Most voters unenthusiastic about the presidential field

WASHINGTON – Most American voters are enthusiastic at best about the 2016 field of presidential candidates in both parties.

That’s according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll, which shows that a majority of Americans believe none of the remaining candidates for president represents their opinions at least somewhat well.

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At least half of Americans say they would be disappointed or even angry if either of the front-runners — Donald Trump for the Republicans or Hillary Clinton for the Democrats — are nominated, the survey shows. And a quarter said they would be disappointed or angry if both win nominations. Still another quarter would feel at best neutral if both are nominated.

Among all registered voters, 63 per cent say they wouldn’t consider voting for Trump and half say the same about Clinton.

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About one-fifth of those surveyed say they’d either probably or definitely vote for a third-party candidate if Trump and Clinton are the nominees.

Roland Bauer, 64, a retiree from Winter Springs, Florida, doesn’t plan to vote if Clinton and Trump are nominated. “I don’t trust politicians,” he says. “Everybody is on the take.”

Bruce Bertsch, a libertarian and retired human resources director from San Diego, says the public’s lukewarm reaction to the major-party hopefuls doesn’t come from disinterest or apathy — quite the opposite. Here’s how his friends and family see the candidates:

“Hillary Clinton is a liar. Donald Trump is an idiot. And Bernie (Sanders)? He’s an old fool,” Bertsch, 78, said by telephone Monday. To Bertsch, the Republican and Democratic competitors look like this: “The Democrats want to spend my money. The Republicans want to tell me how to live my life — and then spend my money.”

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The AP-GfK poll suggests the general election, after the parties name nominees, will be less about emotional appeals and inspiration and more about getting actual voters to cast votes before the end of Election Day. It’s what insiders call the “ground game.” And much of it is played over the airwaves at enormous expense.

“In the general election, it’s an air war,” said former Republican strategist Rich Galen, author of a political blog. “The goal is to get not only your people out to vote, but to get these people who are maybe sitting on the sidelines excited enough to come out and join the game.”

Even within their own parties, neither Trump nor Clinton generates much enthusiasm. Only 26 per cent of Democratic voters say they’d be excited about Clinton being their nominee, and 27 per cent say they’d be satisfied. Another 23 per cent would feel neutral, 19 per cent would be disappointed and 5 per cent would be angry, the poll found.

Trump fares even worse among Republican voters, with 19 per cent saying they’d be enthusiastic, 19 per cent satisfied, 20 per cent neutral, 25 per cent disappointed and 16 per cent angry.

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Less than half of Americans say any of the remaining candidates, including Vermont Sen. Sanders, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz or Ohio Gov. John Kasich, comes close to representing their opinions on the issues.

And in a year dominated by Trump-generated theatrics and the billionaire businessman’s so-far scant policy details, substance matters, most voters say. Nearly 9 in 10 Americans call a candidate’s positions on the issues extremely or very important to them.

Among all the remaining candidates, only Sanders, Clinton’s Democratic rival, generates significantly more positive than negative ratings from Americans, with 48 per cent saying they have a favourable opinion of him and 39 per centunfavourable. He’s also the only candidate described by a majority of Americans as at least somewhat likable, civil, honest and compassionate.

Nearly 7 in 10 Americans have an unfavourable view of Trump, nearly 6-in-10 have an unfavourable view of Cruz and a majority — 55 per cent — have an unfavourable view of Clinton, according to the poll.

Americans are fairly evenly divided on Kasich, with 34 per cent expressing a favourable view and 31 per cent an unfavourable one. Another 34 per cent still don’t know enough about him to say.

The AP-GfK Poll of 1,076 adults used a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.