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The Big Reason Voters Like Trump, Clinton? They're Not The Other

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call,Inc./Getty Images

The biggest reason supporters of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton support their candidate is because they're not the other.

That's the finding from a Pew Research Center studyof a month's worth of survey data. Pew found, from more than 4,000 interviews conducted online and by mail, that the "main reason" supporters of both candidates were voting for their candidate was because "he is not Clinton," and "she is not Trump." Almost one out of every three people said so.

He's "Not a LIAR," wrote one 75-year-old male Trump supporter.

"The concept of Trump as POTUS is terrifying," said a 35-year-old female Clinton supporter.

"Hillary Clinton represents everything that is wrong in government," a 50-year-old woman said. "SHE CAN NOT BECOME PRESIDENT!!"

"I don't want Donald Trump to win," a 53-year-old female Clinton supporter said. "I know she isn't perfect, but she will probably be very similar to President Obama."

Supporters of both, though, said they had concerns about their own candidate – 62 percent of Trump supporters said so as did half of Clinton supporters.

Trump supporters in particular said they were well aware of their candidate's deficiencies and vulnerabilities. More than a third said they were concerned about his temperament and unpredictability, for example.

One supporter, a 65-year-old woman, went so far as to liken him to "a temperamental child saying anything in an attempt to get what he wants. No real experience and does not seek sound advice. His way or the highway. Not good traits for a president."

Another, a 52-year-old woman, said he would "embarrass us by saying inappropriate things ..."

And a 44-year-old woman flat-out said, "I don't like him" and called him "arrogant and egotistical."

Yet all said they were voting for Trump. How can it be that supporters could think someone was like a "temperamental child," who would "embarrass" the country, and who they flat "don't like," but still vote for them?

Credit Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July hold up signs that read "Love trumps hate."

- The 52-year-old woman called Trump "the lesser problem than the Democrats being politically correct and not keeping our country SAFE";

- The 44-year-old woman said "he's the lesser of the evils";

And it might be best summed up by the thoughts of a 49-year-old man voting for Trump: "As bad as he is, I think Hillary is worse for our country."

Clinton supporters were far less worried by their candidate's character traits. And while a third were animated by the fact that "she is not Trump," another third liked her "experience" and that she "will get things done."

The biggest problem Clinton supporters have with her is "dishonesty," "secrecy" and "past/associations/events."

One 45-year-old man said she's "too guarded and not transparent enough."

"She'd make a fine president," said a 36-year-old woman, "but I am concerned about her trustworthiness."

Said a 24-year-old man: "I disagree with her on some issues, like her support for higher taxes and Obamacare. But that's nothing compared to how afraid I am of a Trump presidency."

A 53-year-old man said he worries about "aspersions thrown against her about those emails and people thinking her devious." Yet: "She may have faults, but against Trump she is a peach."

No matter what happens, very few say they'll be excited about the outcome of the election. Just 11 percent of people say they'll be excited if Trump wins and 12 percent say so if Clinton wins. And of their supporters? Just 28 percent of Trump supporters and a quarter of Clinton supporters say they'll be excited.

And almost 6 in 10 say they are either "frustrated" or "disgusted" with this election.

Correction Sept. 21, 2016

A previous version of this post incorrectly indicated that just 11 percent and 12 percent of Trump and Clinton supporters, respectively, would be excited if their preferred candidate wins. In fact, just 11 percent of all voters say they would be excited if Trump wins and just 12 percent of all voters said they would be excited if Clinton wins.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
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