August 3, 2016

Few Clinton or Trump Supporters Have Close Friends in the Other Camp

How voters are talking – or arguing – about the campaign

Survey report

In an increasingly contentious presidential campaign, just a quarter of voters who support Donald Trump in the general election say they have a lot or some close friends who are supporters of Hillary Clinton. Even fewer Clinton backers (18%) say they have at least some friends who support Trump.

Nearly half of Clinton supporters (47%), and 31% of Trump supporters, say they have no close friends who support the opposing candidate.

The survey conducted June 7-July 5 among 4,602 adults, including 3,834 registered voters, on Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel finds that large majorities of both Trump and Clinton supporters have friends who back their preferred candidates.

More than four-in-ten Trump supporters (44%) say they have a lot of close friends who back Trump, while another 38% say they have some friends who support him. Similarly, most Clinton supporters say they have a lot (41%) or some close friends (40%) who also express support for Clinton.

Clinton and Trump backers also are far more likely to talk about the election with those who favor “their” candidate than with those who back the opponent. In the survey, conducted before the party conventions, most voters (67%) say the election comes up in conversation at least somewhat often, but only 23% say it comes up very often.

About three-quarters of Trump supporters (76%) say they have recently had a conversation about the election with a fellow Trump supporter, while only about half as many (37%) have discussed the election with someone who favors Clinton. Clinton supporters are similarly one-sided in their political discussions: 72% say recent conversations about the election have been with other Clinton supporters, while just 40% say they have been with Trump backers.

Among other findings from the new survey:

Few voters ‘hide’ their election preferences. Just 7% of registered voters say they would “rather other people not know” who they are supporting for president. Most (58%) say they do not mind if people know who they support, but “don’t go out of their way to say it.” A third say they are “pretty outspoken with others” about their voting preferences. There are only slight differences between Clinton and Trump supporters in these views.

Some have had political arguments, but few ‘major’ ones. Nearly four-in-ten voters (37%) – including nearly identical shares of Clinton and Trump supporters – say they have had an argument about the election. But just 8% have had a “major” argument, while 30% have had a “minor” argument.

Election discussions focus more on personalities than issues. About six-in-ten voters (59%) say the discussions about the election have mostly been about the candidates’ personalities and comments; fewer (32%) say they have focused on specific issues and policy positions. In this regard, voters are having conversations about the election that reflect what they say they are seeing from the campaign and news coverage of the election. In June, 65% of voters said the presidential campaign “is not focused on important policy debates,” and in a separate survey, 55% of adults said there was too little news coverage of the candidates’ stances on issues.

Candidate support and personal friendships

Nearly half of those who intend to vote for Clinton over Trump in November (47%) say they have no close friends who support Trump, while nearly a third of voters who prefer Trump (31%) say they have no close friends who back Clinton.

Among Clinton supporters, there are wide racial disparities: Fully 72% of Clinton’s black supporters say they have no close friends who support Trump. Just 36% of whites who back Clinton say the same, similar to the share of whites supporting Trump who do not have close friends who back Clinton (33%).

More black than white Clinton supporters also say they have “a lot” of close friends who support their own candidate (59% vs. 33%).

Clinton supporters who are younger than 30 are more likely than older Clinton backers (those 50 and older) to say they have no friends who back Trump (58% vs. 41%). But fewer younger Clinton supporters (28%) than older Clinton backers (47% of 50+) say they have a lot of friends who back Clinton.

Among supporters of both Clinton and Trump, less educated voters are more likely than those with more education to say they have no friends who back the opposing candidate.

How open are voters with their candidate preferences?

A majority of voters (58%) who currently plan to support either Trump or Clinton say they don’t mind if people know who they support but that they don’t go out of their way to say it. A third say that they are “pretty outspoken” with others about their support, while far fewer (7%) say that they would rather other people not know that they support one of these candidates.

There are no significant differences between Clinton and Trump voters on their willingness to share who they support. Majorities of both groups (60% of Clinton supporters and 57% of Trump supporters) don’t mind if others know but don’t go out of their way to say so.

Older voters who back each of the candidates are more likely to be outspoken than younger voters. About four-in-ten (39%) of voters over 50 are outspoken about their preferences for the election compared with just 20% of those under 30.

In addition, slightly more than four-in-ten (42%) of voters with no college experience say they are outspoken, compared with just 26% of those who have completed college.
Among Clinton and Trump supporters, only about a quarter (24%) who have at least some friends who back the other candidate are “pretty outspoken” about their voting preferences. That compares with 38% who say they have no close friends who support the other candidate.

Voters who have a lot of friends who back their preferred candidate are far more likely than others to be outspoken about who they are supporting: 45% say they are pretty outspoken, compared with just 24% of those with some friends who back their candidate and only 9% of those with few or no friends who back their candidate.

Views of election conversations

At a time when most voters say the outcome of the election “really matters,” 37% say they have had an argument about the election; 62% say they have not. Major arguments are particularly rare: Just 8% of all voters say they have had a major argument.

Similar shares of Trump supporters (37%) and Clinton supporters (38%) say they’ve argued about the contest. Younger voters are the most likely to say they’ve had an election-related argument: 54% of those under 30 have. By comparison, just 30% of voters over 65 have quarreled over the election.

By about two-to-one, voters say that their recent conversations about the election have been more about the candidates’ personalities and comments (59%) than about specific issues or policy positions (32%).

Though both Trump and Clinton supporters are more likely to say their conversations have been focused on personalities and comments rather than issues and policies, Clinton supporters are particularly likely to say this (66% vs. 53% of Trump supporters).