On the eve of the major party conventions, voters are grudgingly rallying around the nominees while expressing broad misgivings about the candidates, the campaign and the direction of the country, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.
More than a third of Republicans say they are disappointed or upset that Donald Trump, who crashed the party’s nominating process, will represent them in the fall campaign; an equal number say he does not represent the values the party should stand for.
Democrats are only marginally happier with Hillary Clinton as their party’s candidate. A quarter of Democratic voters say they are disappointed in her as the nominee; an additional 7 percent say they are upset. More promisingly for her, three-quarters say Clinton stands for the core values and principles of the Democratic Party.
The broad discontent is reflected in the head-to-head contest, which has Trump and Clinton tied at 40 percent. Trump’s standing has held steady for weeks at about 40 percentage points, while Clinton has polled in the mid-40s in most public surveys.
The latest Times/CBS News Poll was conducted after the FBI rebuked her for her email practices but before Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, her persistent primary rival, endorsed her this week. So the dip in her standing could be temporary if the Democrats, who are more united as a party than the Republicans, pull off a successful convention in Philadelphia.
In a development not seen in any modern presidential contest, more than half of all voters hold unfavorable views of the two major party candidates, and large majorities say neither is honest and trustworthy. Only half of voters say Clinton is prepared to be president, while two-thirds say that Trump is not ready for the job — including four in 10 Republicans.
Peter Lieb, 54, a middle school history teacher in West Palm Beach, Fla., voted for Gov. John Kasich of Ohio in the Florida primary and said in a follow-up interview that he was only reluctantly planning to vote for Trump in November.
“Honestly?” Lieb said. “Last man standing.”
“I am not a full-throated supporter of Donald Trump, but given the alternatives that I’m presented with, he is the best person for the task at hand,” he said. “And the task at hand in my opinion is regaining economic stability and regaining America’s stature in the world. I don’t see Hillary Clinton doing a constructive job in either.”
The nationwide poll was conducted July 8-12 on cellphones and landlines among 1,358 registered voters. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points for all voters.
Pre-convention polls are often erratic, and political analysts and campaign managers put more stock in polls taken after both parties have formally nominated their candidates. And national polls, while useful as a gauge of broad sentiment, are less reliable than state polls in predicting the ultimate outcome. Clinton enjoys strong advantages in many of the swing states she will need to secure victory in the Electoral College.
Clinton still leads in averages of recent polls, though her margin has narrowed since late June. The latest Times/CBS News poll could be an indication of an even tighter race. Yet Trump has not led a national poll that meets The Times’s polling standards since mid-May, just after he won enough delegates to secure the Republican nomination.
While the race may be narrow, the gloom appears broad.
Rachel Woolard, 20, of Jacksonville, Fla., supported Sanders in the primary but now says she will, with misgivings, probably vote for Clinton.
“Bernie seemed to be more transparent than her,” said Woolard, a college student. “She definitely has the stereotypical politician approach to things, so that makes her feel a little disingenuous.”
Woolard is not yet fully committed to voting for Clinton. But she knows whom she is voting against. “I know for a fact that I’m not voting for Trump.”
Laura Schrock, 36, a homemaker and political independent in Greenwood, Del., said she will not vote for Trump or Clinton.
“At this point, the plan is to vote for the Libertarian candidate,” she said, referring to Gary Johnson. “I highly value being real and being very honest. And I’m just not getting that from either one.”
In a three-way contest, Johnson has 12 percent, while Trump and Clinton are tied with 36 percent.
Republicans and Democrats are divided by more than political philosophy and their choice of presidential candidates. They hold very different views of the state of the nation, the Times/CBS News poll found.
>> 86 percent of Trump supporters disapprove of the job President Barack Obama is doing; 90 percent of Clinton backers approve.
>> More than nine in 10 Trump supporters say the country is on the wrong track; fewer than half of Clinton supporters agree.
>> About three-quarters of Trump supporters favor building a wall along the Mexican border; only 13 percent of Clinton’s backers do so.
>> Four of five Trump supporters do not like the way the nation’s values are changing; only about half as many Clinton supporters agree.
Voters of all persuasions share one sentiment, however. Six in 10 Republicans, Democrats and independents say they are not looking forward to the next few months of the campaign.