Canary in Coal Mine: Trouble Ahead for Poll Leaders Trump and Clinton

The two candidates are leading the polls but much can change in time.

— -- The two presidential candidates rated as least favorable, most untrustworthy, and least likely to care about the needs and problems of regular folks are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and they are leading their respective party primaries.

This is just one interesting element of a new national poll released today by Quinnipiac University. Understanding that this is only one national poll and much can change with time, I wanted to relate seven insights I gleaned from this most recent survey of voters for the general election and for the party primaries.

1. As we have seen previously, the electorate is incredibly polarized, with Republicans and Democrats lining up nearly unanimously with their parties' candidates for House, Senate and president. You only see 1% or 2% defection to the opposing party. As I have written recently, it is Independents who will decide next year’s election outcome, and as of today they are slightly leaning voting Republican up and down the ballot -- except for Trump, who they are opposed to in the general election.

2. Hillary Clinton’s unfavorable rating today is a net negative 11 points, and among Independents it is a net negative 18 points. She started out the campaign in March with a positive net of 3 points so she has deteriorated badly in the course of four months. Trump today has a disastrous net negative favorable rating of minus 32 points overall and among Independents.

3. Hillary is viewed as not honest and trustworthy by an amazing 57% of the country and by 62% of Independents. The opinion of Trump is just as bad, being viewed by 58% as not trustworthy. This is a difficult platform for either to run a campaign from if they don’t fix it, and even more problematic in attempting to govern the country if they were to win.

4. And on the very important quality of "cares about needs and problems of average people" (which Democrats always seem to score well on), 52% say Hillary doesn't. And 63% say Trump doesn't care about needs and problems of regular voters. Again, this is a deep flaw that both retain going into this election cycle.

5. So why are they ahead in their respective primaries and what does this mean? Much is driven by name identification as well as the lack of a true dominant counter force in their primaries. But keep in mind voter support is a lagging indicator of this race, and the leading indicators to watch are likability, qualities of connection, and trustworthiness. They are the canaries in the coal mine signaling problems ahead. Hillary and Trump are very vulnerable to being beaten -- Hillary more likely in the general election, Trump in the primary because of the different bases of support.

6. Across the board the number one issue most voters care about is the economy and jobs. It isn't social issues, guns, immigration, terrorism or the environment. And this is true whether you are a Democrat, Republican or Independent. Most voters still feel left out of any recovery and their financial situation has been unchanged for 25 years.

7. When asked to pick the most important personal quality in deciding their vote from a choice of "honest/trustworthy," "strong leadership," and "cares about your needs" voters chose "honest/trustworthy" as most important followed closely by "cares about you." While Hillary and Trump each have strong leadership qualities going for them in the polling, they are flawed on the two most important attributes. And this is where their opponents should take them on, especially in the Republican primary. If you are a Republican candidate don't go after Trump as crazy or wrong on the issues, but as untrustworthy and that he really doesn't care about you, and this then sets you up to run the same campaign against Hillary. Use issues as a prism to make a value argument against both Trump and Hillary.

Again this is just a moment in time, but this new poll seems to in sync with a trend line we are seeing in this race. While Hillary remains wildly popular among Democratic partisans, she still has some vulnerability in the Democratic primary, but her real problem is in the general election if Republicans nominate a reasonable alternative. And even though Trump is doing well in this moment and leads the primary, he is weighted down with major problems, and any rise by a strong alternative that can be trusted will quickly take him down. All in all an incredibly fascinating race is unfolding.

There you have it.

Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not reflect the views of ABC News.