In the final stretch of the US Presidential election, the race to the White House is delicately poised. After all the negative campaigning, vitriol, and drama, it all comes to a decisive choice between two candidates based on a view of their reputation. But what makes it all intriguing is that both candidates are hampered by a poor reputation and lack universal appeal. As the race has tightened, it all suggests that perhaps the outcome will be determined by a measure of who is the least disliked.

Both candidates have a poor reputation, but Clinton has a slight edge.


This blog post is based on our research partner Reputation Institute’s presentation of their research findings. For more information on the Reputation Institute’s services, please visit their website:


What’s most important for Trump in potentially elevating his reputation is related to the promise of Economic Growth, National Security, and Education / Innovation. Interestingly, the importance of these perceptions strongly align with his electoral campaign promise of “Making America Great Again.”

For Clinton, the weight of importance in defining her reputation is most likely to be triggered by perceptions of her National Security, Economic Growth, Executive Leadership credentials. Given the recent news related to the reopening and closing of the FBI investigation and email scandal, this puts Clinton’s potential to win at risk based on the paramount importance of National Security to her candidacy.


While the underlying perceptions of Trump are weaker, he is equally viewed as being reputationally capable to Clinton on the merits of driving Economic Growth. But he has a slight lead vs. Clinton on one of the most important reputation dimensions for him and Clinton – National Security.

By contrast, Clinton’s underlying reputation is better across the board vs. Trump, especially on the merits of Executive Leadership, which can be viewed as a reputational proxy for being perceived as more “presidential”.


The perceptions of Brand Trump have taken somewhat of a bruising during the electoral process. But there are still some core appealing persona traits that renders Trump as a highly viable Presidential candidate for those who identify with his brash confidence. But perceptions of his air of aggression and daring are a detractor for many.

Similarly, while the integrity of Brand Clinton has been called into question, the view of her persona has been inhibited by perceptions of lack of trust. On the significant plus side, the view of Clinton has been most positively characterized by the traits of being hardworking, reliable, and ambitious.

What does this all say about the outcome of the election?

Whatever the final outcome, this is going to be an historic election for what it represents. Given that both candidates are so inhibited by a poor reputation and lack of universal appeal, it would seem that the turn-out among the party faithful for each candidate could have a significant impact on the election. It would suggest that any last minute change of heart, or surge among either the most committed Democrats or Republicans, could mean the race will end up being closer than pollsters have predicted.