Elections

Woman? Yes. Latino? Yes. Socialist? No. Voters react to diverse candidates

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a campaign stop at the VFW Post, Tuesday Nov. 10, 2015 in Derry, N.H. Clinton said she would get tough to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a campaign stop at the VFW Post, Tuesday Nov. 10, 2015 in Derry, N.H. Clinton said she would get tough to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs. AP

Two women. Two Latinos. An African-American. A socialist. A doctor with no experience at all in government. And two more candidates who have never been elected but have been CEOs.

Americans this campaign face a field of major candidates for president that is arguably the most diverse in history – in gender, race, religion, viewpoint and life experience.

Voters are very open to some of those, according to a new McClatchy-Marist Poll. Lopsided majorities of voters say they’d vote without reservation for a woman or a Latino, for example.

They are very skeptical of one trait – half would definitely vote against a socialist.

And they have mixed views on several resume points, most notably the unfamiliar in a president for decades: no experience in government.

“The candidates are not only many in number but cover a wide spectrum of viewpoints and backgrounds,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute of Public Opinion, which conducts the survey. “From socialists to CEOS, different genders, different races. Voters can check off a lot of boxes.”

Here’s how voters react to:

A woman

A whopping 68 percent of voters say they’d definitely vote for a woman, while 24 percent say they’d vote yes with reservations. Just 5 percent said they’d vote no. There are two women running: Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina.

That willingness cuts across every demographic group including ideology, party, race, gender and income. The narrowest support for voting for a woman came from those ages 18 to 29, though even 58 percent of them said they’d definitely vote for a female candidate.

“I think we need a woman,” said Patricia Dedmon, 61, a Democrat from Forest City, N.C. “We’ve had men and we’ve had black men and we’ve had white men. I think we need something different.”

A Latino

Two of the major candidates are Latino, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

America’s ready. A solid 64 percent said they’d definitely vote for a Latino candidate; 25 percent said they would with reservations. Just 7 percent said they’d definitely vote against a Latino.

Support cut across every demographic but was strongest among Republicans, tea party supporters, Westerners and whites.

A socialist

Voters lean solidly against electing a socialist, which is bad for self-described “democratric socialist” Bernie Sanders.

The one good thing for Sanders: The groups most open to a socialist include parts of the Democratic Party base most likely to vote in primaries. That includes liberals, with a plurality of 39 percent definitely willing to vote for a socialist, and “strong” Democrats, with a plurality of 37 percent.

But should he win the Democratic nomination, the general election could be hostile territory for his brand.

“Socialist is an automatic no,” said Ryan Uehling, 44, a Republican who works in pharmaceutical sales in Fresno, Calif. “It doesn’t work anywhere, it’s never worked.”

A solid 50 percent of voters say they would definitely vote against a socialist. That is driven by a solid no from 77 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of independents.

Someone with no experience

How about electing a president with no experience at all in government? That fits several major candidates this year, particularly Ben Carson and Donald Trump. Fiorina has never been elected to office but has served in government advisory roles.

Overall, it’s a negative.

A plurality of 44 percent say they’d definitely not vote for someone with no government experience to lead the executive branch of the government. Another 36 percent would vote for someone like that but with reservations. Just 19 percent would definitely vote for such a true outsider.

“You’re not going to get anything done, because you’re an outsider,” said Cathy Lugo, 43, a Democrat and community health representative from Tulalip, Wash. “It would be nice to see an outsider, but all political doors will be closed to you.”

The most opposed to a government newcomer: Democrats, liberals, African-Americans, Latinos and voters ages 18-29. The most open to it: tea party supporters.

Experience – as a CEO

Two of the candidates have been chief executive officers of large corporations, Trump and Fiorina.

Voters aren’t sure of whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Thirty-four percent say they’d vote for a CEO, 39 percent say they’d vote for a CEO but with reservations, and 24 percent say they’d definitely vote against one.

The most likely to support a CEO: Republicans, conservatives and tea party supporters. The most likely to oppose: Democrats, liberals and African-Americans.

Lots of experience – inside government

Voters still like experience on the job, or at least in the field.

A majority of 51 percent would definitely vote for a candidate with “many years” of government experience and 36 percent would vote yes with reservations. Just 10 percent would definitely vote no.

Democrats are most likely to like a candidate with government experience (all of their candidates fit that label), along with liberals, African-Americans, Latinos and those ages 18-29.

Religion

Would America vote for a Seventh Day Adventist, Carson’s religion?

A plurality of 34 percent said yes, they’d definitely vote for one, and 32 percent said they would with reservations. But a sizable 25 percent said they definitely would not vote for one.

“No. I don’t believe in that religion,” said Ra’Quayle Cooley, 21, a Democrat from Deerfield Beach, Fla.

The groups most likely to support a Seventh Day Adventist: Republicans, tea party supporters and whites. Those most likely to vote against a Seventh Day Adventist: Democrats, liberals and African-Americans.

Vera Bergengruen, Lesley Clark, William Douglas, Iana Kozelsky, Anita Kumar, Ali Montag, Grace Toohey and Tori Whitley contributed.

Steve Thomma: 202-383-6042, @stevethomma

METHODOLOGY

This survey of 1,465 adults was conducted Oct. 29-Nov. 4 by The Marist Poll, sponsored and funded in partnership with McClatchy. Adults residing in the continental United States were interviewed in English or Spanish by telephone using live interviewers. Land-line 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 then selected by first asking for the youngest male. To increase coverage, this land-line sample was supplemented by respondents reached through random dialing of cellphone numbers from Survey Sampling International. The two samples were then combined and balanced to reflect the 2013 American Community Survey one-year estimates for age, gender, income, race and region. Results are statistically significant within plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. There are 1,080 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.

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