.”

I would draw a distinction between the 10th place word, “egotistical,” and—lexicological trigger warning—the 11th, “asshole.” “Egotistical” strikes me as a clinical diagnosis, as do “bully,” “narcissist” and “aggressive,” which are also on the list, as do the regrettably stigmatizing “crazy” and “mental.” On the other hand, I’d put “asshole” in the same group as “arrogant” (13th), along with “clown,” “buffoon” and “blowhard,” all of which imply volition or agency; all narcissists are not necessarily assholes. (The absence from the list of “juvenile,” impulsive” and “unstable” puzzles me.)

To be sure, the poll reports positive words, too. “Leader,” “strong,” “successful,” “great,” “good,” “smart,” “decisive,” “negotiator” and “patriotism” turn up, roughly in proportion to his favorability with his base. But I don’t know what spin to infer from the answers “president,” “businessman,” “business,” “American,” “money” and “rich”—I can’t tell if they’re meant to be merely factual, like calling him a golfer or a husband, or slyly ironic, like calling him a golfer or a husband.

As the poll makes clear, Americans see Trump as an idiot, a liar and an—um, and a clown. That’s the baseline. There was no fresh news about his character in his tweet assaulting Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”; we already knew he’s irredeemably disgusting. His indifference to Vladimir Putin’s sabotage, his complicity in savaging Medicaid, his vendetta on truth and journalism: nothing new there, either. We already knew his narcissism is sociopathic.

The only thing we don’t know is if he can be pulled down before he pulls us down with him. Will some behavior of his be so despicable that even his toadies and enablers gag on the shame he makes them swallow? Will some evidence emerge that’s so irrefutably damning that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are compelled to care more for country than for power? On the brink of exposure and ridicule, in the vise of global crisis, in the panic of mental meltdown, will Trump clutch—and quit? The suspense of following those storylines is mesmerizing. But the stress of it is traumatizing our psyches.

Roget knew from trauma. His father and wife died young. His depressed mother dominated him. His sister and daughter were wracked by mental illness. A beloved uncle killed himself in his arms. Roget’s biographer, Joshua Kendall, says that as a boy, Roget “stumbled upon a remarkable discovery—that compiling lists of words could provide solace, no matter what misfortunes may befall him.”

Hmmm. “Despicable,” “disgusting,” “buffoon.” Who knows? Maybe lists can soothe us, too.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.



  1. FireBaron July 8, 2017

    Now, what terms can be applied to our congressional leadership? Ineffective, incompetent, obstructionist, secretive, manipulative.

    1. ray July 8, 2017

      I think incompetent assholes covers congress.

      1. ivory69690@yahoo.com July 9, 2017

        closer and pretty much that wording would cover the WHOLE GOP gang of pinheads party

      2. Gerry Francis July 9, 2017

        Wish I would have said that. Sad but so true.

    2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth July 8, 2017

      All of the above, and simpleton, greedy, imperious, crass, come to mind as well.

      1. idamag July 9, 2017


    3. Independent1 July 8, 2017

      corrupt, dishonest, devious, lying, puppets, pawns, shills all come to mind

    4. idamag July 9, 2017

      Bumpkins with a selfish agenda.

  2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth July 8, 2017

    Despite these negative attributes which Trump is carrying, Congress could care less as long as Donald can gather his wits and focus long enough to help push through their draconian policies, and ensure their re-election. The latter is the Holy Grail for our politicians—the only reason for existence for so many of them who see their pathetic life trajectories as programmed for self-satisfaction and an easy life.

  3. bojimbo26 July 9, 2017

    Wanker and wankers .

  4. cthetruth July 9, 2017

    I suspect Wharton cannot be too proud to have this idiot associated with them.

    1. johninPCFL July 9, 2017

      It would be hilarious if they revoked the “degree” his daddy bought him.

      1. cthetruth July 9, 2017

        Money cannot buy common sense or a brain. Daddy did show him how to con people. That they were good at.

  5. rednekokie July 9, 2017

    tRump: easily a disgusting, incompetent, childish idiot.
    Congress: The national Gong Show.

  6. Dapper Dan July 9, 2017

    Now that we know all the negative adjectives that apply to DT what are we going to do about getting this cretin out of the WhiteHouse ? Congress is too timid to do what’s needed and have impeachment charges filed by the House. The next hurdle is to have 2/3 of the Senate concur and convict him. Mueller the American people are anxiously awaiting your findings

    1. Eleanore Whitaker July 9, 2017

      Dan..There is afoot something very very ingenius. It was actually the idea of a former CIA agent under Bush ’43. He was interviewed this week on CNN. He had a very interesting take on dealing with Trump and his bromance with Putin.

      He stated that since there is NO chance Trump or Tillerson will EVER punish the perpetrators of the hacking into the 2016 election Trump and Putin both deny ever happened when there is more than sufficient evidence it did, this Bush era CIA who also served in the CIA under Reagan said that the only way to deal with Russia or Trump is covertly.

      That is, to say nothing and undermine everything they do in order to take them down. Now, that is precisely what many Americans plan to do. With the help of organizing groups like Indivisible who provides advice on how to form groups to stop Russian Republicans from taking over our election and our democracy, Americans are learning how to utilize the same type of KGB espionage tactics Putin used to get Trump elected.

