AP poll: 81% of Americans fear their presidential choices

Alternate headline: Nineteen percent of Americans haven’t found out who’s running. The latest Associated Press/GfK poll shows that four out of five Americans feel fear over at least one of the two major-party nominees, and 25% fear both, a number confirmed by Gallup. Three-quarters of those planning to vote will make their decision based on whom they dislike rather than as a gesture of support:

On the eve of the summer’s political conventions, at which the general election campaign officially begins, the latest AP-GfK findings underscore the deep sense of unease that is sharpening the political divide in America and shaping an already nasty race for president.

So much so that notable numbers of Americans even hold negative views about the candidate they want to win: 14 percent of both Trump’s and Clinton’s supporters say they’re backing a candidate they don’t like. …

The poll found Americans hold resoundingly negative opinions of both candidates. Fifty-seven percent have an unfavorable view of Clinton, compared to 37 percent who have a favorable view. Sixty-three percent have a negative view of Trump, compared to the 31 percent who think well of him.

“I really don’t love either of the candidates. What do they say? It’s a choice between hot and hell,” said Annette Scott, 70, of Monmouth County, New Jersey.

A majority of 56% in the full sample of adults fear a Trump presidency, and 48% fear a Hillary administration. Don’t read too much into those numbers, though. To some extent this is poll-trolling, because to ask the question is really to beg the answer. PPP does this kind of thing all the time, although they do wait until the final question so as not to contaminate their other responses. No one really likes politicians, and it’s almost embarrassing to express anything but dislike and disgust when confronted. Given the option, most people will fall back to the cultural norm of a pox on all their houses.

There are a couple of points to be made about this, though. First, the consistently bad favorability numbers of both candidates tend to legitimize this poll-trolling. Second and more importantly, it may indicate that we are heading into a lower-turnout election, where get-out-the-vote and organizing will provide an edge.

The poll also contains more traditional elements, using a subsample of 837 registered voters. Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by four among committed voters, but only 34/30 — and Gary Johnson and Jill Stein get 4% and 1%. More people on the initial ask said they wouldn’t vote at all (6%) then the two outside-party candidates combined. (The poll was conducted between July 7-11, after the FBI report came out on Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal.)

Johnson and Stein do a bit better among the undecideds, when asked how they lean:


Adding in the leaners, Hillary leads 40/36. while Johnson gets 6% and Stein 2%. Only 70% of those voting for these four candidates have their minds made up, so there seems to be room for shifting around. However, given the near-total identity recognition of Clinton and Trump, one has to wonder whether the Libertarian and Green candidates have most of that upside.

On the generic Congressional ballot, AP/GfK calculates among those who claim will vote for someone in the presidential election and gets a 41/36 advantage for the Democrats. However, as their chart shows, this isn’t exactly good news for the DCCC. In September 2014, they had a six-point advantage in the larger sample and a 45/42 lead among likely voters, and still got blown out in the midterms. Also, it’s worth noting that the sample is D+9 without leaners; it was D+7 in September 2014.

Basically, no side should be happy with the results of this poll.

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