All Our Candidates Are Unpopular

Literally no current candidate for President has a net favorable opinion rating.

CNN’s Harry Enten observes, “YouGov’s latest poll finds that no person running for president right now has a positive net favorable rating with the general electorate.”

While I can’t find the survey in question on their site, I have no reason to suspect Enten’s chart is inaccurate.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that, despite his current high standing, Pete Buttigieg will not be the next President of the United States. You heard it here first. Must cite OTB.

As to the other higher-ranking candidates, I’m not sure there’s any reason for Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, or even John Delaney (whoever the hell he might be) to be concerned by these numbers. Essentially, they tell us that most Americans have vague and soft opinions about them. One suspects that the negatives are mostly Republicans who are going to view pretty much any Democrat negatively. That’s more or less true of the two bottom-dwellers on the list: Tulsi Gabbard is a relative unknown and Howard Schultz is a non-entity as a politician, mostly famous in that regard for the wave of backlash from Democrats apoplectic that he’s somehow going to pull away enough votes to ensure Donald Trump’s re-election.

That leaves us with three very-well-known candidates: The sitting President, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. All of them are viewed negatively by half the country. (Not having access to the original poll, I can’t tell whether this represents “adults” or “likely voters.”) That’s a hell of a hill to climb.

As I’ve noted before, it’s entirely possible that Donald Trump is somehow re-elected. As much as I want that not to be the case, re-electing our Presidents is the default position in American politics. We’ve had three straight two-termers, last having failed to re-elect a President in 1992–a streak that will have lasted twenty-eight years at the time of the next election. Further, as dismal as his numbers are right now, we’ve had Presidents with huge negatives at this point in their first term pull off re-election.

I can’t imagine, however, how Warren and Sanders (neither of whom I happen to dislike, by the way) manage to overcome these deficits. They’re both household names and underwater. That strikes me as unrecoverable.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, Public Opinion Polls
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    As I’ve noted before, it’s entirely possible that Donald Trump is somehow re-elected. As much as I want that not to be the case, re-electing our Presidents is the default position in American politics. We’ve had three straight two-termers, last having failed to re-elect a President in 1992

    Yes trump could conceivably get reelected, BUT….. the idea that because our last 3 fairly mainstream, seemingly sane presidents got reelected has any real bearing on the chances of reelection for the most corrupt, greedy, lying, divisive, narcissistic, incompetent, ignorant, plutocrat worshiping, dictator embracing, president ever to take up residence in the White House after he barely won the first election by the paltry sum of 80,000 votes distributed over 3 states…

    Let’s just say it strikes me as rather ludicrous to consider that without even mentioning what is likely to be a tsunami of Russian ratfuckery.

    As for

    I’m not sure there’s any reason for Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, or even John Delaney (whoever the hell he might be) to be concerned by these numbers.

    is dead on the money. As much as I like Elizabeth Warren (as a senator at the very least) I think you are also correct about her and BS’s chances.

  2. steve says:

    I actually kind of like Buttigieg, but I think you are pretty safe with your prediction.

    Steve

  3. For the most part, I’d say that, except for candidates such as Trump and Sanders, this is largely a case of name recognition. Most people have no idea who most of these candidates are or what they stand for, and we’ve only just begun seeing what they are like on the campaign trail.

    On a slightly related topic, CNN is doing something interesting with the candidates and potential candidates. Every week for the past three weeks or so, they’ve had a “town hall” style event featuring one candidate. So far, I believe, they’ve had Kamal Harris, Howard Schultz, and Amy Klobuchar as guests. Next up is Bernie Sanders. This hour-long format allows candidates to go into more detail on their proposals than a normal Cable news hit allows and the audience questions have actually been pretty good. I doubt Trump would ever accept an invitation to a proceeding like this unless it were held on Fox News, but I think this kind of format is much better than the multi-candidate debate format that proved to be nothing but chaos or boredom during the 2016 cycle.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Oh, I’m with you on Trump. Then again, I didn’t think there was any way in hell he’d get the 2016 Republican nomination—as much as there had been harbingers, the party had theretofore nominated sane and relatively moderate folks for the top of the ticket—much less win the general. And yet here we are.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner:

    And yet here we are.

    Indeed. While acknowledging the possibility, I have a really hard time seeing it as repeatable. At this point in time anyway. Let’s see who the DEMs nominate, what comes out of the Mueller report and the various House investigations, etc etc.

  6. Scott F. says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that, despite his current high standing, Pete Buttigieg will not be the next President of the United States. You heard it here first.

    Have you heard or seen Buttigieg on any of his TV appearances? He is an extreme long shot, but if he’s given a fair hearing, he’s going to surprise people.

