Election 2016

Trump and Clinton Finish With Historically Poor Images

Trump and Clinton Finish With Historically Poor Images
by Lydia Saad

Story Highlights

  • Trump's 61% unfavorable score is worst in presidential polling history
  • Clinton's 52% unfavorable score is second-worst
  • Candidates roughly matched in highly unfavorable images

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton head into the final hours of the 2016 presidential campaign with the worst election-eve images of any major-party presidential candidates Gallup has measured back to 1956. Majorities of Americans now view each of them unfavorably on a 10-point favorability scale, a first for any presidential standard-bearer on this long-term Gallup trend. Trump's image is worse than Clinton's, however, with 61% viewing him negatively on the 10-point scale compared with 52% for her.

Final Pre-Election "Scalometer" Favorable Ratings of Major-Party Presidential Nominees, 1956-2016
Based on U.S. adults; ranked by % total unfavorable
Nominee Total favorable Total unfavorable
% (+1 to +5) % (-1 to -5)
2016 Nov 2-5 D. Trump 36 61
2016 Nov 2-5 H. Clinton 47 52
1964 Oct 8-13 B. Goldwater 43 47
2012 Oct 27-28 M. Romney 55 43
1972 Oct 13-16 G. McGovern 55 41
2004 Oct 22-24 J. Kerry 57 40
1992 Oct 23-25 G.H.W. Bush 59 40
2004 Oct 22-24 G.W. Bush 61 39
2012 Oct 27-28 B. Obama 62 37
1980 Oct 10-13 R. Reagan 64 37
2008 Oct 23-26 B. Obama 62 35
2008 Oct 23-26 J. McCain 63 35
1984 Sep 21-24 W. Mondale 66 34
1992 Oct 23-25 B. Clinton 64 33
1980 Oct 10-13 J. Carter 68 32
1956 Oct 18-23 A. Stevenson 61 31
1984 Sep 21-24 R. Reagan 71 30
1968 Oct 17-22 H. Humphrey 72 28
1968 Oct 17-22 R. Nixon 79 22
1972 Oct 13-16 R. Nixon 76 21
1976 Sep 24-27 G. Ford 78 20
1960 Oct 18-23 R. Nixon 79 16
1976 Sep 24-27 J. Carter 81 16
1960 Oct 18-23 J. Kennedy 80 14
1964 Oct 8-13 L. Johnson 81 13
1956 Oct 18-23 D. Eisenhower 84 12
No data for 1988, 1996 and 2000
Gallup

These findings are based on Gallup's historical "scalometer" favorability measure, which asks respondents for their general opinion of each candidate using a 10-point positive-to-negative scale. Respondents can use any number from +1 to +5 to indicate that they have a favorable view of a candidate, with +5 being highly favorable. They can use any number from -1 to -5 for an unfavorable view, with -5 being highly unfavorable. The latest survey was conducted by telephone Nov. 2-5 with a nationwide sample of U.S. adults.

The scalometer measure tends to produce higher positive ratings than the binary favorable/unfavorable choice that has been the mainstay of Gallup's favorability measurement since 1992, although that is currently more true for Clinton than for Trump. Clinton's straight-up "favorable" rating is 40% in Gallup Daily tracking for the week ending Nov. 6, while Trump's is 35%.

2016 Campaign Sets Record-High Unfavorability Scores

The extent of Americans' distaste for the two major-party candidates is further evident in the extraordinarily high percentages viewing each highly unfavorably -- rating them a -5 or -4 on the scale. Forty-two percent of Americans view Trump highly unfavorably, unchanged from Gallup's prior measure in June. Clinton's highly unfavorable rating is nearly as high, at 39%, but up from 33% in June.

Both candidates' highly unfavorable ratings far outpace any Gallup has recorded before for a major-party presidential nominee, with the next-highest being Republican Barry Goldwater's 26% score in 1964. Even the former Alabama governor and proponent of racial segregation, George Wallace, who ran for president as a third-party candidate in 1968, earned a lower high unfavorability score that year (32%) than the 2016 candidates do today.

Highly Favorable and Highly Unfavorable Ratings of Major-Party Presidential Nominees, 1956-2016
Based on U.S. adults; ranked by % highly unfavorable
Nominee Highly favorable Highly unfavorable
% (+4 to +5) % (-4 to -5)
2016 Nov 2-5 D. Trump 14 42
2016 Nov 2-5 H. Clinton 21 39
1964 Oct 8-13 B. Goldwater 17 26
2012 Oct 27-28 B. Obama 36 24
2004 Oct 22-24 G.W. Bush 34 23
2004 Oct 22-24 J. Kerry 22 22
2012 Oct 27-28 M. Romney 30 22
2008 Oct 23-26 B. Obama 37 22
1972 Oct 13-16 G. McGovern 21 20
2008 Oct 23-26 J. McCain 28 20
1984 Sep 21-24 R. Reagan 43 18
1980 Oct 10-13 J. Carter 31 17
1992 Oct 23-25 G.H.W. Bush 20 16
1980 Oct 10-13 R. Reagan 26 16
1956 Oct 18-23 A. Stevenson 34 16
1992 Oct 23-25 B. Clinton 27 15
1984 Sep 21-24 W. Mondale 28 15
1968 Oct 17-22 H. Humphrey 29 11
1972 Oct 13-16 R. Nixon 41 11
1976 Sep 24-27 G. Ford 29 9
1968 Oct 17-22 R. Nixon 39 8
1960 Oct 18-23 R. Nixon 37 5
1976 Sep 24-27 J. Carter 42 5
1960 Oct 18-23 J. Kennedy 43 5
1964 Oct 8-13 L. Johnson 49 5
1956 Oct 18-23 D. Eisenhower 57 4
Dates for all years are final pre-election; no data for 1988, 1996 and 2000
Gallup

Bottom Line

Americans' fundamental reactions to their 2016 presidential candidates are at least as negative today as when Clinton and Trump emerged as their respective parties' presumptive nominees in June. The subsequent ups and downs of the campaign have resulted in no meaningful change to Trump's image, and have had a modest negative effect on Clinton's, with her highly unfavorable rating inching up to match Trump's.

The 2016 election is the only one in Gallup's polling history to feature two broadly unpopular candidates. Further, when factoring in the high percentages viewing each very negatively, Trump and Clinton are the two most negatively reviewed U.S. presidential candidates of the modern era, and probably ever.

There has been a trend toward harsher ratings of candidates in recent elections. Indeed, as Gallup noted in June, no presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984 has ended a campaign with a total favorable scalometer score above 70%. But even in the last two elections, all candidates enjoyed total favorable scores of 55% or higher, far better than either candidate today.

In sum, this contest of historically unpopular candidates concludes with Clinton the apparent "lesser of two evils," and that could be what decides the election.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 2-5, 2016, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,033 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. For results based on the total sample of 947 registered voters, 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 U.S. Daily works.


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