More on Trump in the Garden State … How Does He Make Voters Feel, and Why?

Click here for a PDF of the release text, questions, and tables.


Over half say Trump goes too far with some statements

Note: This Rutgers-Eagleton Poll overlapped the Wisconsin primary on Tuesday, April 5.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Donald Trump may be the GOP frontrunner in New Jersey, but the real estate mogul provokes some strong negative reactions from many registered voters in the Garden State, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

In particular, 61 percent of voters say Trump makes them feel angry because of “the kind of person he is or something he has done,” while 57 percent say he makes them feel afraid. Nearly half – 45 percent – feel contemptuous when they think of Trump. On the positive side, just 37 percent say Trump makes them feel hopeful and 34 percent, enthusiastic.

Positive and negative feelings toward Trump are clearly related to overall favorability toward the businessman; 30 percent of voters have a favorable impression, while 62 percent feel unfavorable. Given a chance to explain their assessments, Trump’s supporters and detractors alike make statements about the kind of person Trump is and his beliefs as key reasons.

Among those voters who are favorable toward him, 19 percent like Trump because of his policy positions, 18 percent because he is a political outsider, and 10 percent because they believe he is a good businessman. Among his detractors, 31 percent mention something about his character, personality, or attitude, and 11 percent say their dislike stems from his policy positions and beliefs; another 9 percent are unfavorable because they believe Trump to be racist.

“Politics is very much about emotions,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Even so, the intensity of emotional responses to Donald Trump may be unique for a frontrunner. That nearly half of all voters feel contempt when considering him is astounding, and is no doubt driven by his own contemptuous rhetoric.”

Over half of voters (55 percent) say Trump generally goes too far in some of the things he says; but three in 10 believe he is simply saying out loud what other people are already thinking. Just over one in 10 think it is a little of both.

Results are from a statewide poll of 886 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from April 1 to 8, 2016, including 738 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Trump provokes emotional extremes

Support – or lack thereof – for Trump affects feelings toward the GOP frontrunner. Republicans are by far the most hopeful (72 percent) and enthusiastic (63 percent) about the entrepreneur; but still a third of GOP members feel anger, fear, or contempt when thinking about him. Democrats, of course, show the opposite responses: 81 percent say Trump makes them feel angry, 76 percent afraid, and 59 percent contempt.

Independents, whom many think hold the key to any general election, are more like Democrats than Republicans in their emotional reactions to Trump. While more hopeful (39 percent) and enthusiastic (35 percent) about him than Democrats, the large majority does not express positive emotions; 59 percent feel anger and 56 percent feel fear as a response to the GOP frontrunner. Contempt is felt by 43 percent of independent voters.

While voters of both genders have mostly negative feelings toward Trump, women are more likely than men to feel negative emotions toward him; men are more likely than women to feel positive ones.

“Even as New Jersey GOP voters continue overwhelmingly to choose Trump as their 2016 nominee, he is far from popular statewide,” said Ashley Koning, ECPIP assistant director. “More than any other 2016 candidate, Trump provokes anger and fear for a lot of voters, including many within the GOP and most outside the party. These feelings will act as political motivators that are likely to hurt Trump’s chances in the general election this November, especially among the independents he would need in New Jersey.”

Emotions toward other candidates less intense

The other 2016 candidates pale in comparison to Trump when it comes to igniting strong feelings from voters. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz provokes little emotion in either direction. About a third of NJ voters feel anger, fear, or contempt toward him. Cruz inspires even less hope and enthusiasm than Trump – at 23 percent and 15 percent, respectively. Not even a majority of his own party base feels hopeful or enthusiastic about him, nor are his detractors especially negative toward him.

On the Democratic side, former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton receives the most anger from voters, but falls far short of Trump’s numbers: 48 percent say she has made them angry. Thirty-five percent feel afraid about Clinton, and 39 percent feel contempt. Of course, Clinton especially sparks negative feelings among Republicans: 77 percent say Clinton makes them feel angry, 56 percent afraid, and 60 percent contempt. Even 53 percent of independents feel angry thinking about Clinton. Similarly, men, more than women, express anger (56 percent versus 41 percent) and contempt (45 percent versus 34 percent) about Clinton. Democrats are the most positive about Clinton; 70 percent say Clinton makes them feel hopeful, and 60 percent say she makes them enthusiastic.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders provokes much more hope (53 percent) and enthusiasm (43 percent) than Clinton among voters overall (39 percent and 32 percent, respectively) but only slightly more than his competitor among the Democratic Party base (76 percent feel hopeful, 62 percent enthusiastic). Sanders even makes more than half of independents hopeful, while inspiring limited negative feelings among Republicans.

Those angry with or afraid of Trump on the Republican side are much more likely to want Ohio Gov. John Kasich as their nominee, while those on the Democratic side who feel this way are torn between Clinton and Sanders. Republicans who are angry with or afraid of Clinton overwhelmingly want Trump to get the nomination, while angered Democrats choose Sanders.

Why (or why not) Trump?

Love him or hate him, Trump’s policy positions and personality loom large when voters explain their views; his stances and beliefs take the top spot among those favorable toward him and the second spot among those unfavorable. But Trump’s supporters and detractors have distinctive reasons for their feelings toward the candidate.

Those favorable toward Trump are “tired of political correctness” and want to “shake up the system.” “He brings up topics no one else wants to talk about […], issues […] we need to deal with as a nation, like immigration and trade,” voters explained. Others like him because he is “not beholden to anybody in Washington,” he “speaks straight from the heart” “in a way [they] can understand,” and as a “successful businessman,” he “knows how to use a dollar.”

Besides his policies, anti-establishment persona, and business acumen, those who like Trump cite his “tell it like it is” attitude (9 percent), his honesty (8 percent), ability to bring about change (7 percent), overall character (7 percent), and how he will “make America great again” (5 percent). Trump’s policy positions are the number one factor among Republicans who like him, while his outsider status ranks highest among his independent supporters.

Most voters who oppose Trump do so because of his character; as one voter puts it, he is “all ego and no substance.” To a lesser extent, they mention his issue positions and beliefs, including his “lack of consistency” on them and his inability to “defin[e] clear, intelligent policies.” A number call him racist (9 percent) and mention his outspoken nature (7 percent) as reasons for their dislike. “He speaks without thinking,” said one voter.

Voters also say he is unqualified (7 percent), dishonest (6 percent), and an entertainer who is inexperienced in politics (5 percent). Another 3 percent each say their disapproval stems from a belief that he will ruin the county and that he is sexist.

“He is conducting a campaign like it is a reality TV program,” a voter explained. “[It is] difficult to take him seriously. I feel his positions are more for the purpose of gaining votes than anything else,” another stated. Fear of Trump in voters’ reasons is evident: one called Trump “unpredictable and scary,” while another believed Trump would “get us into a war.”

Telling it like it is?

Typical Trump supporters are more likely to believe he is simply saying out loud what others are thinking, while those against the GOP frontrunner believe he goes too far in what he says on the campaign trail. Democrats (at 69 percent) overwhelmingly feel Trump goes too far, as do over half of independents. Republicans are more supportive of their candidate: 46 percent of this group believes Trump is simply saying out loud what others are thinking, while 38 percent feel he goes too far.

While men and women both think Trump goes too far with his rhetoric, women are much more likely to feel this way than men (61 percent versus 48 percent); men are somewhat more divided (38 percent believe he is just saying out loud what others think, compared to 25 percent of women). White and non-white voters also similarly believe Trump goes a step too far (at 56 percent and 54 percent, respectively).

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