WASHINGTON -- The 2016 election may go down in U.S. political history as a time when a majority of voters disliked both of their major-party choices for president.
Indeed, it's hard to remember in the modern polling era when so many Americans have disapproved of even their own party's presumptive nominee. One after another, just about all of the major nationwide surveys have tallied sizable numbers of registered voters who say they have negative views about both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Like many other political reporters, I've closely followed all of the polls during the course of the presidential primary season and watched these negatives rise. But it really hit home this week when The Washington Post-ABC News poll characterized its most recent findings this way:
"Never in the history of the Post-ABC poll have the two major party nominees been viewed as harshly as Clinton and Trump.
"Nearly 6 in 10 registered voters say they have negative impressions of both major candidates. Overall, Clinton's net negative rating among registered voters is minus-16, while Trump's is minus-17, though Trump's numbers have improved since March. Among all adults, Trump's net negatives are significantly higher than those of Clinton," the newspaper said.
A detailed inquiry into what voters think of the candidates offers revealing clues as to what they most dislike about them.
For example, a CBS News-New York Times poll found that 7 in 10 Americans said Trump doesn't have the right temperament to be president. And 60 percent said Clinton doesn't share their values.
When registered voters are asked which of the two candidates "better understands the problems of people like you," 47 percent of the Post-ABC poll chose Clinton. Only 36 percent chose Trump.
But when asked who they will vote for at this point in the election process, the race is a virtual dead heat, with Trump edging out Clinton 46 percent to 44 percent in the popular vote.
While popular vote numbers this close don't count for much in our state-by-state electoral vote system, it is an indication that when the votes are tallied in November, the race will likely be decided in a few key battleground states such as Florida and Ohio.
But how much of a factor will Clinton and Trump's high unfavorables play in the election's outcome? In a messy race where 57 percent of registered voters have an unfavorable impression of Clinton (46 percent say it is "strongly unfavorable") and of Trump (45 percent say "strongly unfavorable"), could it reduce voter turnout?
It is possible that a number of voters who are disgusted with their choices may not vote.
On the other hand, surveys suggest that a number of swing voters -- notably independents -- are telling pollsters that they will vote for Trump because they don't want Clinton to win, or will vote for Clinton simply to defeat Trump.
Among registered Clinton voters in the Post-ABC poll, 48 percent said their vote was fully behind their candidate, "while an identical percentage say their vote is mainly to oppose Trump."
Among Trump voters, 44 percent said they planned to affirmatively vote for the real estate mogul, but 53 percent said they were voting against him solely to oppose Clinton.
If there is one characteristic among the voters' choices that could be the deciding factor in the election, it may be the issue of "experience."
Clinton "runs away from Trump" on experience and the right temperament, while Trump's strength is "as a change agent."
But so much of what Trump says he will change if he is elected president isn't going to happen. Congress will never appropriate the tens of billions of dollars to build a wall along our entire border with Mexico. Nor is Mexico going to pay for the wall, as Trump insists it will.
His plan is extortion, plain and simple, threatening to bring down Mexico's economy by intercepting billions of dollars that U.S. Hispanics send to their families and relatives back home. He is delusional if he thinks Congress will seize the funds of hard-working Hispanic citizens who reside in their states and congressional districts.
It is too bad that Trump isn't focusing his campaign on the one issue that should dominate this election: the weakening U.S. economy. Recently he has been going after Hillary by resurrecting Bill Clinton's sexual scandal with a young White House intern in the 1990s.
Does Trump really believe that this is a major issue with America's voters, when every survey has shown that their chief concerns remain a slow-growing U.S. economy, jobs and insufficient incomes?
In the eighth year of Barack Obama's failed presidency, the nation's economic growth rate has fallen to less than 1 percent, layoffs are rising, retail sales have plunged, U.S. factory orders have fallen, Americans are taking on more debt, and there has been a nationwide slowdown in new startup businesses.
But Trump seems to be more interested in getting on the nightly news and Sunday shows with bombastic sideshow performances than addressing economic issues that are the paramount concerns of average Americans.
If the sluggish Obama economy continues to limp along, as it has thus far this year, and Trump doesn't get back to bread-and-butter issues, he is going to lose his advantage in a presidential race that is increasingly looking like a nail-biter.