    Actually, this polling shines favorably on my current dream ticket – Harris/Buttigieg 2020. A female, POC from California partnered with an ex-military gay male from Indiana while they are both whip-smart on policy and eloquent. You heard it hear first. Must cite Scott F.

  7. Given our currently highly polarized political climate, the general finding is not that surprising: Rs cancel out Ds and vice versa.

    James is correct to note that the relevant number is if the unfavorable is over 50%.

  8. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I’m not watching much TV coverage yet but agree that it’s a better format.

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Scott F.:

    Have you heard or seen Buttigieg on any of his TV appearances? He is an extreme long shot, but if he’s given a fair hearing, he’s going to surprise people.

    I honestly don’t think I’d heard of him before seeing the poll, much less heard him. But I remain steadfast in my belief that a 37-year-old whose highest office is mayor of a tiny borough (population ~100,000) is not gonna be elected President next year. His credentials would seem to indicate that he is indeed whip smart, which is sometimes an asset in running for office. But he seems more likely the kind of guy who’ll be appointed to a cabinet post in a Democratic administration.

  10. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    While I would hope that Trump wouldn’t be reelected, I’m not ruling anything out. I see the crazification as 35-40% based on how polarizing Trump seems to be and with the Electoral College and the distribution of crazy what they are, winning the EC is now an uphill climb for the Democrats.

  11. James Pearce says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Let’s see who the DEMs nominate, what comes out of the Mueller report and the various House investigations, etc etc.

    If this is the focus, Trump’s re-election is all but assured. The swing voters who are not all that interested in that stuff. Focus on policy —good policy– and you won’t lose.

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  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Pearce:

    Focus on policy —good policy– and you won’t lose.

    You mean like they did in 2018?

  13. Stormy Dragon says:

    I have no reason to suspect Enten’s chart is inaccurate

    Whether it’s accurate or not, it’s useless. It considers Schultz (53% have no opinion either way) as less popular than Trump (3% have no opinion either way).

  14. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: It’s simply one metric to support a one-line tweet. I don’t think Enten thinks it dispositive.

  15. James Pearce says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    You mean like they did in 2018?

    It continues to amuse me that people think of 2018 as some kind of high-water mark for Democratic politics. Democrats lost seats in the Senate.

    +40 in the House is good. But on the list of “Wave Elections in the United States,” 2018 doesn’t even rank. You lost seats in the Senate and the Republican party was bolstered, not the Democrats. The wall fight should have made that supremely clear.

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  16. Kylopod says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Yes trump could conceivably get reelected, BUT….. the idea that because our last 3 fairly mainstream, seemingly sane presidents got reelected has any real bearing on the chances of reelection for the most corrupt, greedy, lying, divisive, narcissistic, incompetent, ignorant, plutocrat worshiping, dictator embracing, president ever to take up residence in the White House

    I agree with your assessment of the president, but that won’t necessarily have any effect on the outcome. Trump’s latest approval rating per Gallup is 44% positive, 52% negative. Obama and Bill Clinton had worse numbers at certain points in 2011 and 1995 respectively.

    I hate the fact that Trump’s been normalized, but I’m also not blinding myself to the fact that he has been normalized. The only question is what we do about it, and just plugging our ears and screaming about how he’s so obviously unfit he couldn’t possibly be reelected is not a viable solution.

    While acknowledging the possibility, I have a really hard time seeing it as repeatable.

    I doubt 2020 will be a repeat of 2016, but it doesn’t need to be in order for Trump to be reelected. He’s got advantages he didn’t have the last time around, including incumbency and a GOP solidly united behind him.

  17. Enoch Sneed says:

    I wouldn’t call Tulsi Gabbard “relatively unknown” – I know of her and I live in Europe. She has frequently made appearances on CNN, arguing on foreign policy issues, and seems very intelligent, level-headed and thoughtful. she has plenty of time to make her mark. The fact some sections of the media got their knives into her as soon as she announced is a pretty strong recommendation in my book. If Trump is re-elected it really will be “the triumph of hope over experience”.

  18. Franklin Blunt says:

    Smollett hoax likely arranged with Harris, Booker, et al … Their immediate comments & promoted purpose especially suspicious that complicit connection is possible & further investigation deserved for broader political involvement. Harris already known as an abusive, dishonest, corrupt, procedure & rights violating, hypocrite & kleptocrat so such nefarious activity is her character; reflects California where cities, counties, various agencies & NGOs, & state rife with fraud, waste, abuse, incompetence, injury, injustice, fiscal malfeasance, kleptocracy, hypocrisy, obfuscation, deception, evading oversight & accountability, ethical & moral corruption, environmental destruction, socio-economic disparity, parasitic exploitation … yet truth suppressed from exposure by complicit unduly influenced media.