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Most Americans don’t trust Donald Trump—especially women

Hillary Clinton handily beat Trump on most trustworthiness questions in a new survey.


Aaron Sankin


Posted on Mar 8, 2016   Updated on May 27, 2021, 3:04 am CDT

There is a growing consensus that the 2016 presidential election will come down to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and real-estate-heir-turned-reality-TV-star Donald Trump.

Conventional wisdom has certainly taken a beating this election cycle—just ask Jeb Bush—but with Clinton and Trump steadily racking up state wins, polling firms have begun zooming in on how Clinton and Trump fare in the minds of the American people.

On Wednesday, the Silicon Valley tech advocacy group CALinnovates released the results of an online poll assessing how trustworthy people considered the leading candidates. Not only did Clinton fare better, both in general and in terms of managing specific aspects of presidential leadership, but she also benefitted from a large gender gap. As it turns out, women tend to trust Clinton over Trump much more than men do.

The survey of 806 Americans, conducted for CALinnovates by Vrge Strategies, found that only one in four Americans would trust Trump over Clinton.

When it came to specific issues, respondents trusted Clinton over Trump to find a balance between individual electronic privacy and national security, such as in the ongoing fight Apple and the FBI over unlocking a dead terrorist’s iPhone. Only one in five Americans said they trusted Trump to nominate a Supreme Court justice to fill the vacancy left by the death of Antonin Scalia.

“The polling showed a fundamental lack of trust in Trump and that extends to the economy to national security issues to the basic question of what voters trust more,” explained CALinnovates Executive Director Mike Montgomery. “It doesn’t necessarily show that Hillary Clinton is doing well, as much as it shows that Trump has a lot more work to do.”

Trust is key for the tech start-ups that comprise much of CALinnovates’s membership, Montgomery said. As technology quickly changes, regulators need to be able to quickly adapt to new technical realities. It’s not enough that a candidate is on a company’s side on an issue right now—companies need to have confidence that the candidate is capable of understanding technological evolution. In that sense, trust in a given candidate becomes even more important.

A significant pattern emerged in the gender breakdown of the results: women had considerably less faith in Trump than did men.

Fifty-three percent of women said they trusted Clinton over Trump, with only 20 percent saying the opposite. More men reported trusting Clinton over Trump, but by a notably smaller margin: 40 percent versus 34 percent.

By a margin of 40 percent to 26 percent, women believed that Clinton would do a better job of standing up to special interests. Among men, 40 percent picked the GOP frontrunner and only 30 percent favored Clinton. Clinton beat Trump by a margin of 51 percent to 46 percent on the subject of managing the economy; men favored Trump 37-26.

The gender gap shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Recent decades have seen a growing partisan split on gender lines, with women favoring the Democratic Party and men leading toward the Republicans. In the 2012 presidential election, the difference between men and women was the largest since Gallup began tracking it in 1952. President Obama won the female vote by 12 percent and Mitt Romney beat Obama among men by eight points.

That differential in gender preferences between the two parties is certainly exacerbated by Clinton’s gender, as well as Trump’s history of offensive remarks about women.

When it came to the question of personality, the split in the survey was even more pronounced.

Asked who they’d rather sit next to on a six-hour train ride, men were split evenly between Clinton and Trump. But among women, the choice was clear; they were three times as likely to favor hanging out with Clinton as with Trump.

“Generally what the survey shows is that while Trump is driving the narrative he may be burning all his bridges… It may help you in March, but it’ll hurt you in November,” explained Montgomery. “If people people pick presidents on who they want to have a beer with or take a train ride with, then Trump has some work to do.”

When it came to last question, there was a third option: “Just shoot me and put me out of my misery.” About one-third of all respondents selected that option, and any gender difference fell within the margin of error.

Illustration via Max Fleishman

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*First Published: Mar 8, 2016, 10:00 am CST