GW Battleground Poll: American Electorate Skeptical of All 2016 Candidates

Almost three-quarters of voters are somewhat or very worried about another economic downturn.

Battleground Poll
May 11, 2015

Americans’ pessimism about the current state of the country extends to the field of candidates for the 2016 presidential race, according to a new George Washington University Battleground Poll.

The survey asked likely voters for their opinions on each of 11 announced or likely candidates, including whether the respondents’ impression of each is favorable and whether they would consider voting for each.

Voters are evenly split on Democrat Hillary Clinton (47 percent favorable, 48 percent unfavorable; 47 percent would consider, 51 percent would not) and strongly negative on presumptive Republican candidate Jeb Bush (35 favorable, 48 unfavorable; 36 would consider, 60 percent would not).

Several Republican candidates have nearly evenly split favorability ratings but face large percentages of the electorate who have never heard of them, including Ted Cruz (26 percent), Scott Walker (47), Marco Rubio (26), Rand Paul (18), Mike Huckabee (16) and Carly Fiorina (60).

“These results show that the American electorate's deep, broad and chronic pessimism about jobs and economic security translates into across-the-board hostility toward the 2016 presidential candidates,” said Michael Cornfield, research director of the GW Global Center for Political Engagement and associate professor in the Graduate School of Political Management. “Campaigners face stiff suspicions and a preference for political effectiveness over ideological affinity.”

The poll, which surveyed 1,000 registered likely voters nationwide May 3-6, has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent and was conducted in partnership with The Tarrance Group and Lake Research Partners.

The opinions of the candidates mirrored the public’s impression of the country as a whole. Strong majorities say the country is on the wrong track and that “the next generation” will not be better off economically than the current one. Voters identified the economy (23 percent) and jobs (14 percent) as the top two issues for the next president to focus on. Almost three-quarters are somewhat (41 percent) or very (32 percent) worried about another economic downturn.

"As the 2016 presidential campaign gets underway, Americans are searching for a leader who understands the nation’s fundamental economic challenges as the threats to security—both personal financial security and shared national security—that they are, and who will act with a sense of urgency to address those challenges," said Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners.

Voters’ pessimism translates into a desire for a more effective Washington apparatus. Roughly three in five poll respondents said they would vote for the candidate who they believe “will be the most effective at getting things done in Washington” as opposed to a candidate “whose views most closely match (their) own.”

President Barack Obama’s current approval rating is 45 percent, according to the poll.

On the topic of national security, 51 percent of likely voters approve of U.S. efforts against the Islamic State, while 41 percent disapprove, a jump of 10 percentage points from December 2014. The poll found 64 percent of respondents had heard about Mr. Obama’s tentative nuclear agreement with Iran. They were evenly split on whether they approve of such a deal.

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