New USA Today Poll: Trump, a ‘Jerk’ Still in the Lead

The open-ended responses are the thing.

We’re a bit fascinated by the open-ended response section of today’s new USA Today/Suffolk University poll. Take, for example, the lightning round, where participants were asked for one word to describe each candidate.

Here’s the top five answers for still-leading (23 percent, among likely Republican voters) candidate Trump:

1. Idiot/jerk/stupid/dumb
2. (Tie) Arrogant
2. (Tie) Crazy/nuts
4. Buffoon/clown/comical/joke
5. General unfavorable or dislike

According to the poll, Donald Trump has lower favorability ratings than any other candidate, so in some ways the disconnect makes sense. But we wonder if the pejoratives are revealing that people are fine with voting for a “jerk.” That seems to be the case in this response from a poll participant:

“I support Donald Trump because … he’s the only one that has what it takes to stand up to people,” declares Nina Neece, 56, of Turlock, Calif. “He’s not afraid of offending anybody.”

And then this person, who seems to be either unhappy or apologetic about Trump holding the most appeal:

“Unfortunately, I’m leaning toward Trump, only because he’s a non-political figure,” says Ginger Mangam, 58, a customer-service representative from Little Rock, Ark., who was among those surveyed.

If you want to drew conclusions or create a narrative from the numbers, it’s that this is currently a political outsider’s game, which meshes neatly with the congressional-approvals-at-historic-lows narrative.

And while there are many, many factors that play into this, the press has to consider its own role as one of those factors. How good a job are we doing at explaining what politics is, what government leaders do, the specific and fact-checked plans candidates have for this country instead of drooling salaciously as we chronicle every controversy-that-isn’t or spin for eternity through the horserace cycle?

The participants’ responses merely mirror the coverage that exists, which largely prizes surface over substance.