WASHINGTON (AP) — It was supposed to be her “47 percent” moment.
When Hillary Clinton said that half of Donald Trump’s supporters belonged in a “basket of deplorables,” Republicans thought they just might have found her campaign-crushing-blunder.
The gaffe, they hoped, was a way to cement an image as an out-of-touch snob, just as Democrats did four years ago to Mitt Romney after he said “47 percent” of voters backed President Barack Obama because they were “dependent on government.”
But a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds that Clinton’s stumble didn’t have quite the impact that Trump and his supporters wanted. Instead, it’s Trump who’s viewed as most disconnected and disrespectful.
Sixty percent of registered voters say he does not respect “ordinary Americans,” according to the poll. That’s far more than the 48 percent who say the same about Clinton.
Trump supporters had begun showing up at his rallies with shirts and signs riffing on the word “deplorable.” The hashtag #BasketofDeplorables began trending on Twitter, as the Republican nominee’s backers demanded an apology. At a rally last week in Florida, Trump walked out to a song from the play Les Miserables.
“Welcome to all you deplorables!” he shouted, standing in front of a backdrop that read, “Les Deplorables.”
But the poll findings underscore how Trump’s no-holds-barred approach may be wearing on the country. Despite efforts by his campaign to keep him on message, his image as an outspoken firebrand who brazenly skips past societal norms appears deeply ingrained among voters.
Nearly three in four do not view him as even somewhat civil or compassionate. Half say he’s at least somewhat racist. Those numbers are largely unchanged from the last time the AP-GfK survey was conducted in July.
Even among those saying they’ll most likely vote for Trump, 40 percent say they think the word “compassionate” doesn’t describe him well.
“He was always a decent guy even with his marriages and everything,” said David Singer, a retiree from Simsbury, Connecticut. “But when he got on the debate stage something happened to him. The insults just got me crazy. I couldn’t believe what he was telling people.”
Trump is viewed unfavorably by 61 percent of registered voters, and Clinton by 56 percent. But despite her similarly high unfavorability rating, voters do not hold the same negative views about her as they do of Trump.
Only 21 percent believe she’s very or somewhat racist. Half say she’s at least somewhat civil and 42 percent view her as compassionate.
Democrats see Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric as a major campaign asset – for them. Clinton’s campaign spent much of the summer casting Trump as a dangerous force in American society, one that consorts with racists, anti-Semites and white supremacists.
“Our most cherished values are at stake,” Clinton told students at Temple University on Monday. “We have to stand up to this hate. We cannot let it go on.”
It’s a strategy lifted right out of the party’s 2012 playbook. Four years ago, Democrats seized on a leaked video showing Romney at a private fundraiser in Florida dismissing “47 percent” of voters who pay no income tax, people who believe “the government has a responsibility to care for them” and would automatically vote for Obama.
The comment helped Democrats paint the GOP nominee as a heartless plutocrat only concerned about protecting the wealthy, a message they’d been pushing for months through a barrage of battleground state ads.
This year, Clinton’s campaign and allies have spent more than $180 million on TV and radio advertising between mid-June and this week, according to Kantar Media’s political ad tracker. Trump and his supporters spent about $40 million in the same time period.
Many of the Democratic ads focus on Trump, featuring footage of him insulting military leaders, women and immigrants – often with explicit language.
“You can tell them to go f— themselves,” he’s shown saying in ads aired repeatedly by the campaign. The word is bleeped out, but the message is clear.
Clinton’s comments about Trump’s supporters at the fundraiser were a clumsy version of her campaign message, one that she’d expressed in other settings as well.
Speaking to donors in New York City, Clinton said half of Trump’s supporters were in “a basket of deplorables,” a crowd she described as racist, sexist, homophobic or xenophobic. Clinton later said she regretted applying that description to “half” of Trump’s backers, but stuck by her assertion that “it’s deplorable” that the GOP nominee has built his campaign on “prejudice and paranoia” and given a platform to “hateful views and voices.”
Most American voters don’t see his backers as deplorable. Seven percent say Trump’s supporters are generally better people than the average American, 30 percent say they’re worse, and 61 percent consider them about the same.
But Clinton’s comments resonate with the voters her campaign must turn out to the polls in large numbers on Election Day. Fifty-four percent of Democratic voters think that Trump’s backers are generally worse people than the average American.
About half of black and Hispanic voters, and more than 4 in 10 voters under 30 years old, agree.
“He’s a bully and he’s just made it acceptable,” said Patricia Barraclough, 69, a Clinton supporter in Jonesborough, Tennessee. “Since he started running, civility has just gone down the tubes. The name-calling. The bullying. All of a sudden it’s like it’s OK to act on it.”
The AP-GfK Poll of 1,694 adults, including 1,476 registered voters, was conducted online Sept. 15-19, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, and for registered voters is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t have access to the internet were provided access for free.