By GERALD F. SEIB – – – –
By now, it’s broadly accepted that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump generate a lot of negative vibes among voters. Less appreciated, perhaps, is how broad those bad vibes are, and how much they extend into segments of the electorate that normally would be more enthused.
A look deeper into the sentiments of key electoral groups in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll gives a fuller picture of just how unusual the public’s views of the two parties’ presumptive nominees really are at this point. Mr. Trump generates more negative than positive feelings among groups usually sympathetic toward a Republican presidential contender, and Mrs. Clinton does the same among groups normally upbeat about a Democratic presidential front-runner.
“I have never seen anything like this,” says Bill McInturff, a veteran Republican pollster who conducts the Journal/NBC News survey along with Democrat Fred Yang.
In each Journal/NBC News poll, Americans are asked to rate their feelings toward a group of prominent figures as positive, negative or neutral. A lot of attention has been focused on the fact that, overall, those surveyed report net negative feelings toward each candidate, and by a wide margin. For Mrs. Clinton, 34% of respondents overall said they had positive feelings, while 54% said they had negative feelings. For Mr. Trump, the reading was even worse: 29% positive, 58% negative.
Such readings might not be so bad for each candidate if the negative sentiment were all coming from groups that you’d expect to be hostile to a Republican or a Democrat. The problem each has right now is that the bad vibes are coming in part from some groups that ought to be more positive.
Mr. Trump, for example, has net positive ratings among Republicans by a 33-point margin—though that is well below the 52-point net positive reading Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, had at this point. Mr. Trump also has a net 13-point positive rating among self-described conservatives, though again, that’s almost 20 points lower than Mr. Romney had.
The problem lies in the sentiments found in some groups that have been key for Republican presidential contenders in recent cycles. His rating is a net negative of 28 points among suburban voters, 29 points among those in households with more than $75,000 in annual income, and a whopping 36 points among whites with a college education.
For her part, Mrs. Clinton is net positive among a handful of core groups: Democrats generally, self-described liberals, Latinos and African-Americans. Among African-Americans, her net positive is a healthy 63 percentage points, though the same group gave President Barack Obama a net 89-point reading at this point in 2012 as he was seeking re-election.
The problems for Mrs. Clinton lie elsewhere. Young voters aged 18 through 34, with whom she has struggled to gain ground against Sen. Bernie Sanders, give her a net negative rating of 21 points. Women age 50 or older are negative by 15 percentage points, a reflection of the fact that Mrs. Clinton, though she is on her way to becoming the first female nominee of a major party, lags among married women. And among self-described independent voters she has a net negative rating of 40 percentage points. Mr. Obama had a net positive rating of 11 points among them four years ago.
Still, there may be a silver lining in all those clouds for Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump. Their standing with such groups may be low now, but those also are audiences that should be open to revising their views toward the Democratic or Republican standard-bearer. And the two presumptive nominees have more than five months remaining before Election Day to make that happen.