US election: voters '˜embarrassed' with choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton
Reporter Chris Burn is covering one of the most controversial US elections for many years. In this article he discovers there are many voters still undecided.
Accusations of being an untrustworthy career politician should not be cutting through in the seat of Government power and the Democratic stronghold where Barack Obama won more than 90 per cent of the vote in 2012.
But in the historic neighbourhood of Foggy Bottom, home to the main campus of George Washington University and within walking distance of the White House, the views of voters appear to be aligned far more closely with the rest of America than might be expected.
As the finishing line comes into sight on one of the most shambolic, controversial and divisive Presidential campaigns anyone can remember, polls show both candidates are suffering from unprecedented levels of unpopularity - with almost 60 per cent of voters disapproving of both Clinton and Trump.
Disillusionment with the choice in front of them is leading many to consider not voting at all.
Thomas Sorensen, a 23-year-old education co-ordinator, said he was an undecided voter who does not believe in either candidate.
“Honestly there is a pretty big chance I’m not going to vote at all,” he said.
“It is a big mess, a big embarassment. That is how a lot of people see it. I’m not into the whole voting for a lesser evil, it doesn’t sit right with me.
“Trump is not really a true conservative. He is doing to conservative movement a disservice. His values in general don’t really align with traditional American conservatism.
“No matter what the outcome, Republicanism is going to be different after this election.”
But he is also unconvinced by Hillary Clinton following the continuing revelations about the FBI investigation into her use of a private email server.
“I think as a career politician and as a Clinton, there are bound to be lots of skeletons,” he said.
“I don’t even know if we know the half of it. I think it is impossible for a lot of people to vote for her.”
Mr Sorensen said the American people were facing a poor choice and either party could have won a convincing victory if they had fielded alternative candidates.
“People are let down. I think that if it were Romney versus Hillary, it would be a landslide for him or if it were Obama versus Trump, it would be a landslide the other way,” he said.
“It is like the two least likeable people in the country.”
Leigh Butler, an administration worker at George Washington University, is also undecided. She said she was certain to vote and will be watching the final days of the campaign carefully as she considers her decision.
She said: “I will be voting. I watched every second of all the debates and I thought Hillary was definitely better in the debates.
“I tend to be liberal on social topics and conservative financially so I’m kind of stuck between the two of them.
“I voted in 2012 and I don’t ever say who I voted for. A lot of people are just going to make up their minds on the day.
“There is a hardcore Trump following and a hardcore Hillary following. It is a bell curve with a certain percentage on both margins and a big percentage in the middle.
“It could come down to what comes out in the next few days.
“Some people don’t trust Hillary. I think the media can sway people one way or the other.
“I’m always interested in seeing women take on roles that haven’t normally been held by women.
“Some women will vote for her just because she is a woman. I think she is definitely very well-qualified. She has held leadership roles for a number of years and served our country for a number of years.
“But I also think a lot of people are tired of Government folks not getting the job done. So it helps her and it hurts her.”
There are fears in the Clinton about a reduced turnout among African-American voters who supported Barack Obama in battleground states hurting her campaign.
Early voting figures appear to suggest, with early voting among African-Americans in the vital state of Florida falling by from 25 per cent in 2012 to just 15 per cent by November 1.
Numbers are also down in Ohio and North Carolina.
Kenny Peters, a 33-year-old African-American bus driver in Washington, is among those who will not be voting.
He said despite voting for Obama in 2012 and believing Trump would make a bad president, he could not bring himself to back Hillary.
He said: “I don’t feel like either of the candidates are qualified because I know their history and what they have done.
“Trump is arrogant, he doesn’t care about people.
“I think Hillary is doing what it takes to get the votes but I don’t think she is going to deliver what she says.
“Between the two of them, if anybody has to be president, it should be Hillary. But I don’t want to be responsible if she doesn’t follow through with what she has said.”
A new Washington Post/ABC News Poll this week showed while 73 per cent of non-white voters view Donald Trump unfavourably, just 59 per cent say they have a positive view of Clinton.
There is a worse perception of her among white voters, with 67 per cent saying they have a negative opinion of the Democratic candidate compared to 53 per cent who think the same of Trump.
Joyce Hopkins, aged 74, from Maryland, said she would be voting for Trump.
“I think the Clintons - he and she - are very dishonest,” she said.
“Donald Trump, although sometimes may be a little outspoken, I agree with his policies and everything he talks about.
“Hillary is just scary. I think she is very dishonest and that is why I’m voting for Trump.
“She is not liked at all, by young or old.”
Her daughter Lisa Fontaine, aged 53, agreed but said she wished both parties were fielding different candidates.
“It is really hard. Since they are both kind of not great, I guess it would come down to Trump because I agree more with what he is saying. He doesn’t always say the right thing but I think Hillary is just dirty to the core.”
She said she believes there is a genuine possibility Trump will win.
“I think it is 50/50. A lot of the press are saying what they want people to believe is going to happen [a Clinton victory],” she said.
“I just really wish we could redo this whole thing over, get two new people and start again. I just want to reboot and start again.”
The only person to offer unqualified support for Clinton was Elexis Canady, aged 37, an administrator at Washington Georgetown Hospital who has been a registered Democrat for 16 years.
She said: “She has a long history and longevity in politics. She is not a complete jerk compared to The Donald.
“It is unbelievable to watch him and hear some of his comments that are so disrespectful and ridiculous. That he has gotten this far and people are going to vote for him is unbelievable.
“I never thought I would live to see the day. The US always prides itself on being so wonderful - I’m shocked he could actually be our representative. It is disgraceful.
“I might have to move to England if he is selected!”
She said she is hopeful of a Clinton victory and said that whether she is considered likeable or not should not be a factor in people’s votes.
“As Oprah said, I’m not going to be hanging out with her, she isn’t going to be sitting down and eating with me and my family.
“She is the better and more qualified candidate. It is not likeability - she is more qualified.”