Pew Research Center survey shows voters are voting against, not for, a candidate

A major factor for voters making their picks for President this November is opposition to another candidate.

A major factor for voters making their picks for President this November is opposition to another candidate, according to a Pew Research Center survey released on Sept. 21.

In the survey, 33 percent of Trump supporters said they are backing him because “he is not Clinton,” and about as many (32 percent) of Clinton supporters said they are voting for her simply because “she is not Trump.”

The survey was done Aug. 16 to Sept. 12 by mail and online panels among 4,538 adults, including 3,941 registered voters, who were asked open-ended questions.

“We wanted people to give their own views instead of giving them possible concerns to choose from,” said Carroll Doherty, the director of political research at the Center. “The comments here are the most important contributions.”

Doherty finds this “opposition as support” particularly surprising. “This is a polarized election,” Doherty said in a phone interview.

Apart from the dislike of the opponent, another 32 percent of Clinton supporters are voting for the Democratic nominee for her experience. Twenty-two percent of the group are voting for her issue or policy positions.

By contrast, 27 percent of Trump supporters are backing him for his background as a “political outsider” and 26 percent are for his issue or policy positions.

The voters, however, also have concerns over the shortcomings of their candidates. Trump’s temperament and unpredictability turned out to be the top concern of his supporters, with 34 percent of them referring to the candidate’s personality. Eleven percent were worried about the candidate’s lack of experience working with Congress.

Clinton’s dishonesty and secrecy are most frequently cited concerns among her supporters (17 percent), while 16 percent of them found her past associations and events worrisome.

Doherty said he is surprised by the unambiguous feelings of the voters when they were asked to react to their own candidates. “People are conflicted,” he said. “Some of these comments open the window for all these conflicted feelings.”

Negative views about the campaign predominated the voters. In the survey, 57 percent say they have been feeling frustrated, 55 percent disgusted, 43 percent scared, with 31 percent saying they were interested in the election. Nine percent of voters feel indifferent about the election result.

“A bigger fact of this is the two candidates are unpopular in the historical terms,” Doherty said.