Projecting Another Close Race

May 7, 2015 — The worldwide GfK Public Affairs research organization, in conjunction with the Associated Press, conducted a nationwide poll of American attitudes and perceptions for the coming presidential election year.

The survey of 1,077 US adults was conducted during the April 23-27 period. The methodology appears very sound, correctly capturing the national demographic percentage divisions on race, religion, political party, and education level. Though the survey screened for registered voters and found that 80 percent of the respondents can participate in elections, the results were not divided into specific reporting segments. Overall, the GfK-AP polling conclusions appear methodologically consistent with a high degree of reliability.

Since this is an issues and attitudes poll, no ballot test questions were asked. The aggregate polling sample has a decidedly negative outlook, though, as only two of 17 presidential candidates (12 Republicans and five Democrats) were found with higher positive ratings than negative. Hillary Clinton (D) and Dr. Ben Carson (R) were the two individuals posting favorable ratios – 46:41 percent for Clinton, while Carson registered 15:12 percent – but neither of these totals are particularly impressive.

But, the positive news for Clinton apparently ends here. Confirming the results of the recent Rasmussen Reports poll that revealed a majority of Americans do not trust the former Secretary of State and First Lady, the more extensive GfK-AP data seconds those conclusions.

In this definitive survey, only 37 percent responded that the term “honest” either very well or somewhat well describes Clinton versus 61 percent who said the word does not accurately depict her. She did well with the terms “decisive” (56-42 percent agreeing versus disagreeing that Clinton possesses this quality) and “strong” (61-37 percent; the exact opposite of the response to the term “honest”), but fared poorly with “likeable” (44-53 percent), and “inspiring” (44-54 percent). Like the Rasmussen results, this poll suggests that Clinton’s image has suffered in relation to the email flap and foreign money (contributed to the Clinton Foundation) issue, which certainly weakens her political position as the presidential campaign begins.

Additionally, the results aren’t particularly good for the Democratic Party in general. Though the sample correctly reflects the approximate nine to 10 percentage point advantage Democrats enjoy in national partisan identification, the two parties score similarly in questions pertaining to public confidence.

In terms of “handling the economy” and “handling immigration”, Democrats are the party of preference, but only by slight 30-27 percent and 30-26 percent margins, respectively. Sixteen percent felt both parties handle the economy equally well, while 15 percent said the same about immigration. This is in contrast to 27 percent believing that neither party does a good job with the economy, and 29 percent saying that both fail on immigration.

Swinging the paradigm more negatively for the Democrats, however, is President Obama’s poor standing on both of these topics. The GfK-AP polling respondents do not approve of the president’s managing of the economy (46-53 percent positive to negative), or the immigration issue (42-57 percent).

Democrats do much better than Republicans in “handling health care”, 34-24 percent (13 percent saying both parties handle it equally well, and 28 percent saying neither), but Republicans record a very strong advantage (31-18 percent) on “protecting the country”. Here, 27 percent said both parties protect the country equally well, with 23 percent believing that neither performs adequately.

The Republicans also do better in the realm of “handling an international crisis” – by a margin of 27-22 percent, the respondents feel the GOP performs better – while the Democrats gain a slight 26-24 percent edge when asked which party does better in “handling the US image abroad”.

Again in these latter realms, President Obama fares poorly. Though Democrats have a ten point advantage over Republicans concerning health care, the president scores an upside down 44:55 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio regarding his job performance in this area. He also registers a poor 42:57 percent in his “handling of the US role in world affairs”. In terms of Obama’s overall job performance, the respondents give him an upside down 45:55 percent score. In comparison, Congress records a disastrous 19:80 percent approval ratio.

Should these trends maintain themselves throughout the election cycle, it becomes apparent that neither party would hold any discernible public confidence advantage. This portends another close election on the 2016 horizon.

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