Poll: 2016 Candidates Face United States of Angst

Poll: 2016 Candidates Face United States of Angst
Story Stream
recent articles

Voters feel threatened, insecure and pessimistic, which wouldn’t be news if the unceasing repetition of that polling assessment didn’t also complicate the picture for the 2016 presidential contest.

The attacks of 9/11 took place nearly 14 years ago. The Great Recession officially ended nearly six years ago. And yet, Americans remain worried about security – the nation’s as well as their own financial well-being.

According to the latest George Washington University Battleground Poll, released Monday, any candidate who seeks to be president in 2017 has a tough sales job in the United States of Angst.

Voters know a lot about leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and they formed strong opinions about the former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state. She can refashion attitudes about her candidacy, but she can’t reinvent herself as a political newcomer, said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake.

Examining an increasingly crowded Republican field, the hurdles appear to be of a different sort: few GOP candidates have cut through the clutter to inspire decisive momentum, according to the results of a survey of 1,000 registered likely voters.

For example, as voters consider the potential choice of Clinton vs. Republican Jeb Bush, the downsides of name recognition become clearer: Voters are evenly split on Clinton (47 percent favorable, 48 percent unfavorable, and 51 percent say they would not consider voting for her). Reactions to presumptive candidate Bush, the brother of a president and son of another, is “strongly negative” (35 percent favorable and 48 percent unfavorable, with 60 percent of likely voters saying they would not vote for the former Florida governor), according to the survey. 

The 45th president should focus on improving the economy (23 percent) and increasing jobs (14 percent), according to respondents. Almost three-quarters said they’re worried about another economic slowdown (41 percent are “somewhat” worried, and 32 percent are “very worried.”) 

Against a global backdrop of terrorism, nuclear capabilities, and armed conflicts, Americans are weighing candidates’ experience and fresh ideas, as well as leadership qualities.

Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, said a significant minority of voters is worried about a terrorist attack (39 percent worried, 60 percent not worried), and the fear is more intense and more common among women (42 percent worried compared to 37 percent among men). Fifty-seven percent of older women expressed such worries.

“The Democratic nominee will need to reassure older women on security to win,” Lake predicted.

The survey results, which echo other polls in which Americans said the country is on the wrong track, help explain why candidates are dissecting national security and income issues with voters in early primary states. Republicans have a 10-point advantage over Democrats when it comes to confidence about international affairs (Republicans 50 percent, and Democrats 40 percent).

“This will … be the most foreign policy-oriented presidential campaign since 2004,” predicted GOP pollster Ed Goeas, president and CEO of The Tarrance Group.

As with reactions to Clinton and Bush, the survey found significant voter misgivings about announced and prospective candidates: they said they would not consider voting for Sen. Ted Cruz (55 percent), Sen. Marco Rubio (50 percent), Sen. Rand Paul (55 percent), Gov. Scott Walker (50 percent), former Gov. Mike Huckabee (50 percent), or Carly Fiorina (51 percent). Fifty-seven percent said they would not consider voting for Democratic former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The pollsters surveyed 1,000 registered likely voters nationwide May 3-6. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.


Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

Show commentsHide Comments