Republican voters knew Ronald Reagan and, to them, Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan.
For Democrats pondering Hillary Clinton, most instead have Fleetwood Mac flashbacks and “Don’t Stop” thinking about the days when Bill Clinton was president.
In a year when Americans show unusual disdain at the prospect of either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, nostalgia looms for past icons of the two major parties. Indeed, voters would overwhelmingly choose Reagan over Trump given the hypothetical matchup in a McClatchy-Marist poll. And they would solidly prefer Bill to Hillary in a hypothetical choice of Clintons.
Registered voters overall prefer Reagan over Trump by 81 to 13 percent in a hypothetical contest with 6 percent undecided. Among Republican voters, it’s still Reagan by a landslide: 83 to 15 percent with 2 percent undecided.
Despite the Monica Lewinsky affair, Iran-Contra controversy, the Whitewater scandal and trickle-down economics, today’s voters seem eager to climb into the “Hot Tub Time Machine,” cue up Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Stop” campaign theme song and search for Reagan’s shining city upon the hill.
The longing is propelled in part by a turbulent campaign season that’s producing historic high negatives of both standard bearers – 64 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Trump and 60 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Hillary Clinton.
“Hindsight looks a little better in politics,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York. “Nostalgia runs a lot sharper in American politics.”
Reagan still has the glow.
Lee Miringoff, Marist Institute for Public Opinion director
Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, a potential Trump vice presidential pick, drew a direct comparison between Reagan and Trump on Tuesday, saying that Trump “understands the frustration and hopes of the American people like no other American leader in my lifetime since Ronald Reagan.”
American voters beg to differ.
“These days, I would vote for Reagan, but he’s gone,” said Mollye Mayo, a 70-something Republican from Ocala, Fla. “Today, we have the liar and Trump, who can’t make up his mind about things. He’s yet to learn about a lot of stuff.”
Reagan romps Trump across all categories and demographics in the McClatchy-Marist poll – party affiliation, age, race, region and education – by wide margins.
The area where Trump comes close to approaching Reagan is among just independent voters. Even there, Reagan dominates that group by 70-15.
“I would prefer Reagan because I believe he had more thought in making his comments than Mr. Trump, though I like what Mr. Trump has to say,” said Hal Chapman, a 76-year-old Trump supporter from Otto, North Carolina. “We really don’t know what Reagan might have told Nancy or close friends, but with Trump, we know everything that says – and he gets carried away.”
Miringoff said the wild disparity between the future Republican nominee and the former GOP president stems from the nature of Trump’s support against Clinton and the overall affection for Reagan.
“The reason Trump’s numbers are so low is that a lot of his support is fueled by dislike for Hillary Clinton,” he said. “When you match up against Reagan, who is popular, there’s not a lot of positive Trump feeling out there. Hillary Clinton has more positive support for her.”
But not enough to overtake Bill Clinton in the battle of Clintons.
The former president leads the former secretary of state among all voters by 52-32 with 16 percent undecided.
Bill Clinton outpaces Hillary Clinton among female voters, by 45-39. Even Republicans – the party that impeached President Clinton – overwhelmingly prefer him over her, 63-14.
The former president also has single-digit advantages among African-Americans, 47-44, and white college graduates, 45-40.
Hillary Clinton does best her husband among Democratic voters, 52-42; and among “strong” Democrats, 57-39; and among very liberal voters, 49-43.
Lara Bovilsky, 43 or Eugene, Oregon, says she’d take Hillary Clinton over former President Clinton because “I’m excited about having a female nominee and, in today’s climate, a nominee with pragmatic policies.”
Lyle Brill, a 77-year-old retiree from Titusville, Florida, said he plans to vote for Hillary Clinton, but he misses Bill Clinton.
“I’d still go with him because he knew how to get the economy going,” he said wistfully. “He had his faults, but he was good with the economy.”
86 percent The amount of African-American voters who prefer Ronald Reagan over Donald Trump
This survey of 1,249 adults was conducted July 5-9, 2016, by The Marist Poll sponsored and funded in partnership with McClatchy. Adults 18 years of age and older residing in the contiguous United States were contacted on landline or mobile numbers and interviewed in English by telephone using live interviewers. Landline telephone numbers were randomly selected based upon a list of telephone exchanges from throughout the nation from ASDE Survey Sampler, Inc. The exchanges were selected to ensure that each region was represented in proportion to its population. Respondents in the household were randomly selected by first asking for the youngest male. This landline sample was combined with respondents reached through random dialing of cellphone numbers from Survey Sampling International. After the interviews were completed, the two samples were combined and balanced to reflect the 2013 American Community Survey 1-year estimates for age, gender, income, race and region. Results are statistically significant within plus or minus 2.8 percentage points. There are 1,053 registered voters. The results for this subset are statistically significant within plus or minus 3.0 percentage points. The error margin was not adjusted for sample weights and increases for cross-tabulations.