  7. yabbed July 9, 2017

    And soon the first word to come to mind about Trump will be TRAITOR.

    1. Eleanore Whitaker July 9, 2017

      I can’t post the word that comes to mind. It’s one my dear departed ex used on men he wanted to run over with a semi.

      1. yabbed July 9, 2017

        We get your message without you saying the word. 🙂

  8. rhetoric_phobic July 9, 2017

    He is all those things however he is smart in a reptilian way. More than any other part, he operates with his reptilian brain. Others can deliver the most eloquent, intelligent, factual discourse and he tosses out mostly lies and crap. He doesn’t have to waste time on knowing what he’s talking about and his lies and crap are what his base remembers. Why? Because it’s infinitely easier to process and they aren’t generally deep thinkers. So they prefer it to intelligent, factual and articulate.

  9. Eleanore Whitaker July 9, 2017

    You know what I find so funny? You have Trump ass kissers all saying we are Trump haters. But, guess what? We aren’t the only ones. If anyone saw the BBC broadcasts from the German media on Trump, it was clear he is not now nor ever will be their fair hair boy. In fact, what the American right liars can’t admit is that Trump isn’t just hated by Americans ONLY. He is hated all over the globe. Worse, he is a joke that the G20 world leaders wanted NO part of.

    That’s why that cowardly moron sent his incest partner Iskanka to meet with world leaders. I am sure they were thrilled to have her substituting for her daddy. How far does the Trump nepotism have to go before the asshats of the right admit they would as soon string Obama up for allowing Malia or Sasha to be his substitute at a meeting of global leaders.

    And what precisely did Miss PussyFace have to offer to those leaders? More of her Daddy’s scripts.

  10. ivory69690@yahoo.com July 9, 2017

    this post is so well worded about THE DONNY DUMP CLOWN SHOWS mentally deranged stage (that im sure been going on for decades .

    “What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Donald Trump?”

    That’s the open-ended question a Quinnipiac poll asked Americans recently. The No. 1 answer: “idiot.”

    Have you seen anything since then that would move the needle away from “idiot”? Or from “ignorant” (the ninth most frequent answer), or “stupid” (12th)? He doesn’t know what’s in the Senate’s health care bill. He’s not reading his intelligence briefings ( the reason for not dealing with the intelligence briefings is the deranged clown knows nothing about any type of intelligence ) Ivanka Trump takes father’s seat at G-20 leaders’ table in break from diplomatic protocol // yes it was out of REG. protocol . the DUMPSTER knows no one want to have anything to do with him because he is a pathological liar . also seeing how the deranged DUMPSTER CLOWN has been on tape saying that he wants to bang his daughter only see it that every one would like her there more then him there . so he try’s to snake out like he dose in all parts of his evil life In the 1930s, Adolf Hitler arrested and executed ‘fake news’ journalists who rightfully claimed that Jews were being exterminated and im sure DONNY DUMP wants to do that now to the media that are saying what the DUMPSTER said from the start of the election that the whole thing is rigged . and the DUMPSTER in the first time in his life didnt lie . the whole election was rigged and the DUMPSTER knew it was in his favor . then telling Russia to hack into and get emails . he was in on the whole thing from the start . maybe planning it for over 2 years ago with the GOP gang of pinheads

    1. idamag July 9, 2017

      I’m sure tou are right. He wasn’t in the public eye and got by with it before.

  11. ivory69690@yahoo.com July 9, 2017

    another word or words hit the DUMPSTER CLOWN nail on the head is and should be plain ((MENTALLY RETARDED ))). I didn’t see these words but im sure thy should be the TITLE to always start off anything that would be first before THE DONNY DUMP CLOWN SHOW

  12. Gerry Francis July 9, 2017

    Personally, I really don’t think Trump is an idiot. Now the folks that voted for him, despite all the warnings to the contrary, including one of his former campaign managers who said he started it off as a joke, a very public rebuke by a previous Republican Presidential nominee, knowledge of the Trump University scandal, information from the contractors that he cheated, knowing the number of times he’s been sued, his own use of illegal immigrants and among a host of other things – his appalling behavior on the campaign trail, those folks…….well, they’re another story altogether. It makes me think of the poor ladies that marry a guy that beats them while they’re dating thinking that ‘once we’re married, he’ll change’.

  13. idamag July 9, 2017

    Idiot, I’ll buy that. Vulgarian, narcissist those will work, too. ,

  14. George Carroll July 28, 2017

    Can I use “clown shoes” as one word?

  15. Phil Johnson August 8, 2017

    I watched Zacharias’ hour-long expose’ last night on CNN: “Why Trump Won”. He starts it off with his proclamation that “Trump won’t win”, before presenting a compelling postulate that almost no one saw it coming, along with him. He then lays out the case for what happened. The anxiety and, yes, rage portrayed in his story by those left behind by Democratic and Republican oligarchs alike are jarring. He ruefully concludes that there is a serious lesson we all have to learn here somewhere — and that we better unite behind it. The sooner, the better — politics has to take a back seat to the outreach we all need to make and gather all of America into our collective consciousness.


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