Donald Trump won the GOP presidential nomination over the loud objections of more than a few leading Republicans. But as our collective attention turns to the general election, most Republicans appear to be falling in line behind the nominee – even if they’re gritting their teeth to do it.
A national survey this week from Public Policy Polling finds Hillary Clinton with a four-point edge on Trump, 42-38, with Libertarian Gary Johnson at 4 percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein at 2 percent. (Johnson and Stein are actually pulling more votes from Clinton than Trump; take them away and Clinton’s lead would jump to six points.)
For all the talk about GOP disunity, though, Trump gets almost exactly as much support from Republicans as Clinton gets from Democrats. Clinton leads Trump 78-9 among Democrats, while Trump leads Clinton 78-7 among Republicans; 72 percent of Republicans say they’re comfortable with Trump as their party’s nominee, while 75 percent of Democrats say they’re comfortable with Clinton. (The number of Republicans and Democrats who say they’re uncomfortable with their party’s frontrunner? Exactly the same in both parties, 21 percent.)
Those numbers may be disappointing to Democrats who were hoping for a fractured GOP this fall – but PPP director Tom Jensen says there’s plenty of good news here for Democrats too. For one, the undecided voters in a Clinton/Trump matchup tend to be supporters of Bernie Sanders – Clinton/Trump undecideds favor Sanders over Trump by a 41-8 margin – so if Clinton does end up winning the nomination, she may be able to expand her lead in a big way merely by winning over Sanders’ supporters. (The Clinton/Sanders race has been contentious, but Jensen says he does expect the party to come together sooner or later. At this time in 2008, he says, nearly half of Clinton’s supporters were telling pollsters they wouldn’t vote for Obama that fall – far more than the number of Sanders supporters who say they won’t support Clinton now – but almost all those voters did wind up supporting Obama in the end.)
And while Clinton’s popularity ratings remain low, Jensen says Trump’s are even lower: only 34 percent of voters approve of him, against 61 percent who disapprove. (And Trump’s supporters still tend to be on the fringes when it comes to their political views: nearly two-thirds of them say they think Barack Obama is a Muslim, for instance, and nearly three-fifths say they still don’t believe he was born in the US.) To drive home the point, PPP tested Trump in head-to-head matchups with other despised things: voters prefer lice to Donald Trump by a 54-28 margin, root canals to Donald Trump by a 49-38 margin, used car salesmen to Donald Trump by a 47-41 margin, and the band Nickelback to Donald Trump by a 39-34 margin.
(Trump does win head-to-head battles with cockroaches and hemorrhoids, though. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.)
Tom Jensen spoke Thursday with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.
Jensen says even if the GOP does end up unifying around its nominee, Trump’s place at the top of the ballot may still haunt the party in the general election. Democrats lead Republicans 46-41 in a generic Congressional ballot – not enough of a lead for Democrats to regain control of the House of Representatives, but enough for Democrats to pick up several seats in both houses (and possibly retake the Senate). Voters also say (by a 45-26 margin) that they’d be less likely to vote for a candidate if that candidate endorses Trump for president.
And the thought of Donald Trump in the White House is also making voters more likely to want the Senate to vote now on President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court. Only 38 percent of voters say they trust Trump to make a Supreme Court nomination, against 53 percent who don’t; 58 percent of Americans say they want the vacant seat filled this year (up slightly from two months ago); and 50 percent of voters say they’d be less likely to vote for a Senator if that Senator blocked Merritt Garland’s confirmation hearings. (Only 18 percent say they’d be more likely to vote for such a candidate.)