The lesser of two evils: Clinton and Trump fight against their own unfavorability


A discarded Bernie Sanders campaign sticker [Photo by Cooper Dahlen-Pagano]

Now that Hillary Clinton nearly has enough delegates for the Democratic nomination and Donald Trump has secured the delegates needed for the Republican nomination, Americans are now considering the pros and cons of a Clinton or Trump presidency much more seriously. However, while they have prevailed in the primaries, the months leading up to the general election are going to be an uphill battle for both candidates, as they each face record unfavorability ratings.

According to a recent survey conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News, Clinton has a net favorability rating of -9%, as 44% of survey respondents expressed a favorable opinion and 53% expressed an unfavorable opinion. On the other hand, Trump doesn’t fare any better with a net favorability rating of -23%, as 37% of respondents expressed a favorable opinion and 60% expressed an unfavorable opinion.


[Photo by: Cooper Dahlen-Pagnao]

With that being said, many are questioning why two of the most controversial names in politics are leading the pack.

“If both of them are our only options, we will end up being unhappy with whoever the president is,” says Shelby Griffin, a junior.

While there is no denying that Clinton and Trump have a lot of supporters, it is evident that they have just as many, if not more, detractors to counteract that support.


[Photo by: Cooper Dahlen-Pagano]

“There are separate reasons for them to have made it this far,” says Seth Masket, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Denver and author of “No Middle Ground: How Informal Party Organizations Control Nominations and Polarize Legislatures”.

Masket attributes Clinton’s success to years of building alliances within the Democratic party and positioning herself in the middle of many issues dear to them. From her experience as the First Lady to her service as the Secretary of State, she has been working to build on the coalition her husband ran on in 1992. Despite the fact that her public image is somewhat concerning, the party still sees Clinton as strong candidate because she can advance many things that suit their best interests.

Trump got into his position by taking the opposite approach, positioning himself as a political outsider. As many Americans are fed up with the current state of the government, Trump has capitalized on what makes him different. According to Masket, he was able to take advantage of a disorganized party and managed to override what their leadership wanted, something which ultimately resonates with a lot of voters.

Despite the qualities that have allowed Clinton and Trump to succeed, one might wonder why a candidate with a higher favorability rating, such as Bernie Sanders, hasn’t been able to stop them.

As Clinton and Trump were already notable public figures before they announced their presidential bids, their name recognition helped put them ahead in the race from the get-go. As they have been leading in the polls since declaring their candidacy, the publicity that has accompanied their lead has helped them gain support while simultaneously hurting their public image.

“In some ways it’s reversing what goes on. Candidates that are not leading in the polls don’t get as much scrutiny as those who are,” Masket explains. “There is usually much tougher news reporting and much tougher attack ads towards the people who are winning.”

In other words, those who are leading the polls get more negative coverage than those who are not. A candidate like Sanders can much more easily maintain a stronger favorability rating because he is less susceptible to bad press than Clinton and Trump are as an underdog. Masket asserts that news reporters generally won’t do as much critical stories or hardcore research on candidates that don’t appear to have as much of a chance.

That being said, the leading candidates are more likely to be attacked as they gain more support. However, while negative press has hurt every contemporary presidential nominee in some form, Clinton and Trump are faced with a large group of voters who don’t like either of them.

According to a Politico survey, 59% of respondents said that they are dissatisfied with their current group of choices and 65% of respondents are at least somewhat open to considering a candidate who is neither Clinton or Trump. In fact, a hypothetical independent candidate wins a ballot test with voters that have a negative opinion of both of candidates.

Yet despite the interest for an opposing candidate, Masket doesn’t believe there is room for a third party to come into the race this year. Regardless of the overall unfavorability ratings of both Clinton and Trump, both are demonstrating an ability to win their own parties over.


[Photo by: Cooper Dahlen-Pagano]

“I think it is because the type of person who goes out to vote is different than the person who complains about it,” says Tineke Naseff, a freshman. “The type of people who do vote are voting for them.”

Whether or not an independent candidate can make a mark on this election remains to be seen, but a lot of each candidate’s support comes from a resistance to their rival. As reported by an NBC News survey, 33% of Clinton supporters say that the most important reason for their support is an opposition to Trump and 36% of Trump supporters say that the most important reason for their support is an opposition to Clinton.


[Photo by: Cooper Dahlen-Pagano]

“I think this means there is general government unfavorability,” says Riley Wittmann, a recent graduate. “People aren’t satisfied with either of the parties and their leadership.”

Both Clinton and Trump have been making strong efforts to protest their opponent throughout their campaigns so far and as both are equally critical of each other, we shouldn’t expect them to tone down anytime soon. In fact, a glimpse at their social media accounts indicates how high the stakes are for us this November.

“I know how hard this job is, and I know that we need steadiness as well as strength and smarts in it. I have concluded Donald J. Trump is not qualified to be President of the United States,” Hillary Clinton posted on Facebook on May 19.

“Hillary Clinton is not qualified to be president because her judgment has been proven to be so bad! Would be four more years of stupidity!” Donald Trump tweeted on May 22.

It is shaping up to be a close election as Clinton and Trump are now neck-and-neck in the polls. The real question now is if our next president will be elected because they are more favorable or less unfavorable.

“Both sides are very fearful of what the other side’s victory would look like,” Masket stated.




One thought on “The lesser of two evils: Clinton and Trump fight against their own unfavorability

  1. It’s a very interesting and scary time in America. I personally believe that neither side represent their parties very well. I especially believe that neither candidate represents the average voter’s opinions very much at all. Our government as a whole needs to bring our two dominate parties closer to the middle, and put mechanisms in place that can help stop either party from going so far left or so far right again in the future.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s