If presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were consumer products, they wouldn’t exactly be flying off the shelves, according to a firm that studies brand loyalty.
The Reputation Institute, which gauges how consumers view companies, politicians and even countries, gives Republican nominee Trump what it calls an overall “pulse score” of 31.7. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton rates a bit better, at 38.7.
Any score less than 40 qualifies as having a “poor reputation,” the firm says.
“Fundamentally, neither candidate has yet to capture the imagination of the American people based on the positive allure of their personal brands,” a report released by the the Reputation Institute says.
“While Clinton maintains a slightly better reputation than Trump, the lack of emotional connection with her campaign and candidacy still renders her in a position of risk. Trump on the other hand is 7-pulse points behind Clinton on the merits of reputation, and has a significant amount of work to do to in order to turn the tide of reputational momentum his way.”
The firm surveyed some 2,000 people to measure how they feel about Clinton and Trump. The surveys are different from traditional polling, which amounts to a “snapshot in time” and is more likely to be swayed by recent news events, says Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, vice president and managing director for the U.S. and Canada at Reputation Institute.
“We’re in the field all the time so we’re able to understand the trend lines of where public sentiment is going,” he says.
“We’re getting really into the recesses of their psyches to understand how strongly they identify with the person or the candidate. That … provides us with a real 360-degree view of a candidate and really looks at it from the assessment of how do I think about Brand Trump versus Brand Clinton?”
Both Trump and Clinton are equally viewed as being ambitious, achievement-oriented, elitist, authoritarian and controlling, the report says.
Trump is seen as significantly more extroverted, daring, aggressive,
and arrogant. Clinton is more likely to be viewed as hardworking, reliable, secure and refined. But neither is perceived as being especially friendly, pleasant, concerned, honest, sincere or trustworthy.
Clinton is seen as much more presidential, based on perceptions of executive leadership ability, although the report states her “lack of emotional connection with her candidacy is holding her back – she needs to better define the Clinton brand.”
“For Trump it seems that the lack of understanding and belief in his policy platform is a major impediment – he needs to get more specific on his position related to the key policies,” the report says.
The Reputation Institute didn’t begin surveying Trump until last March, so it can’t say how much the current campaign has hurt his image.
But for a man who’s built his fortune by leveraging his name into a symbol of luxury and quality, his poor ratings spell potential problems, Hahn-Griffiths says.
“A lot of the … assumptions we might have made around the sort of lustre of Trump’s brand and what it represents are certainly being questioned by our studies now going back through March.
“So we can look at this and say there’s certainly some upsides to Trump’s personality but certainly some major challenges that he might want to be course-correcting as we near the end of the presidential race,” he adds.