There have been few presidential elections in U.S. history where both major party candidates were so disliked by much of the electorate as this year's contest between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll Trump had a 70% unfavorable rating and Clinton a 55% unfavorable rating. That means more than half the American people wish they had a better choice of candidates for 2016.
But these are the candidates we have. So to determine how working law enforcement officers are likely to vote in the November election, POLICE e-mailed a survey to 59,238 readers. A total of 3,652 working officers responded.
Out of that population of working officers who plan to vote in the November election, 84% say they support Donald Trump. Hillary was supported by 8%, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson received 5%, and "other" received 3%. Write-in choices on the right included: Texas senator Ted Cruz, Florida governor Jeb Bush, anybody but Trump candidate Evan McMullin, and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. On the left, write-ins included: Green Party candidate Jill Stein, climate change crusader and TV "science guy" Bill Nye, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. A number of respondents who selected other said "none of the above," and one may have summed up the feeling of many voters by simply stating, "Help, please."
Breaking Down the Vote
These numbers may seem to be good news for Trump, and they are to a degree. He has 7% more support from the POLICE audience than Mitt Romney received in 2012. But his support tends to be almost as much about respondents' dislike for Clinton as it is about their affection for Trump.
Asked why they were supporting Trump, the majority of pro-Trump respondents, 50%, said they liked his stands on the issues. But 37% said Trump was their man because "he is not Hillary Clinton," which shows that much of Trump's support among law enforcement officers is largely because of opposition to his opponent. Other reasons that Trump supporters gave for planning to cast their ballots for the New York tycoon included business experience, loyalty to the Republican Party, Trump's backing of law enforcement and the military, his defense of the Second Amendment, and a desire for change in Washington.
Because of the fact that so many Americans are dissatisfied with the choice between Clinton and Trump in this election, respondents who supported him were asked what their primary concerns are about the Republican candidate. The majority of respondents, 54%, expressed reservations about his temperament, followed by his lack of political experience at 24%. Trump's apparent failure to listen to advisors was another major concern at 21%. Only 1% of respondents cared about his refusal to release his tax information. Write-in responses to this question included "he doesn't choose his battles wisely," a lack of conservative principles, taking the bait from adversaries, his expressed admiration for certain dictators, and fear that he will lose to Hillary.
Hillary supporters were asked the same questions about their candidate. Overwhelmingly, the primary reason that respondents were supporting the former secretary of state, at 59%, was displeasure with Trump. Other reasons given for supporting Clinton included her political experience at 25%, her stands on the issues at 12%, and loyalty to the Democratic Party at 4%. Write-in responses from Hillary's supporters about why they support the Democratic candidate ranged from an enthusiastic statement about her professionalism, decency, and concern for people to an apathetic "she is the lesser of two evils."
But again Clinton's supporters have reservations about their candidate. By far the most pressing concern about Clinton among respondents who support her is her honesty at 46%. Other significant responses included: her support for Black Lives Matter at 28%, Second Amendment concerns at 17%, and the potential for more revelations about the Clinton Foundation and/or her e-mail server at 9%. Write-in responses to this question ranged from "no concerns" to "her arrogant selfishness."
Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson scored 5% of respondents in the POLICE poll, but his support is largely a protest vote against the other candidates. Asked why they support the former New Mexico governor, the vast majority of respondents at 82% say the fact that he is not Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump made them choose Johnson. Other reasons respondents gave for supporting Johnson included: his stands on the issues at 15%, political experience at 2%, and loyalty to the Libertarian party at 1%. The most interesting write-in response from a Johnson supporter was, "I hate both Clinton and Trump, and I prefer smaller government."
From the substantial response to the 2016 POLICE Presidential Election Survey, it's clear that many working law enforcement officers are passionate about the issues in this election.
Asked to choose the single most important issue in this election from a supplied list, respondents were almost equally split between control of the Supreme Court at 26% and terrorism and/or national security at 25%. Other responses included: the economy at 16%, support for law enforcement at 14%, Second Amendment concerns at 8%, illegal immigration at 5%, the national debt at 4%, and crime at 2%.
Write-in answers about the most critical issues overwhelmingly favored "all of the above." Other write-in concerns included: "building a spirit of compromise and collaboration on all issues," bridging the racial divide, ending Obamacare, reducing carbon emissions, and setting the future direction of the nation.
Who Will Win
Most American voters have had the experience of casting a vote for a candidate they know will lose. Some of the respondents in the POLICE poll believe this will happen to them this year. Although 84% of respondents support Trump, only 71% of respondents believe he will win in November. Hillary Clinton had only 8% support in the poll, but 28% of respondents believe she will be the next president. Only 1% of respondents believe Gary Johnson has a chance of moving into the Oval Office in January.
Write-in responses for this question were illustrative of voter attitudes toward this election. One officer wrote, "I fear it will be Clinton." Another wrote, "I wish it was none of these people." And another officer summed up the desperation that some voters feel this year with a simple prayer, "God help us."