We have updated the analysis of the personal popularity of the 22 main party U.S. presidential candidates in light of the 2016 election. Trump under-performs his party’s popularity, Rodham Clinton out-performs her party. We use the same method as when we analyzed 1960-2012 well ahead of this election.
We define personal popularity as a candidate’s share of vote less the party’s share of vote. The party share of vote (i.e. party popularity) is measured by votes nationally for the House of Representatives. That is:
Candidate popularity = Candidate’s share of presidential election vote – Party’s share of House of Representatives vote (only counting Democratic and Republican party votes)
The thinking is that because the elections to the House are at a local level, and the number of races is large (435), the election is largely detached from the presidential race.
The graph below shows the results by candidate. Note that this is election popularity, not in-office popularity.
The Republican Party has had stronger candidates than the Democratic Party when compared to party strength. However, Trump is not a particularly popular candidate.
Further, the difference between the most popular and least popular candidates is a massive 24%. It begs the question if the primary process delivers the best possible candidates.
We also looked at the year-by-year popularity.
- Kennedy beat Nixon in 1960 despite a large popularity deficit (and winning less of the vote). His success was due to the party’s popularity. The same applies to Trump.
- The Republicans had a golden age, and the Democrats a leaden age, between 1968 and 1988.
- In this golden age, Carter won against Ford because the Republican party was in the dog house after Watergate. Ford was relatively popular.
- Since 1992, the gaps in popularity have declined and party and candidate popularity is now more or less the same.
For reference, the national share of votes for the House of representative elections are shown below.