Unprecedented favorability ratings hinder presidential candidates

With fewer than 65 days until the general election, presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton seek to overcome historically low favorability numbers in their quests to replace two-term president Barack Obama.

According to RealClearPolitics, a group that averages reputable polls, Trump faces a 23.1 percent favorability deficit—meaning that while 36 percent of America views Trump favorably, 59.1 percent view him unfavorably. While Clinton also has negative favorability ratings, RealClearPolitics only presents a 14 percent deficit—much smaller than that of Trump.

Favorability ratings this negative are uncommon for American political figures, especially presidential candidates. However, Clinton and Trump have been experiencing similar numbers since early in the election cycle. According to RealClearPolitics’ favorability rating archive, Trump has never had ratings better than a 19.8 percent deficit. Clinton, while once holding positive favorable ratings, has not been above a nine percent deficit since late January.

While elections are not won strictly by favorability, they nonetheless speak to the political mood of the electorate and can project political motives. In this election, however, the polling averages appear to show a common message: Hillary Clinton is in a favorable position but is not invulnerable.

FiveThirtyEight, an organization that produces its average through an aggregation of state polls, weighted for the polling firm’s historical accuracy, currently shows Clinton leading Trump 42.1 percent to 38.7 percent (with 8.2 percent going to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson). While FiveThirtyEight has given Clinton approximately a 70 percent chance of winning this November (based on their statistical model), they have also predicted a tightening in poll numbers, suggesting that this 70 percent is not unmovable.

The uncertain nature of this presidential election, along with the negative favorability ratings, has created a unique and often negative political atmosphere. This atmosphere does not go unmatched at Notre Dame, where campus political groups have been eager to participate in the national debate.

Especially unique to an election with such unpopular nominees is the call for party groups to defend the endorsement of their nominee.

Dylan Stevenson, Vice President of Notre Dame College Republicans, told the Rover that he was “surprised there were some people who were so vehemently opposed to [the College Republicans’] support of Trump” and noted that “the Notre Dame College Republicans has supported every GOP candidate since our founding.”

Stevenson also “[encouraged] voters to look past the blowhard nature of his personality and to look at the policies that will secure our borders, protect our second amendment rights, and restore the American manufacturing sector.”

However, for Andrew Galo, Co-President of Notre Dame College Democrats, this explanation is not sufficient. He told the Rover, “[T]he College Republicans were clear: they endorse Donald Trump and all he stands for. Any attempts to soften this endorsement are disingenuous at best.”

While Republicans have been left to defend their candidate, Democrats have been cast in a similar boat with Hillary Clinton, who has been caught in a long-lived scandal regarding a private email server used during her tenure as Secretary of State.

When asked about the recent news that the government will release the rest of Clinton’s emails, Stevenson said, “The notion that a First Lady, senator, and Secretary of State would not understand how to properly use a secure server is nonsensical. [Clinton’s] unsecured server put American information, national security, and lives at risk. This is the corruption and negligence that she will continue if she wins the Oval Office. I hope these emails help people realize that.”

Like Stevenson, Andrew Galo of the College Democrats advocated that voters look past the day-to-day drama of the campaign, claiming these attacks to be “unprecedented” and saying that “at this point, her email use is a non-issue and has become another tool of the right to further harm the Clintons’ public image.”

Galo also said, in contrast to Stevenson, that “numerous Congressional investigations and even an FBI investigation all turned up the same conclusions: Hillary Clinton’s email server and her handling of internal correspondence were not unlawful, nor did they harm U.S. national security.”

Adam Battalio is a junior studying economics and constitutional studies. He is also studying how to bring Reagan back to life for the 2016 election. If you know a guy, you can reach him at abattali@nd.edu.