In the last four presidential elections, most candidates have seen their favorable and unfavorable ratings fluctuate with almost all of them seeing their favorability rating advantage shrink by Election Day. Those who won, however, held a relatively stable advantage or saw minimal changes, compared to their opponents.
Then-Gov. George W. Bush began 2000 with his favorability rating 40 points higher than his unfavorability rating, according to Gallup data. Vice President Al Gore’s favorability was 18 points higher than his unfavorable numbers. By October, the gap between Bush’s favorables and unfavorables had closed to +23 points, while Gore saw his favorability rating narrow to nine points.
In 2004, President Bush began the election year with a five-point favorability advantage, while Sen. John Kerry’s favorability advantage was 38 points. By October, Bush’s numbers were relatively stable, as he maintained a favorability rating that was five points higher than his unfavorable rating. Kerry, however, saw his favorability advantage cut to just nine points.
Sen. John McCain began 2008 with a 24-point favorability rating, while then-Sen. Barack Obama’s was +27. By October, McCain’s net favorable/unfavorable had fallen to +15 points, while Obama held steady at +27.
In 2012, Mitt Romney started the year with his favorables two points lower than his unfavorables and ended the campaign on negative ground with a -1 favorability advantage. Obama started 2012 with an 11-point number that grew to +13 by October.
The presumptive 2016 nominee, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, have been in negative territory all year. Today, Mrs. Clinton’s favorability rating advantage is -17 points while Mr. Trump’s is -37, according to the RealClearPolitics.com aggregates of national polls. If these numbers hold, the two candidates will go into Election Day with the worst ratings in the last five presidential elections.
Presidential Candidates Favorability Advantage Over Course of Election Year