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The 2 things that bother Americans most about Trump and Clinton

The 2016 presidential candidates are historically unpopular—but these two incidents bother us more than anything else.


Andrew Couts


Published Aug 25, 2016   Updated May 26, 2021, 4:38 am CDT

There are plenty of reasons people dislike Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. But there are two instances that likely U.S. voters point to as the things that irk them the most. 

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In a Bloomberg Politics poll released on Wednesday, the pollsters asked respondents (1,007 adult Americans) how bothered they were by certain things the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees did. And the answers may not be what you expect. 

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On the Trump side, respondents said the thing that bothered them most was when Trump mocked a disabled New York Times reporter during a November 2015 rally. Trump later claimed he’d never met the reporter, Serge F. Kovaleski, whose 2001 Washington Post article Trump used to justify his thoroughly debunked claim that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheered the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 

Kovaleski has arthrogryposis, a joint disorder that causes visible symptoms. Trump said of his impression of Kovaleski: “I merely mimicked what I thought would be a flustered reporter trying to get out of a statement he made long ago.”

That incident bothered 62 percent of the poll’s respondents “a lot,” and it bothered 21 percent “a little.” Just 15 percent were not bothered by it at all.

Respondents were not particularly bothered by Trump encouraging Russian hackers to target Clinton or his decision to not release his tax returns—two issues on which the Democrats have attacked the Republican nominee.

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For Clinton, the most bothersome issue for voters may also be the most problematic for her campaign overall. 

FBI Director James Comey‘s assertion that Clinton and her staff were “extremely careless” in their handling of classified material sent over Clinton’s private email system during her time as secretary of state bothered American voters the most, the poll found. Eighty percent of respondents said it bothered them either a lot or a little. 

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Clinton’s handling of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya—which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, whose mother, Patricia, spoke on Trump’s behalf at the Republican National Convention in mid-July—was the second worst moment for Clinton, the poll found. 

Not coincidentally, these two events are closely related; the discovery of Clinton’s private email setup came as a result of congressional Republicans’ inquiry into Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi attack.

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Overall, Trump and Clinton rank among the most disliked presidential candidates in U.S. history, with an average 53.2 percent of Americans holding an unfavorable view of the Democratic nominee, while an average 62 percent view Trump unfavorably. 

Since Trump and Clinton are the most viable candidates we have, however, Americans are lining up behind them, albeit with their noses firmly pinched. Clinton held onto a six-point lead ahead of Trump in this Bloomberg Politics poll and is leading Trump by 5.4 points on average.

The good news is, there’s just more than two months left until Election Day, at which point we’ll surely have something new to be bothered by.

Contact the author: Andrew Couts, [email protected]

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*First Published: Aug 25, 2016, 5:00 am CDT