Americans showing love to Jeb & Hillary

Name recognition goes a long way in American politics, and according to the latest surveys from the Elon University Poll, it looks to be a great time to be a Clinton or a Bush running for the White House.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush recorded the highest number of positive attributes in a recent national online survey that asked respondents to offer traits that came to mind when shown the names of candidates with presidential ambitions in 2016.

While Democrats in North Carolina in particular list just as many positive traits about Clinton, Republicans in the Tar Heel State have even more kind things to say about another candidate in the race: former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, whose religious background more closely aligns with the state’s social conservatism.

The Elon University Poll surveyed 901 registered voters in the United States and 709 registered voters in North Carolina. The June 4-9 surveys from online opt-in panels were weighted to match U.S. Census information, and because respondents were not randomly selected, margins of error can be misleading and were not calculated.

The poll used an online survey to gather impressions of declared and potential presidential candidates from both parties in a way that would have been more difficult to measure through traditional telephone polling.

“The survey suggests there are several candidates in both the Republican and Democratic field who are facing an uphill battle,” said Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon University Poll. “Very few voters know who these candidates are and the few that recognize the candidates’ name frequently attribute those names with a negative connotation.”

In the GOP, Jeb Bush – son of former President George Bush and brother of former President George W. Bush – recorded the strongest name recognition and the highest number of positive attributes listed by registered voters across the United States who self-identified as Republican or were independents who leaned Republican.

Fifty-seven percent of all the attributes offered about Bush were considered positive or neutral. Some of the most frequently cited words were “good,” “OK,” “brother,” “like” and “best.” Bush also had the fewest number of people say they “don’t know” anything about him.

Current Ohio Gov. John Kasich had the weakest name recognition of the 15 candidates listed on the survey, and current New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has the highest number of negative attributes listed by self-identified Republicans. Thirty percent of Christie’s attributes were negative. Some of his most frequent descriptions were “no,” “OK,” “fat” and “Jersey.”

Ben Carson, a surgeon from Maryland, had the lowest number of negative attributes listed among the GOP candidates. Only 4 percent of descriptions were considered negative, giving him the highest ratio of positive-to-negative remarks.

“Past studies have shown Republicans tend to nominate the candidate ahead in the polls a year before the Iowa caucuses,” Fernandez said. “However, with such a long list of GOP presidential candidates who have already announced they are running, this is not looking like a typical election year.”

The surveys were conducted prior to real estate mogul and reality television star Donald Trump declaring his own intentions to seek the White House on the Republican ticket.

Among self-identified Democrats or independents who say they lean Democratic, Clinton carried the field in the number of positive attributes she received. Some of the words most cited for Clinton were “strong,” “president,” “good” and “like.” Fifty-one percent of all remarks reflected well on the former Secretary of State and former First Lady.

Current Vice President Joe Biden, who has not stated whether he plans to run for the White House, followed Clinton with 33 percent of terms classified as positive. However, Biden also had the highest number of negative associations among self-identified Democrats in the national survey.

And while a grassroots effort continues to push for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to run for office despite her declared intentions not to seek the presidency, Warren still draws positive descriptions among registered voters. Twenty-three percent of the terms associated with her name were positive.

“There is always the fear that ‘familiarity may breed contempt,’” Fernandez said. “But it seems that Clinton and Bush both benefit from wide name recognition and, for the most part, positive associations with those names.”

North Carolina Attitudes Toward the Candidates

The Elon University Poll conducted two simultaneous surveys – one national, the other specific to North Carolina – to identify possible differences between registered voters in North Carolina compared to the United States as a whole.

Key differences among Republicans and independents who lean Republican:  Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee had the highest number of positive comments in North Carolina, rather than Jeb Bush, who was third behind Huckabee and Ben Carson.

“It is not surprising that Mike Huckabee is seen more positively by voters in North Carolina than in the nation as a whole,” Fernandez said. “His background, particularly being a fellow southerner and pastor before entering politics, may appeal to North Carolinians who are generally more religious than their counterparts in most other states.”

Key differences among Democrats and independents who lean Democratic: Hillary Clinton saw a very slight increase in the number of positive comments in North Carolina compared to the nation as a whole.  In addition, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee recorded more “don’t knows” than respondents in the national survey.