Richard Greene

Polls show oddly dysfunctional U.S. electorate

Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, left, and Jeb Bush spar early in Wednesday’s GOP presidential debate.
Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, left, and Jeb Bush spar early in Wednesday’s GOP presidential debate. TNS

Sir Winston Churchill said the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

The most recent national polling just released by the Washington Post-ABC News collaborative seems to confirm his insight as on target.

Among its findings are these jewels:

Asked if they think most people in politics can be trusted, 75 percent of registered voters said no, they cannot.

Asked whether the current political system is basically functional, 68 percent said no, it is dysfunctional.

Then, a majority went on to say they prefer the next president to be someone with experience in how the political system works, and by a ratio of 3-to-1, they say they prefer someone who will fix it instead of tearing it down and starting over.

So, at this point, we conclude that even though most people in politics cannot be trusted, we still want one of them to somehow fix the malfunctioning system.

How does that make any sense? (My question, not one in the poll.)

Moving on to inquiries about the leading candidates, we find some equally perplexing conclusions.

Among all adults, only 34 percent support Donald Trump’s proposals on immigration.

Just 37 percent say he is qualified to serve as president and only 33 percent say he has the kind of personality and temperament it takes to serve effectively.

Only 35 percent say he is honest and trustworthy, and when asked if he understands the problems of people like you, just 29 percent answer yes.

Here’s my next question: Why, then, has he been leading in all the polls?

The same people who responded to the questions about him as described above say they would vote for him, by a significant margin, over all the other Republican candidates.

Only 33 percent of registered voters say Hillary Clinton is honest and trustworthy.

Just four of 10 say she understands the problems of people like you.

When it comes to the matter of how she is handling questions about her use of personal email while secretary of state, only 32 percent say they approve of what she says.

Just as many voters believe the email issue is a legitimate concern as those who don’t, while only 31 percent say she stayed within government regulations versus 55 percent who say she violated the regulations governing the protection of sensitive data.

Almost 60 percent of voters say she has tried to cover up the facts of the email, and most of us believe that cover-ups are often worse than the acts themselves.

Here’s my final question: Why, then, in spite of very significant losses in her poll numbers over the last few months, does she remain the clear favorite among the same voters who view her so negatively on the issues described above?

The poll has her 18 points ahead of self-described socialist U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders if Vice President Joe Biden enters the race, with that margin growing to 28 points if Biden doesn’t run.

In summary, the majority of voters say she is not honest and trustworthy, that she doesn’t understand their problems, and she is covering up the facts of her reckless handling of sensitive government information.

But they are still going to vote for her.

It would seem that Churchill knew what he was talking about.

Clinton knows that, too. It probably explains why she remains supremely confident that she’s going to win, notwithstanding the FBI investigation of her behavior and questions about her integrity.


Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.