Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are widely disliked by voters, and both parties will need to repair schisms that might spell doom in an ordinary election year.
An overwhelming majority of Republican voters say their party’s leaders should get behind Donald Trump, even as he enters the general election saddled with toxic favorability ratings among the broader electorate, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
As Trump faces deep skepticism with general-election voters and some Republican holdouts, the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, is grappling with Sen. Bernie Sanders and how to win over his impassioned supporters.
Both parties thus approach their July nominating conventions with significant unease and hurdles to overcome. Trump and Clinton are widely disliked by voters, and both parties will need to repair schisms that might spell doom in an ordinary election year. But this is no ordinary year.
Trump’s and Clinton’s soaring levels of unpopularity are extraordinary for the likely nominees of the two major parties. Nearly two-thirds of voters, for example, say Trump is not honest and trustworthy. Just as many say the same of Clinton. Strong majorities of voters say the candidates do not share their values.
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Trump’s difficulties appear to be more troublesome at the moment. If the election were held now, 47 percent of registered voters would support Clinton, versus 41 percent for Trump. Clinton’s head-to-head advantage has narrowed since Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee: Last month, she led him by 10 points in a CBS News poll.
In a more hypothetical matchup, Sanders leads Trump, 51 percent to 38 percent.
The survey reveals that Republican voters are starting to fall in line with Trump now that he is their apparent nominee — and that they expect party officials to do the same.
Eight in 10 Republican voters said their leaders should support Trump even if they disagree with him on important issues. And unfavorable views toward Trump among Republican voters have plummeted 15 percentage points since last month; 21 percent now express an unfavorable view of him, down from 36 percent in April.
Republican voters are drifting toward unity even though some party elites are still withholding their support. The House speaker, Paul Ryan, continues to deliberate over whether to endorse Trump, while other prominent Republicans are searching for a third-party nominee as an alternative.
Yet many of the party’s rank-and-file voters think that while Trump may be imperfect, the time has come to rally to their unlikely standard-bearer — if only to keep Clinton out of the White House.
“The reason I would support him is because the alternative is less favorable, in my opinion,” Delores Stockett, 76, a retired teacher from Osceola, Ark., said in a follow-up interview. “And I think Republican leaders should support him for the same reason I am supporting him. The alternative is not palatable to those of us who hold conservative views.”
Republican voters remain remarkably pessimistic about the state of their party. More than 8 in 10 call the party divided, and 43 percent say they are discouraged about its future. About two-thirds think Trump can unite the party this year.
By contrast, fewer than half of Democratic voters say their party is divided, and 8 in 10 are hopeful about its future. More than 8 in 10 think Clinton can unite the party after the primaries end next month.
However, Clinton is contending with resistance to her candidacy from supporters of Sanders as their contest carries on and grows more contentious. Twenty-eight percent of Sanders’ primary voters say they will not support her if she is the nominee, a figure that reflects the continuing anger many Sanders supporters feel toward Clinton and a process they believe is unfair.
“I don’t support her mostly because I don’t trust her,” said Will Lambert, 32, an engineer in Denver who supports Sanders. “If she became the nominee, I might vote for a third-party candidate, like the Green Party, or I might do a write-in for Bernie. I’m still not 100 percent decided, because I don’t necessarily want to see Trump elected, either. It’s a slim possibility that I might vote for Hillary, but then, I’m at a point in my life where I just don’t want to vote for the lesser of two evils.”
Still, the Democratic resistance is less widespread than it was in the 2008 primary. While 72 percent of Sanders’ supporters say they would vote for Clinton this fall, a Times/CBS News survey taken in early May 2008 found that only 60 percent of Clinton’s supporters said they would vote for Barack Obama in the general election.
Trump, his primary race decided, is confronting opposition from some voters in his party who backed other candidates. Three in 10 voters who supported other Republican candidates said they would not vote for Trump in November.
The nationwide telephone poll was conducted May 13-17 on cellphones and landlines with 1,300 adults, including 1,109 registered voters. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for all adults and for all voters.
Trump is hampered by a high level of contempt among important voting blocs. Only 21 percent of female voters view him favorably, while 60 percent view him unfavorably. A mere 14 percent of voters 18-29 view him positively, while 65 percent of such young voters have a negative opinion about him. And just 12 percent of nonwhite voters view Trump favorably, while 68 percent view him unfavorably.
Clinton fares little better. Just 23 percent of white voters view her favorably, while 63 percent of whites have an unfavorable view. Men dislike her almost as much as women dislike Trump: Only 26 percent of men view her favorably, and 58 percent hold an unfavorable perception of her.
One factor working in Clinton’s favor, though, is that the current Democrat in the White House is enjoying a modest rejuvenation. Fifty percent of Americans now approve of Obama’s job performance, his highest rating in more than three years.
Majorities say Trump and Clinton have strong leadership qualities. Trump, though, faces considerable questions over his demeanor and the effect it would have on the country. Seven in 10 voters say he does not have the right temperament to be president. And 61 percent say that electing him would worsen the United States’ image in the world.
Asked whether candidates for the presidency should release their tax returns, 6 in 10 said they should. Trump has refused to release any tax forms, saying last week that voters had no right to see them and telling an interviewer that his tax rate was “none of your business.”