HPU Poll: Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Comparison

HIGH POINT, N.C., Sept. 24, 2015 – The first HPU Poll of the fall semester finds that adults in North Carolina associate different characteristics with each U.S. presidential candidate — former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and real estate mogul Donald Trump. Respondents of the poll also differed in who they trusted to do a better job handling a series of policy issues.

The HPU Poll asked adults in N.C. to select which candidate best fit each item from a list of phrases. More North Carolinians thought phrases like “connects well with ordinary people” (18 percent more), “has middle class values” (30 percent more) and “willing to work with the other party” (25 percent more) better fit Clinton. However, larger proportions of adults thought phrases like “honest and truthful” (13 percent more), “takes action rather than talking” and “understands the economy” (both 19 percent more) better fit Trump.

The candidates were essentially tied (nearly 40 percent) on phrases like “good judgment in a crisis” and “smart.”

“These splits over personal characteristics and issue competence are going to be important as people consider the 2016 election,” said Brian McDonald, assistant director of the HPU Poll. “North Carolinians are seeing differences in these candidates across these various attributes, and that is evidence they are carefully considering the relative merits of the candidates.”

On policy issues, there were differences in how North Carolinians saw candidates.  Respondents to the poll were read a list of policies and asked who they thought would do the best job dealing with them — Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Trump had an advantage on issues such as “improving economic conditions” (25 percent more), “creating jobs” (25 percent more), and “protecting the U.S. from foreign threats” (17 percent more). Clinton had an advantage on issues such as “providing quality health care” (27 percent more), “promoting education” (35 percent more) and “preserving Medicare” (32 percent more).

Respondents were asked to rank the most important problems for candidates to address.  The largest percentages chose “protecting the U.S. from foreign threats” (25 percent) and “improving economic conditions” (21 percent). Other important issues included “promoting education” (15 percent) and “protecting Social Security” (10 percent).

“While the parties are far from officially choosing their nominees, these findings suggest some of the important issues and characteristics on which they will choose candidates in the primary and general elections,” says McDonald. “It is notable that national security concerns have risen again in importance. For most of the time we have been polling on most important problems, people cared more about economic conditions and creating jobs.”

The most recent HPU Poll was fielded by live interviewers at the High Point University Survey Research Center calling on Sept. 12 – 22, 2015. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 402 adults with landline or cellular telephones. The Survey Research Center contracted with Survey Sampling International to acquire this sample. The survey has an estimated margin of sampling error of approximately 4.9 percentage points for all adult respondents. The data is weighted toward population estimates for cellular and landline telephone use, age, gender and race. In addition to sampling error, factors such as question wording and other methodological choices in conducting survey research can introduce additional error into the findings of opinion polls. Details from this survey are available at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/files/2015/09/40memoC.pdf.

Further results and methodological details from the most recent survey and past studies can be found at the Survey Research Center website at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/. The materials online include past press releases as well as memos summarizing the findings (including approval ratings) for each poll since 2010.

The HPU Poll reports methodological details in accordance with the standards set out by AAPOR’s Transparency Initiative, and the HPU Survey Research Center is a Charter Member of the Initiative. For more information, see http://transparency.aapor.org/index.php/transparency.

You can follow the HPU Poll on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HPUSurveyCenter.

Dr. Martin Kifer, assistant professor of political science, serves as the director of the HPU Poll, and Brian McDonald serves as the assistant director of the HPU Poll.

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