The FINANCIAL -- Happy Super Tuesday! As primary results start streaming in today, there is bound to be plenty of analyzing, spinning, and no small amount of arguing. Nine in 10 Americans (91%) feel political discussions today are angry and bad tempered, with nearly four in 10 adults (38%) describing them as extremely angry and bad tempered. What’s more, most Americans feel this tonality is on the rise:
Nearly three-fourths of Americans (73%) feel the political climate has gotten more angry and bad tempered since 2016’s Presidential candidates began their campaigns (up from 52% last October).
Furthermore, over half (53%) believe political discourse will get more angry and bad tempered once the parties have nominated their candidates and we head into the general election showdown.
And if Americans are right, we should expect to see this anger bubbling over into our daily lives as well: three-fourths of adults (76%) believe that the way American politicians treat one another influences how American citizens treat one another.
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,219 U.S. adults surveyed online between February 17 and 22, 2016.
The majority of Americans (69%) have negative opinions of politicians they perceive as generally angry and bad tempered; 8% have positive feelings toward such candidates, while 20% feel neither positive nor negative toward them.
But where do the candidates stack up? When asked (in an open ended manner) which candidate’s campaign they believe has been the most angry and bad tempered thus far, over six in ten Americans (62%) point to Donald Trump; 11% choose Hillary Clinton, while 7% cite Ted Cruz.
Trump is the top selection across party lines, while Cruz overtakes Clinton for a second place showing among Democrats.
On the other end of the spectrum, a 22% plurality points to Bernie Sanders as their top pick for the candidate whose campaign has been most civil or even tempered thus far; next up are Hillary Clinton (15%) and Ben Carson (14%).
Carson leads the pack among Republicans; Sanders holds a strong lead among Independents, but is only marginally ahead of Clinton in Democratic circles.
Electing an outsider
“Outsider” has been something of a buzzword so far in this election cycle, and a separate Harris Poll, conducted in December, found that Americans have some varied – and even contradictory – points of view on the subject:
On the one hand, nearly two-thirds (65%) think it’s important that the next President has had experience as an elected government official.
This varies considerably across political lines, with over eight in 10 Democrats (84%) feeling it’s important compared to six in 10 Independents (60%) and less than half of Republicans (47%).
Additionally, 82% believe that running the country is so difficult that we need a President who really understands how to get things done in Washington.
Meanwhile, 68% say we need a President who is not a career politician and 50% believe that someone who has spent most of his or her life in politics and government cannot be trusted to run the country.
Americans are especially mixed when asked more directly about their feelings on electing a political outsider as the next President of the United States, with 37% in favor, 32% opposed and 8% unsure.
The majority of Republicans (56%) and a plurality of Independents (42%) favor electing an outsider, while a 50% plurality of Democrats are opposed.
Presidential and Congressional ratings
Even as much of the country heads to the polls in order to narrow the field of White House contenders, President Obama and Congress still have a responsibility to the electorate and the electorate still has opinions about the respective jobs they’re doing. Four in ten Americans (41%) give President Obama positive ratings on his overall job performance, while 59% rate him negatively. This marks a four point drop from last month’s post State of the Union high (45%), but is also four points up from December ratings (37%). An identical 41% rate the President positively for his performance in relation to the economy.
Strong majorities of registered Democrats voters give the President positive ratings both overall (79%) and on the economy (75%), while two-thirds of Independent voters (67% each) and over nine in ten registered Republicans (93% overall, 91% economy) rate him negatively.
Congressional ratings have seen some incremental growth in recent months (from 10% in November to 12% in December to 15% in January), but that trend sees a sharp reversal this month, with only 9% of Americans rating Congress positively.
Direction of the country
One-third of Americans (33%) believe things in the country are going in the right direction, up from 29% in December. In comparison to past election years, this attitude is on par with levels seen leading up to the 2012 Presidential (34% March 2012) and 2014 midterm (34% Feb 2014) elections. Millennials (43%) are far more likely to feel things are going in the right direction than their elders (32% Gen Xers, 28% Baby Boomers, 24% Matures).