Public Reputations of 2016 Presidential Candidates

When discussing contemporary politics, one of the most common questions I get asked is, “what do people see in (Candidate)? I don’t understand how anyone can think he/she would be a good president.” This is usually expressed in an incredulous tone suggesting the speaker is talking about the opposition party. I particularly get this question a lot after a candidate (cough – Trump – cough) says something outrageous or otherwise outside of the normal bounds of political discourse. This question, as much as anything, reflects the increasing extent to which republicans and democrats are having altogether different conversations in contemporary America. To help answer this question, Ipsos and Ask Your Target Market (AYTM) recently conducted a study on how and why Americans support several of the leading 2016 contenders.

Our data indicates that Republicans and Democrats are evaluating the leading candidates – Trump and Clinton – on widely different criteria. Democrats are looking at Clinton’s experience as her most prominent and praiseworthy characteristic. Republicans admire Trump’s blunt “guts to make tough choices”. The graphic below shows a 2D projection of how the American public views Clinton, Trump, Rubio, Carson and Sanders on a range of characteristics. The distance from the center indicates how far from the pack the candidate stands out on that attribute.


As this illustrates, Donald trump is seen as significantly different from everyone else in his “guts to make tough choices.” It’s this public reputation, combined with his pronouncements that line up with the attitudes of a significant number of Republican voters – if not the Republican establishment – that explains Trump’s appeal and resilience.

The chart below shows the results of several Ipsos/Reuters questions among Republicans. This data shows that a large part of the Republican electorate is concerned about Muslims in America.


So when Trump say he’ll bar all Muslim immigrants, he is speaking to the feelings of a sizable block of people. In doing so, he is living up to his public persona as the guy with “yooge” guts. That convergence between how he’s seen, what he’s saying and who he’s speaking to explains both his appeal and his ongoing resistance to political gravity.


This survey was conducted for Ipsos by AYTM. The study interviewed 1000 respondents online in English from the AYTM panel on November 18-19, 2015. Respondents were U.S. residents age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii. The respondent sample was balanced to be representative of the US population by age, sex, and race/ethnicity using interlocking quotas. The survey was conducted using AYTM’s proprietary platform that naturally formats surveys to be appropriate for any Internet-connected device with a focus on smartphones. AYTM recruits for its CASRO-certified panels in 25 countries to be representative of the underlying populations they represent. Panelists are vetted at registration and continuously throughout their membership using AYTM’s proprietary TraitScore(SM) methodology which guarantees they are real, unique, and provide consistent data over time. Panelists were invited to participate in this study given their demographics in an effort to reach a final sample composition that was representative of the US population by age, sex, and race/ethnicity.

Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for all respondents.