Donald Trump ranks as the most unpopular top-tier presidential contender in more than 30 years of ABC News/Washington Post polls, trailing only former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke among presidential candidates in any election year since 1984.
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At the same time, the unpopularity of Trump’s main rival, Ted Cruz, has reached its highest level yet this election cycle. John Kasich breaks even in basic popularity, with many – at this late stage of the primary season – still yet to form an opinion of the Ohio governor.
Trump’s seen unfavorably by 67 percent of Americans in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. That’s unchanged from last month and slightly off his high, 71 percent unfavorable in an ABC/Post poll nearly year ago. A majority strongly dislikes him, also unprecedented for a leading candidate.
Duke was rated unfavorably by 69 percent of Americans in an ABC/Post poll in February 1992; he went on to win fewer than 120,000 votes, and no delegates in his bid for that year’s GOP presidential nomination. Trump has won more than 8 million votes to date.
Within his party, 56 percent of Republicans see Trump favorably, and it’s similar for Cruz, 58 percent, while lower for the lesser-known Kasich, 47 percent. The difference among all adults is that independents and especially Democrats hold more negative views of Trump than of either of his competitors. Kasich has the most cross-partisan appeal.
Notably, about four in 10 Republicans see each of these candidates unfavorably. For comparison, Mitt Romney was seen favorably by 69 percent of Republicans at this time in 2012 and unfavorably by just 20 percent.
The leading Democratic candidate also is under water. Hillary Clinton was seen unfavorably by 52 percent in an ABC/Post poll last month, 2 percentage points from her worst, 54 percent unfavorable in April 2008. That was the highest unpopularity in ABC/Post polling for any Democratic Party candidate in an election year, albeit still far lower than Trump’s.
Other presidential candidates with high unfavorable ratings have included Pat Buchanan with 60 percent in 2000, Ross Perot with 58 percent in 1996, Jeb Bush with 58 percent this cycle, Newt Gingrich with 56 percent in 2012 and Romney with 52 percent, also in 2012. Other than Hillary Clinton, no Democratic presidential candidate has had election-year negative ratings higher than 50 percent.
Among nominees (rather than candidates) the election-year high for a Republican was 53 percent unfavorable for George H.W. Bush during his unsuccessful re-election bid in 1992. Among Democrats, it was Walter Mondale’s 49 percent negative rating on his way to a general election drubbing at the hands of Ronald Reagan in 1984. (Barack Obama hit 50 percent unfavorable in December 2011, a month before that election year began.)
Highly negative views of 2016’s leading candidates may reflect the hyperpartisan climate that has been building in recent years, also evident in previously unseen levels of ideological polarization among primary voters this year. There’s also the level of in-party factionalism this year, especially on the Republican side.
Cruz, while better-rated than Trump, has lost ground; his 53 percent negative rating among all adults is up 10 points since January to a high in more than a year of polling. Just 36 percent see him positively. Kasich’s 39-39 percent favorable-unfavorable rating makes him the only GOP candidate not under water in this basic gauge of personal popularity.
That said, within the GOP, Cruz has a +20-point net positive score; Trump’s is +14 and Kasich’s +7. Cruz does vastly better among his biggest backers in the primaries, very conservative Republicans, +55 points in favorability, vs. +1 for Kasich and -1 for Trump. (The sample size of very conservative Republicans is small, but the result is significant and aligns with exit polls.)
Cruz, though, sustains a sharp drop-off among less conservative Republicans, to +7, compared to +23 in this group for Trump (and +9 for Kasich).
Kasich breaks about even in popularity among political independents and Democrats alike. Cruz is far behind, -25 and -39 from independents and Democrats, respectively; Trump, -37 and a remarkable -75.
Among other groups, Trump continues to do much worse among women, -51 in popularity, than among men, -22. That includes a big difference among Republican men and women, +30 vs. -4. Cruz and Kasich have no appreciable gender gap.
Trump also has a massive race/ethnicity gap. While he’s more unpopular than popular by 20 points among whites, that balloons to 65 points among nonwhites, including -84 and -66 among blacks and Hispanics, respectively. Cruz is seen similarly by whites and nonwhites, while Kasich is +7 among whites, -15 among nonwhites.
Finally, Trump’s education gap also continues, and he’s joined here by Cruz: Both are more unpopular among college graduates than among non-grads. It’s the opposite pattern for Kasich.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cell phone April 6-10, 2016, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,010 adults, including 290 Republicans, 333 Democrats and 339 independents. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points for the full sample, and 7, 6.5 and 6.5 points for Republicans, Democrats and independents, respectively. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by SSRS of Media, Pa. See details on the survey’s methodology here.