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The one thing most voters can agree on? This election is embarrassing

Hillary Clinton (left) and Donald Trump greeted the audience at the end of the final presidential debate Wednesday in Las Vegas.Joe Raedle/AFP/Getty Images

Horrified by the election? You’re not alone.

Eighty percent of likely voters nationwide are embarrassed by the presidential race, and 70 percent think it’s gotten so bad it will actually hurt the nation’s standing in the world, according to a Colby College-Boston Globe poll that found the cringe effect cuts across race, gender, income, and party affiliation.

As for who is to blame for the diminished civility, twice as many voters faulted Donald Trump as Hillary Clinton.

But for all the acrimony, division, and talk of violence the election has unleashed, a remarkable 93 percent of likely voters said that when the race is over, they want both sides to cool tempers, shake hands, and come together to confront the challenges ahead. That yearning for unity included Republicans and Democrats, and more than 90 percent of voters who support Trump — who pointedly refused to say during Wednesday night’s debate if he would accept the results on Nov. 8.

“There’s a nastiness fatigue,” said Daniel M. Shea, director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby, who oversaw the poll. “Americans know things are bad, and it’s worse than they’ve seen in generations, and they’ve had enough of it.”


In a striking shift from just a few years ago, 65 percent said it’s more important for politicians to compromise than to stand firm on principle — including about 50 percent of Republicans and Trump backers and about 80 percent of Democrats and Clinton supporters.

By contrast, just before the midterm elections in 2010 — when angry voters vented about the Affordable Care Act and the Tea Party propelled a Republican takeover of the US House — 35 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Democrats said it was more important for politicians to compromise than to stand on principle, according to a poll Shea conducted that year.


The Globe poll was conducted online by SurveyUSA, which interviewed 1,000 adults nationwide — including 845 likely voters — between Oct. 11 and Oct. 14. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

The results confirmed what many already know all too well: that this election — featuring two unpopular candidates, including one who repeatedly hurls insults and was recorded boasting about sexually assaulting women — has not exactly marked a high point in American politics.

More than 80 percent of likely voters in the survey, including most Clinton and Trump backers, said the current presidential race is more negative than previous ones. Seventy-six percent said civility has declined over the last decade, to the point where 69 percent now believe the lack of civility in politics is a “crisis.”

“It’s striking,” Shea said. “We’re historically very proud of our elections. But there aren’t a lot of Americans who are feeling great about the process right now. Americans are holding their nose and trying to get through it.”

That a plurality of respondents blamed Trump for this year’s angry tone was perhaps not surprising, given that more than half of respondents said it is never OK for one political candidate to personally insult another. Republicans were more likely to blame Clinton or both candidates, while Democrats, African-Americans, and Hispanics were more likely to blame Trump.

Voters were somewhat divided over which party to blame for the lack of civility. Forty-eight percent faulted both, while 30 percent faulted Republicans and 20 percent blamed Democrats.


Just as the poll captured a shared sense of revulsion at the election, it also found 81 percent said it’s possible for people to disagree politely and avoid nasty exchanges. Eighty-seven percent said that if each party had more respect for the other’s views, it would help them find common ground on important issues. And 82 percent said they believe elected officials should establish friendships with members of the other party, rather than keep to themselves.

“On the one hand, it seems that most Americans view the election as particularly nasty,” Shea said. “But there is also clear evidence to suggest Americans of all stripes want to come together after the election to get things done.”

The poll previously found — in results released Wednesday — that Clinton has opened up a double-digit lead over Trump, garnering 46 percent to his 36 percent.

The Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, drew 5 percent, while the Green Party’s Jill Stein got 2 percent. Eleven percent were undecided.

In addition to exploring voters’ concerns about civility, the survey examined attitudes about the changing racial makeup of the country. The poll noted that, according to the US census, by the year 2043, African-Americans, Latinos, and Asian-Americans will be a majority of the population.

Twenty-six percent of likely voters said that change would be good for the nation, 18 percent said bad, and 45 percent said neither.


Trump supporters were slightly less sanguine about the change. Ten percent said it would be good, 30 percent bad, and 49 percent neither. Among Clinton supporters, 40 percent said it would be good, 11 percent bad, and 40 percent neither.

Michael Levenson
can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com.