The Lesser Evil Explained

Dr. Louis Perron
blog post louis

We often hear the expression of the lesser evil. In this post, I want to give you an illustration of what that really means in politics.

According to the CNN exit polls, Donald Trump had a 60% unfavorable rating on election day 2016. This made him the most disliked person to be elected president of the USA in recent history. Hillary Clinton’s unfavorable rating stood at 55%. During the campaign, she had unloaded a barrage of attacks on Trump. Her campaign thought that his unfavorability rating being higher than hers was the key to winning the election.

And indeed, how could Trump win an election when 60% of the voters had a negative view on him on election day?

Here’s the key: 18% of the voters had a negative opinion about both, Trump and Clinton. They didn’t break evenly, however. 47% of them voted for Trump and only 30% for Clinton. They chose what they saw as the lesser evil at the time.

The dynamics of this year’s election might be similar. Donald Trump has never done much of all the things he could have done during his time in office to fundamentally improve his favorability ratings. At the same time, few people are enthusiastic about the Democratic challenger Joe Biden. This being said, a recent Quinnipiac University survey indicates trouble for Trump. The voters who have an unfavorable opinion about both, Biden and Trump, break 49% to 18% in favor of Biden. This seems to tell us that four years later, voters overwhelmingly see Biden as the lesser evil.

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