WASHINGTON — If Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the respective front-runners in the race for the Democratic and Republican nominations for president, wind up leading their respective parties into the general, voters nationwide think Clinton would most likely win in the November election, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll.
The poll also finds Clinton would start the general election contest with an edge over Trump on several potential presidential qualifications, with the former secretary of state widely seen as better able to handle the responsibilities of being commander in chief, more in touch with the middle class and more often aligned with Americans’ views on important issues.
Overall, 56% say they think Clinton would win a match-up between the two leading candidates in November while 42% say Trump would take it. Democratic voters are more convinced that Clinton would win (87% say she would) than Republicans are about Trump (75% say he would win), and Republican voters who aren’t currently backing Trump are particularly skeptical of his chances. Among that group, 40% say Clinton would win, 57% Trump, vs. 92% of Trump supporters who think he would win in November.
An earlier release from the same survey found Clinton ahead of Trump in a hypothetical general election match-up, 53% to 41% among registered voters.
The new poll also asked which of the two candidates was better described by a range of potential presidential attributes. On those, 55% say Clinton would make a better commander in chief vs. 36% for Trump, and 51% see Clinton as more in touch with middle-class problems vs. 36% for Trump.
The margin is narrower when voters are asked which of the two agrees with you on the issues that matter most to you, though Clinton still holds a significant lead, with 48% choosing Clinton and 40% Trump. The two are about even, however, when voters are asked who is a strong and decisive leader.
There are steep divides on each of these questions by gender, race and education, with women, non-whites and those with college degrees more apt to choose Clinton in each positive statement tested, but little of the age gap that defined the presidential elections that brought Barack Obama to the presidency and is currently prevalent in the Democratic nomination fight.
The poll also finds some doubts about the front-runners. Asked whether Trump or Clinton is better described as “a person you admire,” Clinton has a 15-point lead over Trump, yet nearly one-quarter of voters say they admire neither candidate.
And 17% say neither is honest and trustworthy, though Clinton has a 5-point edge there among those who do choose a candidate. Asked who would be more likely to change their position on issues for political reasons, 47% say Clinton, 42% Trump, 6% say both do, but the share offering that neither would do that drops to 3%.
None of the remaining presidential candidates, including Clinton and Trump, is particularly well-liked. Not one of the five are viewed favorably by a majority of voters. Bernie Sanders and John Kasich are the only two with net positive reviews.
Sanders notches the highest overall favorability among registered voters, with 48% viewing him positively vs. 45% unfavorably. That’s a steep drop since last month, when 60% of registered voters overall had a positive take on the Vermont senator. Sanders has seen his ratings slip among registered Democrats and Republicans during that time, and independents’ impressions of him are now evenly divided.
Both of the two front-runners — Clinton and Trump — are viewed unfavorably by a majority of registered voters nationwide, with 57% having a negative take on Clinton and 65% on Trump. Most say they have an unfavorable take on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as well, 56% say so. Views of Kasich divide 43% favorable to 32% unfavorable, with 25% unsure about the Ohio governor.
Within their own parties, the candidates are generally more highly regarded. Among Democrats, 73% have a positive take on Clinton, 71% Sanders. Among Republicans, 63% see Trump favorably, 60% Cruz and 49% Kasich (that’s down 10 points since February).
Amid this slate of unpopular candidates, the parties themselves aren’t faring well.
The Republican Party’s unfavorable rating is at its highest level since the partial government shutdown in 2013, when it notched its worst ratings in CNN/ORC and CNN/Gallup polling dating back to 1992. Just 34% of adults in the new poll have a positive view of the party, 61% negative. Among registered Republicans, the view is rosier, 66% have a favorable impression, but that’s still down from 73% favorable in January.
More have a positive take on the Democrats, 50% overall, with 45% saying they have an unfavorable view. That’s up slightly since January, when 45% had a positive view.
The CNN/ORC poll was conducted by telephone March 17-20 among 1,001 randomly selected adult Americans, including 925 registered voters. The results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, and it is larger for subgroups.