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Americans' Reactions to Trump, Clinton Explain Poor Images

by Justin McCarthy

Story Highlights

  • Half of Americans have negative reactions to Clinton
  • Two in three react negatively to Trump

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' initial reactions to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are largely negative, which helps explain their negative images. When Americans are asked what comes to mind when they think of Clinton, many say they don't trust her (27%), don't like her (13%) and that she is a criminal or corrupt (8%). Trump elicits a variety of complaints about his personality, with 16% saying they dislike him, and others describing him as an "idiot" or a "joke" (12%), a "racist" or a "bigot" (10%), "reckless" or "dangerous" (8%), or someone who speaks without thinking (7%).

Top Unaided Reactions to "Hillary Clinton" and "Donald Trump" June 2016

For Clinton, the latest responses -- collected in a June 14-23 survey -- reflect that many Americans continue to see her as dishonest and untrustworthy and dislike her in general. These perceptions also dogged her in Gallup's February survey when she was still competing against her Democratic rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and they were evident when the same question was asked during her fight for the Democratic nomination in 2008. As she pivots to the general election, she does not appear to have shaken these perceptions because they remain atop the list.

Additionally, 8% say Clinton is a "crook," corrupt or a criminal, while 3% mention Benghazi -- a reference to the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Libya that resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador to that country while Clinton was secretary of state.

Despite the leading negative responses, many Americans also have positive reactions to Clinton, saying she is capable and qualified to be president (12%), that she displays good leadership (6%) and that her husband's time in the White House gives her a familiarity with presidential responsibilities (5%). Another 5% express the need or desire for a female president.

Trump, too, struggles with Americans' negative perceptions of him -- and to an even greater degree than Clinton does. The top four responses Americans offer about the presumptive GOP nominee are disparaging. Large segments simply don't like him generally (16%) or see him as a "joke" or "crazy" (12%). Ten percent describe him as racist or antagonistic or to various segments of the population, including blacks, Hispanics, women and Muslims. Another category of responses mentioned by 8% of Americans is that he is "scary" and that his presidency would pose a danger to the country.

At the same time, many Americans offer positive comments about Trump, focusing on his business acumen or his leadership (7%) and his ability to turn things around with new ideas (7%), and saying they like him (5%) and that he is honest (4%).

The weaknesses outlined here align closely with the language the two candidates are using to attack each other on the campaign trail, with Trump calling Clinton "Crooked Hillary" and Clinton recently warning that Trump is untrustworthy with nuclear codes because he is "thin-skinned and quick to anger."

Half Have Negative Reaction to Clinton; Two-Thirds React Negatively to Trump

One way to summarize the various responses about the candidates is to categorize each comment as positive or negative. Some comments do not have a clear direction and Gallup does not code them as positive or negative.

For both candidates, Americans are more likely to mention something negative than to mention something positive.

While about four in 10 Americans characterize Clinton in positive terms, about half characterize her negatively. Trump has an even greater deficit, with two in three Americans responding with what can be defined as negative impressions and about a quarter responding positively.

Unaided Positive vs. Negative Reactions to "Hillary Clinton" and "Donald Trump" June 2016

Bottom Line

With the primaries and caucuses ended, Americans' initial thoughts about the presumptive major-party nominees for president underscore the persistently negative tilt to their favorability ratings and raise serious questions about whether either can unify the country after the election. Because Trump and Clinton have been high-profile figures for many years, it will be challenging for either one to change this in the remaining four months of the campaign. Both, however, will have opportunities to improve the way Americans perceive them -- at their party conventions later this month, during the presidential debates and in responding to the various issues that come up between now and Election Day.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 14-23, 2016, with a random sample of 1,025 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

​Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

Gallup


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