As the old saying goes, pollsters ask the darndest things. Click around online and you can find a survey on just about anything.
Pollsters are at their busiest in presidential election years, and among the many strange concepts they inquire about is the elusive quality known as likability. The predictive issue at hand: Do voters need to actually like a presidential candidate to vote for him or her?
Trace Dominguez, our man in Philly, investigates the issue in today's DNews special report from the floor of the Democratic National Convention. Trace is a good guy. You'd like him.
Likability is indeed a quality that election pollsters sort for, and there's plenty of data that suggest it's important for candidates. The most recent numbers from Gallup reveal that Hillary Clinton is about 10 percent more likable than Donald Trump, but that both candidates have historically miserable likability ratings.
RELATED: Why is The DNC Already In Chaos?
How do pollsters assess likability? Well, in a head-to-head election, pollsters can measure relative likability by asking thousands of people -- across various demographic groups -- to associate specific characteristics with one candidate or the other. For instance, in terms of "moral character" Clinton polls three points higher Trump. But in regard to "honesty," Trump trumps Clinton by a point. According to one poll, at least.
Related to likability is the concept of favorability, which is a metric that guesstimates the voters' overall feeling about a particular candidate. Believe us, these pollsters can parse metrics to death. According to a fascinating breakdown from the maniacally data-driven FiveThirtyEight.com, both Clinton and Trump have extremely low favorability ratings -- like, off-the-charts low.
All that being said, statistics show that voters will go ahead and vote for their candidate of choice, even if they really, really don't like him or her. That's because many voters are essentially voting for their respective party platform or, significantly, against the opposing party's platform. Studies suggest that this idea of partyism is growing rapidly in our increasingly partisan political system.
But even more relevant is the fact that, as voters in what is a de facto two-party political system, we just don't have a lot of choice in presidential elections. In fact, mathematically, our limited selection is as limited as it can get while still being technically a selection. In a presidential election, we're not voting for the most likable candidate in politics; we're voting for who is available.
-- Glenn McDonald
Washington Post: Hillary Clinton Has A Likability Problem. Donald Trump Has A Likability Epidemic.
FiveThirtyEight: Donald Trump Is Really Unpopular With General Election Voters
Pew Research Center: Presidential Job Approval Ratings From Ike To Obama