- - Tuesday, May 24, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The 2016 election may go down in U.S. political history as a time when a majority of voters disliked both of their major party choices for president. Indeed, it’s hard to remember in the modern polling era when so many Americans have disapproved of even their own party’s presumptive nominees.

One after another, just about all of the major, nationwide surveys have tallied sizable numbers of registered voters who say they have negative views about both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Like many other political reporters, I’ve closely followed the polls during the course of the presidential primary season and watched these negatives rise. But it really hit home this week when The Washington Post-ABC News poll characterized its most recent findings this way: “Never in the history of the Post-ABC poll have the two major party nominees been viewed as harshly as Clinton and Trump.

“Nearly 6 in 10 registered voters say they have negative impressions of both major candidates. Overall, Clinton’s net negative rating among registered voters is minus-16, while Trump’s is minus-17, though Trump’s numbers have improved since March. Among all adults, Trump’s net negatives are significantly higher than those of Clinton,” the newspaper said.

A detailed inquiry into what voters think of the candidates offers revealing clues as to what they most dislike about them.

For example, a CBS News-New York Times poll found that 7 in 10 Americans said Mr. Trump doesn’t have the right temperament to be president. And 60 precent said Mrs. Clinton doesn’t share their values.

When registered voters are asked which one of the two candidates “better understands the problems of people like you,” 47 percent of the Post-ABC poll chose Mrs. Clinton. Only 36 percent chose Mr. Trump.

But when asked who they will vote for at this point in the election process, the race is a virtual dead heat, with Mr. Trump edging out Mrs. Clinton 46 percent to 44 percent in the popular vote.

While popular vote numbers this close don’t count for much in our state-by-state electoral vote system, it is an indication that when the votes are tallied in November, the race will likely be decided in a few key battleground states such as Florida and Ohio.

How much of factor will Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump’s high unfavorables play in the election’s outcome?

In a messy race where 57 percent of registered voters have an unfavorable impression of Mrs. Clinton (46 percent say it is “strongly unfavorable”), and of Mr. Trump (45 percent say “strongly unfavorable”), could it reduce voter turnout?

It is possible that a number of voters who are disgusted with their choices may not vote.

On the other hand, surveys suggest that a number of swing voters — notably independents — are telling pollsters they will vote for Mr. Trump because they don’t want Mrs. Clinton to win, or will vote for Mrs. Clinton simply to defeat Mr. Trump.

Among registered Clinton voters in the Post-ABC poll, 48 percent said their vote was fully behind their candidate, “while an identical percentage say their vote is mainly to oppose Trump.”

Among Trump voters, 44 percent said they planned to affirmatively vote for the real estate mogul, but 53 percent said they were voting for him solely to oppose Mrs. Clinton.

If there is one characteristic among the voters’ choices that could be the deciding factor in the election, it may be the issue of “experience.”

Mrs. Clinton “runs away from Trump” on experience and the right temperament, while Mr. Trump’s strength is “as a change agent.”

But so much of what Mr. Trump says he will change if he is elected president isn’t going to happen.

Congress will never appropriate the tens of billions of dollars to build a wall along our entire border with Mexico, nor is Mexico going to pay for it as Mr. Trump insists they will.

His plan is extortion plain and simple, threatening to bring down Mexico’s economy by intercepting billions of dollars Hispanics in the U.S. send to their families back home.

Mr. Trump is delusional if he thinks Congress will seize the funds of hardworking Hispanic citizens who reside in their states and congressional districts.

It is too bad that Mr. Trump isn’t focusing his campaign on the one issue that should dominate this election — the weakening U.S. economy.

Recently, he has been going after Hillary by resurrecting former President Bill Clinton’s sex scandal with a young White House intern in the 1990s. Does he really believe this is a major issue with America’s voters when every survey has shown their chief concerns remain a slow-growing U.S. economy, jobs and insufficient incomes?

In the eighth year of Barack Obama’s failed presidency, the nation’s economic growth rate has fallen to less than 1 percent, layoffs are rising, retail sales have plunged, U.S. factory orders have fallen, Americans are taking on more debt, and there has been a nationwide slowdown in new start-up businesses.

But Mr. Trump seems to be is more interested in getting on the nightly news and Sunday shows with bombastic sideshow performances than addressing economic issues that are the paramount concerns of average Americans.

If the sluggish Obama economy continues to limp along, as it has thus far this year, and Mr. Trump doesn’t get back to bread-and-butter issues, he is going to lose his advantage in a presidential race that is increasingly looking like a nail-biter.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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