If you are reading this blog then you are certainly aware that the 2016 Election is in full swing. At this point we are constantly bombarded with political ads and daily news stories. We here at Moses & Rooth decided to conduct a survey through the Google to try and determine what people’s thoughts and feelings on some of the candidates as well as determine what the electorate’s basic knowledge of civics. The data reveals some common knowledge, misconceptions, and opinions about the process by which our nation elects its presidents.
When we began reviewing the date, the result that stood out the most to us was the Hillary Clinton Question. Over 45% of the survey participants feel that if a candidate is under a federal investigation, then they should not be permitted to run for President of the United States. While Senator Sanders has not made this a theme of the primary, whoever the Republican candidate is will certainly hammer the investigation during the campaign.
The electoral college question, the term length question, and term limit question were viewed as a way to determine if the people answering the questions had a working knowledge of basic civics. We believe that based upon people’s answers the survey was answered by people who had at least a basic understanding of the political process.
The first question on the survey asked whether the president should be selected through the electoral college or whether the popular vote should elect him or her. Though this question had a comparatively low response rate, the responses were statistically significant. 68.5 percent of respondents answered that the popular vote should control, while 29.4 percent preferred our current electoral college system, with 2.2 percent giving other answers. Thirty-seven percent of men who responded to the question favored the electoral college, while only 20.1 percent of women did.
The second question was fact-based, and asked participants how long a presidential term lasts. 92.7 percent of respondents gave the correct answer of four years. 2.5 percent said eight years, and 1.6 percent said two years. The other responses ranged from one to ten years.
Next, participants were asked how many terms a person may serve as the president: 94.4 percent correctly answered two terms, while 2.4 percent said one term, and 1.3 percent believed that there is no term limit.
The fourth question also tested respondents’ governmental knowledge. It asked whether a candidate who is under investigation for a federal offense is permitted to run for president: 45.6 percent were ill-informed and answered no. Only 33.2 correctly answered yes: offenses may disqualify a person from holding federal office if convicted, but a mere investigation does not preclude a person from running; 21.2 percent of respondents believed that it depends on the offense. Men were twice as likely as women to answer this question correctly, and 55–64-year-olds were significantly more likely to pick yes than those aged 35–44.
The Donald questions. It has been well publicized that a number of Donald Trump’s companies have used the bankruptcy process. We wanted to determine if people felt that this was a disqualifier for the presidency. This question was opinion-based and asked whether a prior bankruptcy should preclude a person from running for president: 25.9 percent were of the opinion that a person who has declared bankruptcy should not be permitted to run, while 73.3 percent said that it should not. Men were more forgiving of past bankruptcies, with 79.3 percent of men believing that it should not affect a presidential campaign, while only 64.6 percent of women were of the same opinion.
The Senator Cruz, Rubio, and Sanders question. All three of these candidates are sitting Senators. This survey asked whether a sitting senator is permitted to run for president: 84.5 percent, many of whom were likely aware that Bernie Sanders is a sitting senator, correctly answered yes, while 15.5 percent answered no. A correct answer to this question was correlated with age: those aged 55–64 and 65+ were around 20 percent more likely to get it right than those aged 18–24.
Military or Government Experience
We looked at this as another Trump question. He is the only candidate who has never held a position in government. Additionally, the United States has never had a President who neither served in the military or held elected office.
The seventh question was opinion-based and asked participants whether the United States Constitution be amended to require a Commander in Chief to have prior military or governmental experience: 28.9 percent of respondents agreed that there should be some prior experience required, but 70.5 percent answered no. Seventy-seven percent of men were against requiring experience, whereas only 67.7 percent of women agreed with that viewpoint. Respondents aged 55 and up were more likely than those aged 34 and younger to answer no.
Born Outside U.S.
This is the Senator Cruz question. Donald Trump made it a point to question Senator Cruz’s ability to run and questioned whether or not he was a natural born citizen. This questions attempted to gauge the electorate’s belief in Cruz’s eligibility to run for office.
This question asked whether someone born to U.S. citizen parents, but born outside the United States, is considered a natural born citizen and therefore eligible to be president: 70.6 percent of respondents answered yes, while 29.4 percent said no. Younger people were more likely to say no, while older respondents were more likely to say yes. However, since the Constitution provides no clear directive on the matter, and since the issue has never arisen in a legal challenge taken up by the Supreme Court, there is not yet any definitive answer to this question.
Question nine asked participants how likely they are to vote in the coming presidential election, using a five-point scale, from very unlikely to extremely likely: 64.9 percent of respondents ranked themselves at a 5, extremely likely to vote, and 12.5 percent said 1, very unlikely. The rest fell somewhere in the middle. Older people were, predictably, more likely to say they planned on voting. Those aged 55+ averaged 4.3, while respondents aged 18–24 had a 3.8 average.
The final survey question asked participants whether they are registered to vote: 85.3 percent of respondents are registered, eight percent responded that they are not, while 6.7 percent said that they were not at the time, but would be by the time of the general election. Those aged 55–64 were the most likely to be registered, at 95.3 percent. Only 56.3 percent of those aged 18–24 were registered to vote, but 86 percent of those aged 25–34 were registered.
The electoral process is essential to the democratic principles of our government, and the functioning of our country depends upon every citizen’s participation in the democratic process. When we are educated about how our elections work, we can meaningfully participate in that process and, with our votes, direct the country in the way that we believe is best. At Moses & Rooth, we encourage all people of voting age to educate yourselves about the issues and the candidates and to vote in your state’s presidential primaries and in the general election in November.
Knowledge of the system is important, however the survey shows that people’s view on these issues will likely shape how they vote. The 28% of the survey takers who think that the Constitution should be amended to require either prior government or military experience as a prerequisite for the Presidency are unlikely to vote for Trump. Additionally, Secretary Clinton’s issue with many voter over her ongoing federal investigation will likely be a weight around her campaign.
If you are interested in the survey results, you can take a look at them here.