Election 2016 Leadership Contrast: Résumé vs. Bumper Sticker, Pollster Says

As the 2016 presidential primary season comes to a close for both parties, voters have gotten a pretty clear impression of what kind of leadership they would get from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New York businessman Donald Trump. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll helps illustrate how dramatically different those impressions of the two presumptive nominees are.

GOP pollster Micah Roberts concludes that Mrs. Clinton’s selling points read like a résumé; Mr. Trump’s like a bumper sticker.

The survey plumbed voters’ impressions by asking a battery of questions about which candidate they think is better at handling a range of issues.

The top qualities on which voters preferred Mrs. Clinton by the widest margin were her ability to:

*Deal with issues of concern to women (63%-16%)

*Handle foreign policy (56%-29%)

*Make Supreme Court appointments (47%-34%)

Those qualities sound like a traditional résumé-style list of accomplishments, a sign that she has succeeded in her campaign goal of projecting a “policy-focused woman with political savvy,” said Mr. Roberts.

Voters see entirely different reasons to support the presumptive GOP nominee. Mr. Trump enjoys the widest advantage over Mrs. Clinton for his perceived ability to:

*Change business as usual in Washington (55%-22%)

*Deal with Wall Street (48%-27%)

*Stand up for America (46%-32%)

Those are selling points that are easier to imagine on a bumper sticker, Mr. Roberts said. Or, as one of his partners in conducting the Journal/NBC News survey, Democratic pollster Peter Hart, put it, Mr. Trump’s selling points sound like exclamations — Change Washington! Stand up for America!—not lines on a résumé.

“Reasons to vote for Clinton end with a period–they are logical and rational,” Mr. Hart said. “Reasons to vote for Trump end with an exclamation point—they are emotional and push voters’ buttons.”

But Mr. Trump has failed to gain an edge over Mrs. Clinton on the one issue, the ability to deal with immigration, that has been most shadowed by the candidate’s own flair for bumper-sticker-style exclamations like “Build the wall!”. The poll found voters almost evenly split over immigration, with Mrs. Clinton enjoying only a slight 45%-42% edge.

That is unlike every other issue tested in the poll; on other issues, one candidate led the other by double digits. The candidates were more narrowly split on immigration mostly because voters split sharply on partisan lines. Both candidates are favored by 78% of voters in their own party and both lose only about 10% to the other side on their ability to deal with immigration.

That is very similar to the public opinion landscape in 2012, when the parties were near evenly split on who would better handle immigration.

“It reinforces how little has changed on immigration in the overall conversation, even with all the attention Trump has gotten,” Mr. Roberts said. “The country is still very divided on this.”

The poll of 1,000 registered voters was conducted May 15-19. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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