When he was a candidate for president, Donald Trump said he planned to run the White House "like a business." Eight months into his presidency, small-business owners, and all Americans more generally, see more chaos than top-down, effective management.
We asked small-business owners — and everyone else — what they think of Trump's management style. As pollsters, we know the value of getting hard data about politics. For example, 51 percent of small-business owners and 40 percent of the general population said they approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president, according to the third-quarter CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey. Those are hard numbers that we track from quarter to quarter, and they're down in this poll. We can benchmark against approval numbers for past presidents at the same point in their tenures.
But on a human level it's incredibly insightful to get information in respondents' own words rather than on a preset rating scale. Particularly when responding to polls online, without human interviewers who may judge them, respondents tend to provide distinct, personal and sometimes colorful answers.
From Aug. 10–17, we asked 12,912 respondents how they would describe Trump's management style — in one word. After combing through the responses, complete with misspellings and some unprintable portmanteaus, we came up with some interesting observations.
More from the CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey:
Small-business confidence drops, most notably among conservatives
First, the No. 1 word used to describe Trump's management style was some variation of "chaotic" or "chaos," with a few people disregarding our request for one word to vent their frustrations (e.g., "chaotic mess," "absolutely chaotic and undisciplined," "manage by chaos").
Perhaps this "chaos" means different things to different people, but it's a succinct summary of the whirlwind of the past eight months. The Trump administration has had some notably high-level staffing shake-ups and a rather unconventional way of operating in Washington, both of which could be contributing to the perception of chaos.
Of the respondents, 2,282 were self-identified small-business owners — individuals who should be particularly appreciative of the need for a leader to have a positive management style. When we subset our analysis to examine responses from this population — more than 1,800 of them provided an answer to this open-ended question — we see the same response trends as we do among the general population. Below are the 40 words that were chosen by at least 10 business owners each.