Fear Factor: Americans Scared of Presidential Options

Dusty DeVinney prepares to load election materials at the Willowbank building Monday, April 25,2016, in Bellefonte, Pa., in preparation for Tuesday's primary election. For the first time in many years, Democrats and Republicans in Pennsylvania on Tuesday pick presidential candidates in a meaningful primary. A U.S. Senate primary will determine who represents the Democrats this fall in the race to unseat Sen. Pat Toomey, and voters from both parties choose their candidates for attorney general. (Nabil K. Mark/Centre Daily Times via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT; MAGS OUT
Campaigning for the presidential elections will begin officially at the party conventions this month. (Nabil K. Mark/Centre Daily Times via AP)

The vast majority of Americans say they are afraid of at least one of the two major candidates — Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump — winning the White House, a remarkable finding that reflects an unsettled nation unhappy with its choice.

Eighty-one percent of Americans say they would feel afraid following the election of one of the two polarizing politicians, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. That includes a quarter who say it doesn’t matter who wins: they’re scared of both.

Three-quarters of voters say their pick for president is motivated by a desire to cast their Election Day ballot against Clinton or Trump, more than those who say they’re voting for the candidate who shares their positions on the issues or is the most qualified to hold the office.

On the eve of the summer’s political conventions, at which the general election campaign officially begins, the latest AP-GfK findings underscore the deep sense of unease that is sharpening the political divide in America and shaping an already nasty race for president.

So much so that notable numbers of Americans even hold negative views about the candidate they want to win: 14 percent of both Trump’s and Clinton’s supporters say they’re backing a candidate they don’t like.

The survey was conducted after the fatal police shootings of two black men by police officers last week in Louisiana and Minnesota, and mostly after a sniper seeking revenge for those slayings killed five police officers in Dallas during a peaceful protest march.

The poll found Americans hold resoundingly negative opinions of both candidates. Fifty-seven percent have an unfavorable view of Clinton, compared to 37 percent who have a favorable view. Sixty-three percent have a negative view of Trump, compared to the 31 percent who think well of him.

Fifty-six percent of Americans said they would feel afraid and 48 percent say they’d feel regret if Trump wins the White House. Just 22 percent said they’d be proud and 26 percent excited should America pick Trump on Election Day.

Clinton doesn’t fare much better: If she’s elected president, 48 percent say they would be afraid and 46 percent say they would feel regretful. Only 27 percent of Americans would be proud of that choice, and 26 percent would be excited at her election.

Half of Clinton’s own supporters consider her only slightly or not at all honest, and more than a third say she’s only slightly or not at all likable. Overall, only a quarter of Americans think Clinton is at least somewhat honest. The poll was conducted after the FBI recommended she not face criminal charges for her use of a private e-mail account and servers as secretary of state.

In recent weeks, Clinton has started to acknowledge that many voters simply do not trust her.

“I personally know that I have work to do on this front,” she said in Chicago last month. “You can’t just talk someone into trusting you. You’ve got to earn it.”

Still, for Clinton, there was some good news in the poll: nearly two-thirds of Americans think she’ll win the election.

Forty-seven percent of Trump’s supporters consider him only slightly or not at all civil, 39 percent say he’s slightly or not at all likable and 31 percent say he’s only slightly or not at all qualified. Of those backing him, 14 percent consider him at least somewhat racist.

But even while they voice concerns about their own candidate, vast majorities of voters see the alternative as far worse. Eighty percent of Trump supporters and three-quarters of Clinton backers say a major reason for their support is opposition to the other candidate.

The coalitions backing the candidates have remained largely unchanged from the primary race, with Clinton doing better among women and minority voters.

Women are more likely than men to have a favorable opinion of Clinton, 40 percent to 33 percent. Sixty-eight percent of blacks, 52 percent of Hispanics and 28 percent of whites have a favorable view of Clinton.

Men are more likely than women to have a favorable opinion of Trump, 34 percent to 28 percent. Forty percent of whites, 13 percent of Hispanics and 7 percent of blacks have a favorable opinion of Trump.