Negative Campaign Takes Toll on Public Images of Trump, Cruz and Clinton

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Bernie Sanders and John Kasich Show Improvements –

By Frank Newport and Glynn Wilson –

The rough and tumble nature of the 2016 primary and caucus season is taking its toll on the public images of leading presidential candidates, according to the latest Gallup poll.

The public images of Republican celebrity and business man Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz have suffered significant drops in recent months, and the image of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has slipped marginally, according to Gallup.

“Trump continues to have the most negative image of any of the five active presidential candidates,” Gallup says. “Cruz’s image has suffered as much as Trump’s, although he remains the better liked of the two GOP contenders.”

At the same time the images of Democrat Bernie Sanders’ and Republican John Kasich’s have improved, according to Gallup, which says, “Kasich now has the most positive net favorable rating of any of these five candidates.”


“Americans’ views of these candidates have fluctuated, but in the past several months, the intense focus of the primary and caucus season has clearly affected the images of all five,” Gallup says.

Trump has always had the worst image of any of these five candidates, according to Gallup, and his image has slipped further among Americans since January. His current -35 net favorable rating (30% favorable and 65% unfavorable) is the worst for him in any month since tracking began.

Cruz, like Trump, has seen his image deteriorate in recent months, and Cruz’s net favorable score of -16 (based on 32% favorable and 48% unfavorable) is now the second lowest of the five candidates. Cruz used to be significantly more popular; at one point in November, he was basically tied with Kasich and Sanders as having the highest net favorable rating of any of these five candidates.

Clinton’s image has been somewhat more stable than both Trump’s and Cruz’s over the past six months, according to Gallup. Her net favorable rating dropped modestly in February and has stayed at that level in March. Her current net favorable score of -11 (42% favorable and 53% unfavorable) puts her in the middle of the pack.

“Kasich and Sanders — most likely as a result of their not being perceived as front-runners and thus being out of the main focus of campaign brickbats and intense media coverage — have both seen significant improvement in their images as they have become better known,” Gallup says.

Both still lag their party’s front-runner in the percentage of Americans who are familiar with them, and they are the only candidates with net favorable images in positive territory.

Sanders, Kasich and Cruz have all seen their name recognition increase by double digits since July. Kasich remains the least known of any of the candidates, according to Gallup, with a familiarity score of 62 percent, up by 34 percentage points since July. About eight in 10 Americans know of Sanders and Cruz.

“Sanders’ jump from 44 percent familiarity in July to 82 percent today is the largest gain among any of these candidates,” Gallup says.

Trump and Clinton were already well-known when Gallup tracking began last July. Their familiarity scores have edged up in the months since, and are now at the point where they have nearly universal recognition levels of 94 to 95 percent.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted on a monthly basis from July 8, 2015, to March 28, 2016, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with each candidate rated each month by a random sample of between 3,648 and 7,302 national adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on each month’s total sample of national adults rating each candidate, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60 percent cellphone respondents and 40 percent landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.