NEW YORK, March 1, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- 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. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here.
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).
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This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between February 17 and 22, 2016 among 2,219 U.S. adults and between December 9 and 14, 2015 among 2,252 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.
All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.
Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.
The Harris Poll® #17, March 1, 2016
By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll
About The Harris Poll®
Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. For more information, or to see other recent polls, visit us at TheHarrisPoll.com.
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SOURCE The Harris Poll