“People feel betrayed.” That statement sums up the general feeling of the electorate as we head into the most tumultuous election cycle in recent history, pollster Frank Luntz told attendees during his keynote remarks at the CCJ Spring Symposium in Birmingham, Ala., today. “That’s the strongest feeling you can have about politics,” he said.
Luntz kicked off his talk by asking the audience of fleet executives and industry suppliers whether they support presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, or “none of the above.” Clinton received no applause and the remainder were split fairly equally between support for Trump and those who don’t back either candidate. Luntz cited polling that indicates 22 percent of Americans don’t like their presidential choices this year. “We’ve never had that before,” he said. “People are frustrated and angry.”
That anger has led many Americans to support Trump, the real estate mogul and reality TV star who manages to offend women, minorities and the other Republican candidates without apology, Luntz said. When criticized for his remarks about fellow candidates Carly Fiorina’s looks or Marco Rubio’s sweating, Trump’s response is: “We’ve had enough political correctness. I don’t have time for it,” Luntz said.
Luntz credits Trump’s vulgar style with 2016 being the “worst year for incivility since they started measuring it several years ago,” citing parents having to explain many of Trump’s statements, such as one reference during a debate to the size of his private parts, to their young children. “Mitt Romney didn’t talk like this,” Luntz said. “He didn’t win either!” an audience member responded.
Trump’s willingness to speak his mind with no thought of the consequences is a big part of his appeal, Luntz said. “There are no circuit breakers in Trump,” he said. “He’s the truck that’s headed down the road at 100 mph with no brakes. He’s going to get there faster than anyone else but you’re not sure what shape the cargo will be in when he gets there.” Until Trump came on the scene we’d never had an elected official that speaks the truth without the filter of pollsters or focus groups, Luntz said.
The exact opposite is true of Hillary Clinton. “There is nothing authentic about her,” Luntz said, citing polling that shows only 26 percent of Americans think she has the integrity to be president. Luntz showed video of a TV interview where Clinton was unable to say with conviction that she had never lied to the American people. The fact that someone with such a reputation is running for president makes it “tough when you try to teach your kids about honesty and respect,” Luntz said.
Asked who he thought would win in November in a Trump-Clinton matchup, Luntz predicted Clinton will win 51-47. “If we were in Vegas and you wanted me to take Trump you’d have to give me 4 points,” he said.