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Election 2016

Clinton's Best Asset, Trump's Biggest Liability: Experience

by Justin McCarthy
Clinton's Best Asset, Trump's Biggest Liability: Experience

Story Highlights

  • Americans twice as likely to say Clinton has experience it takes
  • Honesty, trustworthiness a weak point for both candidates
  • Majorities say both Clinton and Trump can get things done

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Hillary Clinton holds double-digit advantages over Donald Trump in Americans' views of the two candidates' experience to be president, ability to work with both parties in Washington and likability. Trump's greatest relative strengths include being a strong and decisive leader and the ability to stand up to special interests.

Americans' Views of the Qualities and Characteristics of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
Thinking about the following characteristics and qualities, please say whether you think each applies or doesn't apply to Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?
Applies to Clinton Applies to Trump Difference (Clinton minus Trump)
% % %
Has the experience it takes to be president 62 31 31
Would work well with both parties to get things done in Washington 51 39 12
Is likable 46 36 10
Would display good judgment in a crisis 48 39 9
Can manage the government effectively 49 42 7
Cares about the needs of people like you 44 37 7
Has strong moral character 39 36 3
Is honest and trustworthy 32 33 -1
Can get things done 56 58 -2
Can bring about the changes this country needs 37 42 -5
Stands up to special interest groups 44 52 -8
Is a strong and decisive leader 51 60 -9
Gallup, May 18-22, 2016

These data, collected May 18-22, also find that Clinton has a slight edge in views of the candidates' ability to manage the government effectively and whether they care about the needs of people "like you." Americans are about equally likely to say Clinton and Trump have strong moral character and to say they are honest and trustworthy, though fewer than four in 10 say these apply to either candidate. On the other hand, nearly equivalent majorities of Americans view each candidate as being able to get things done.

More than six in 10 Americans say Clinton has the experience it takes to be president (62%) -- twice as many as say this about Trump (31%). In fact, experience is Clinton's greatest overall strength from among those tested in the poll, and it is Trump's single weakest attribute.

Most adults also believe Clinton can get things done (56%), while about half say she would work well with both parties in Washington (51%) and that she is a strong and decisive leader (51%).

As is true of Clinton, most Americans believe Trump can get things done (58%), and they are more likely to view him than Clinton as a strong and decisive leader (60%) -- the latter being the characteristic Trump scores highest on. And most say Trump is capable of standing up to special interests (52%) -- more so than for Clinton (44%).

The candidates are both viewed as lacking in honesty -- 32% say Clinton displays honesty and trustworthiness, her lowest score on any issue, but no worse than Trump's 33% on this dimension. The two candidates also both score relatively poorly on having strong moral character, being able to bring about the changes needed in the U.S. and caring about people's needs.

Both candidates receive majority positive ratings on getting things done and being strong leaders. Clinton gains a majority rating on experience and working well with both parties, and Trump also gets a majority positive rating on standing up to special interests. Otherwise, less than half of Americans say that any of the other dimensions apply to either candidate.

One in Three Trump Supporters Say Clinton Has Experience It Takes

As would be expected, solid majorities of self-identified Clinton supporters say the dozen characteristics apply to her, but there is a good deal of variation. The strongest majorities say she has the experience necessary to be president (92%) and can get things done (89%). At the other end of the spectrum, a much smaller 61% of those who say they would vote for her over Trump say honesty and trustworthiness apply to her, and 69% give her credit for standing up to special interests.

Few Trump supporters see these characteristics in Clinton -- their lowest ratings for her are her honesty and trustworthiness and her ability to bring about the changes the country needs, at just 6% each.

However, sizable minorities of Trump's supporters are willing to grant that Clinton possesses certain positive qualities, including the necessary experience to be president (34%) and the ability to get things done (25%).

Views of Clinton's Qualities and Characteristics, by Supporters of Each Candidate
Thinking about the following characteristics and qualities, please say whether you think each applies or doesn't apply to Hillary Clinton. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?
Applies to Clinton (Clinton supporters) Applies to Clinton (Trump supporters)
% %
Has the experience it takes to be president 92 34
Can get things done 89 25
Would display good judgment in a crisis 85 15
Can manage the government effectively 85 16
Is a strong and decisive leader 85 19
Would work well with both parties to get things done in Washington 84 20
Cares about the needs of people like you 81 11
Is likable 75 18
Can bring about the changes this country needs 70 6
Has strong moral character 70 11
Stands up to special interest groups 69 22
Is honest and trustworthy 61 6
Gallup, May 18-22, 2016

One in Three Clinton Supporters Say Trump Is a Strong, Decisive Leader

Trump's supporters rate him relatively highly on all characteristics, but most widely on being a strong and decisive leader (94%) and the ability to get things done (94%). Trump's supporters are least likely to say he has the experience to be president (61%) or has strong moral character (64%).

Among Clinton's supporters, fewer view Trump as having these characteristics than is true for Trump's supporters regarding Clinton. On half of the characteristics, less than 10% of Clinton's supporters view them as applying to Trump. However, a few qualities strike a sizable minority of her supporters as applying to her GOP opponent.

One in three Clinton supporters say Trump is a strong and decisive leader (33%), while about three in 10 say he has the ability to stand up to special interests (30%) and can get things done (28%).

Views of Each Candidate's Supporters of Trump's Qualities and Characteristics
Thinking about the following characteristics and qualities, please say whether you think each applies or doesn't apply to Donald Trump. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?
Applies to Trump (Trump supporters) Applies to Trump (Clinton supporters)
% %
Can get things done 94 28
Is a strong and decisive leader 94 33
Can bring about the changes this country needs 84 9
Can manage the government effectively 82 8
Stands up to special interest groups 80 30
Cares about the needs of people like you 77 5
Would display good judgment in a crisis 76 9
Would work well with both parties to get things done in Washington 72 12
Is honest and trustworthy 69 5
Is likable 68 11
Has strong moral character 64 15
Has the experience it takes to be president 61 6
Gallup, May 18-22, 2016

Bottom Line

The candidates' respective supporters are drawn to Clinton's and Trump's unique résumés and personal qualities, but when it comes to the experience necessary for the presidency, Americans are more likely to say Clinton has that experience. But Trump has advantages of his own in Americans' eyes, such as his leadership and ability to confront special interests, although neither compares with Clinton's 2-to-1 advantage on experience. Americans are just as likely to say Trump can get things done as to say this about Clinton.

Almost as important for Clinton as her edge in experience is Trump's low score on honesty. Only one in three Americans view Clinton as honest, her single biggest liability. But Trump scores no better on this dimension, missing out on an area in which the Republican could have painted a strong contrast with Clinton in the general election contest.

Most broadly, Americans tend to see the two candidates as strong leaders, but ones lacking in honesty and morality.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 18-22, 2016, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,530 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/192098/clinton-best-asset-trump-biggest-liability-experience.aspx
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