Many Americans think Donald Trump “tells it like it is regardless of whether or not it’s politically correct,” yet most say the Republican nominee for president takes criticism of others “too far.”
These are among the more telling findings of a Langer Research Associates survey measuring concern about Trump’s trademark rhetorical excesses at 57 percent and support for him telling it straight at 42 percent.
This comes out of a weekend in which Trump called Democrat Hillary Clinton “a horrible, horrible human being” at a campaign rally in New Hampshire.
“She is a totally unhinged person,’’ Trump said of “unstable Hillary” at his rally in Windham, N.H. “She lacks the judgment, temperament and moral character to lead this country… She’s incompetent, and I don’t think that you can even think of allowing this woman to become the president of the United States.”
This also comes from a weekend in which opinion polls showed Clinton gaining eight- and nine-point advantages over Trump nationally and double-digit edges in battleground states ranging from Virginia to Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.
The Langer survey for ABC News and the Washington Post — gauging a two-way national contest at Clinton 50 percent, Trump 42 — found Clinton has consolidated support among Democrats since her party’s convention while about one-fifth of self-identified Republicans still haven’t embraced Trump. And, as Clinton claims gains among college-educated white voters — whom Democratic presidential candidates haven’t won in decades — she leads by 23 percent among women.
The Wall Street Journal, billing the findings of its own survey with NBC News as the “Trump Slump,” found a nine-point advantage for Clinton — 47-38.
And as much as Trump attempts to define Clinton as unfit for the presidency, the label appears to be sticking to Trump himself by a three-to-two margin.
“As revealed by poll after poll, Americans feel worn down by the dirty, ugly character of the dirty, ugly candidate at the top of the GOP ticket,’’ Republican campaign consultant Rick Wilson wrote in a blistering weekend essay in the New York Daily News. “Those of us who believe, who know, that Trump is dangerous can’t just settle for him being beaten in November. We need to ensure that he is on the business end of a decisive, humiliating defeat — so that the terribly divisive forces he has unleashed are delivered a death blow.”
It isn’t only Clinton whom Trump attacks — calling her in some recent Twitter messages “a pathological liar” and “very dangerous.” Pointing to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s support for Clinton, Trump tweeted: “She is a joke!” Michael Morell, the former acting CIA director who spoke out against Trump, is “a lightweight… a man who has made serious bad calls… a total Clinton flunky!”
And over the weekend, as poll after poll showed widening gaps between Clinton and Trump nationally and in key contested states, Trump played victim: “I am not just running against Crooked Hillary Clinton,” he tweeted. “I am running against the very dishonest and totally biased media – but I will win!”
Yet Trump’s tirades, whatever voters make of them, may be playing strictly to his base of supporters, including 10-million-plus followers on Twitter. Clinton is airing TV ads in battleground states and nationally during coverage of the Olympics, a broadcast and cable blitz effectively landing without response from Trump.
Among these: An ad featuring the retired late-night TV host David Letterman pressing Trump about where his neckties and other Trump-brand goods are made.
“We’re doing things like following Twitter feeds, and we see every tweet Donald sends, but we are not normal,” David Redlawsk, chairman of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware, says of fellow analysts and the media. “The average voter is not on Twitter. The average voter is getting what’s filtered through whatever sources they’re getting… It’s really easy for us to lose track of that.”
“Trump’s ratings in general haven’t worsened – they just haven’t improved since he claimed the Republican nomination,’’ Langer Research reports. “And the trouble list is long.”
Nearly eight in 10 Americans surveyed say Trump doesn’t “show enough respect for people he disagrees with,” Langer reports. Sixty-seven percent say “he lacks the personality and temperament it takes to serve effectively, 64 percent doubt his understanding of world affairs… and 60 percent think he’s biased against women and minorities.”
Clinton, too, suffers from a perception that she’s “too willing to bend the rules” — 66 percent of Americans surveyed say so. But while 59 percent view Clinton as not honest or trustworthy, 62 percent see Trump the same way.
Still, unfavorable attitudes about the former secretary of state and senator from New York have softened — from 55 percent negative before the conventions to 50 percent in the latest ABC poll — while Trump remains viewed unfavorably by 63 percent. Forty-eight percent view her favorably, 34 percent him favorably.
Langer also reports that something essential to this contest was unchanged by the two candidates’ conventions: “Americans by a wide margin, 61-38 percent, say he’s not qualified to serve as president… The numbers are almost exactly the reverse for Clinton – by 60-38 percent the public says she is qualified.”
Unhinged and unqualified isn’t all Trump called Clinton in New Hampshire. He also deemed her “disgusting,” reminiscent of his remarks after Clinton had taken a restroom break during one of her televised debates with rival Bernie Sanders. “I know where she went — it’s disgusting, I don’t want to talk about it,” Trump said back in December. “No, it’s too disgusting. Don’t say it, it’s disgusting.”
That was when Trump also suggested that Clinton “got schlonged” by President Barack Obama during their bids for the 2008 Democratic nomination.
Trump’s “nasty tone” and “the shouting’’ turn off women undecided about the candidates, says Linda Fowler, a political scientist at Dartmouth College. “He’s such a polarizing figure.”
As leaders within Trump’s own party seek distance from this lightning rod’s tongue-lashings, some are suggesting the best direction they can offer fellow Republicans in November is abstention from the vote for president. Rather than turning out the vote this year, some are talking about turning down the vote.
“There is something to be said for a very low turnout,’’ says Al Cardenas, a former chairman of the American Conservative Union withholding support from Trump.
“I would frankly prefer not to vote in the presidential election than to vote for an alternative,’’ he says of his own fence-sitting. “This might be the first time in history that more people voted down-ticket than presidential. And then I don’t have to explain later that I voted for Hillary Clinton.”