The fact that most Americans dislike both presidential candidates has a been a recurring observation in discussion of the 2016 campaign, one that has fed the sense that the public must be hankering for a third party, an independent candidate, or some other fantasy league alternative to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. A closer look has shown that this “fact” emerges from a misreading of the national data. Data from polling in Texas shows that it’s not true of Texas voters, either. Large shares of Texans have unfavorable views of one candidate or the other, but only a much smaller share have negative attitudes toward both candidates.
Over at the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog, political scientists John Sides and Alan Abramowitz pointed out that news reports highlighting the deep well of disapproval for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been misleading people to think that large shares of Americans dislike both candidates. At the national level, and here in Texas, this is not the case.
The same high unfavorable ratings that created the misperception that most Americans dislike both candidates have been in evidence in our polling in Texas. While 56 and 59 percent of Texas voters expressed an unfavorable opinion of Trump and Clinton, respectively, in the June 2016 UT/Texas Politics Project Poll – similar to the 6 in 10 number being touted nationally – only 23 percent of Texas voters held an unfavorable view of both candidates. Similarly, approximately 20 percent of registered voters in Texas said that both Clinton and Trump would make a “poor” or “terrible” president.
Among the roughly fifth of voters in the state who have an unfavorable view of both candidates, 22 percent nonetheless say that they’re going to vote for Trump in November, while 8 percent say that they’ll vote for Clinton – a fair breakdown given that 57 percent identify as Republicans and 24 percent identify as Democrats – with the remaining 62 percent saying that they’ll vote for someone else. The inclusion of Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson does little to change this dynamic, drawing away approximately 23 percent from the “someone else” group without appreciably changing Trump or Clinton’s vote shares.
We’ve written previously about the uphill battle and shaky logic behind those who want to interpret Trump’s rise as putting Texas in play for Clinton, and this is another variation on that theme. Even amongst those voters who view both candidates negatively - who are more likely to identify as Republicans than as Democrats (no surprise in a very Republican state) -- they’re still more predisposed towards Trump than Clinton in November.