Clinton and Trump Even in Latest Poll; Turnout Critical

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton campaigning in West Virginia. (AP photos)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton campaigning in West Virginia. (AP photos)

(ABC)– A slim point separates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll results, cementing Trump’s resurgence in the past week and marking the potentially critical role of turnout in the election’s outcome.

The race stands at 46-45 percent, Clinton-Trump, in the latest results, so tight that the draw by third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein could matter. Clinton, +1 vs. Trump in a four-way trial heat, is +3 head-to-head –- not a significant difference, but suggestive.

See PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

About a third of likely voters say they’re less likely to support Clinton given FBI Director James Comey’s disclosure Friday that the bureau is investigating more emails related to its probe of Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state. Given other considerations, 63 percent say it makes no difference.

Those who say the issue makes them less apt to back Clinton overwhelmingly back Trump in the first place. But what’s key in a close contest is whether the disclosure gives Trump supporters further motivation to turn out for him –- and whether it demotivates reluctant Clinton backers.

In other results of the survey, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates:

• Regardless of the closeness of current preferences and plans to participate, 60 percent of likely voters still expect Clinton to win. This, too, may be a risk to her, potentially encouraging some Clinton supporters not to bother voting.

• Clinton continues to lead Trump in two key attributes. She is seen as more qualified to serve as president by a substantial 54-36 percent of likely voters, a result that makes the closeness of the race overall particularly remarkable. She’s also seen to have a stronger moral character, albeit by a closer 46-38 percent.

• That said, the two are virtually tied, 46-43 percent, on another important measure: who better understands “the problems of people like you”; a similar gauge was important in Barack Obama’s defeat of Mitt Romney in 2012. (In pre-tracking ABC/Post results, moreover, Clinton and Trump were tied in trust to handle two main issues -– the economy and terrorism -– as well as immigration.)

The survey also finds a risk of substantial damage to House Speaker Paul Ryan by dint of his decision not to campaign on Trump’s behalf: Among likely voters who are Republicans or lean that way, 66 percent disapprove of Ryan on this score. Just 21 percent approve.

Emails

In earlier ABC News tracking poll results, a broad 60 percent of likely voters disapproved of how Clinton has handled the email issue, including three in 10 of her own supporters –- and 93 percent of Trump’s. Nearly all of them disapproved strongly, and that was before Comey’s disclosure Friday.

Today, a small number of Clinton’s supporters, 7 percent, say the matter makes them less likely to support her. About one in seven in some of her key support groups, such as Democrats (13 percent) and liberals (15 percent), say so, rising much higher among groups already predisposed not to vote for her, including 47 percent among conservatives and 52 percent among Republicans and evangelical white Protestants alike.

The potential for a pullback in motivation of Clinton supporters, or further resurgence among Trump’s, may cause concern in the Clinton camp -– especially because this dynamic already was underway. Intention to vote has grown in Trump support groups in the past week as the intensity of criticisms about him has ebbed, including allegations of sexual misconduct, disapproval of his position on the election’s legitimacy and his poorly rated final debate performance.

Attributes

As noted, Clinton leads Trump on qualifications and moral character, but not significantly on empathy. At this point in the 2012 campaign, Obama had just opened a 6-point advantage in better understanding people’s economic problems, and it was 8 points at the close.

Clinton, as it happens, had an 8-point lead over Trump on empathy in early September, and 10 points in early August. She’s lost 13 points on the measure among liberals, a core Clinton support group, since Sept. 8, and Trump has gained 10 points among independents.

Ryan

In the case of Ryan’s decision not to campaign on Trump’s behalf, disapproval peaks at three-quarters of strong conservatives, Trump supporters and conservative Republicans, and it’s more than seven in 10 among those age 50+, less-educated leaned Republicans and white Protestants. Criticism of Ryan lessens, but is still substantial, among moderates, independents who lean toward the GOP and those under age 50.

Vote Preferences

Clinton led Trump by 12 points in the first four days of the ABC News tracking poll, with consistent results across those nights; that polling followed two particularly difficult weeks for Trump, beginning with the October 7 disclosure of an 11-year-old videotape in which he crudely described his sexual advances toward women.

Results have been equally consistent, and far closer, across the subsequent five nights. The tracking poll customarily uses a four-night average of results. The average across all nine nights, for comparison purposes, is 48-42 percent.

Langer Research diagnoses results across a range of likely voter models. Fifteen such models currently are in use, projecting turnout estimates ranging from 43 to 70 percent of the voting age population. All show essentially the same results using the last four nights of data.

The tightening of the contest the past week, while unusual, is not unheard of. Among many gyrations in ABC News and ABC/Post pre-election polls in the 1992 election, Bill Clinton went from an 11-point lead to a scant 3-point edge against George Bush toward the end of their race, before regaining the advantage in the closing days. (There was also a steep shift in 1996.)

Groups

Notably, among groups, a slight Clinton advantage among independents in early tracking is now a 19-point Trump lead. Part of the reason: A decline in the share of Democratic leaners within the ranks of independents who are likely to vote.

The latest results also show a continued gender gap, but different in nature -– from Clinton +19 points among women and +2 among men in early tracking to Clinton +8 points among women and Trump +9 among men now.

There’s a much closer race, meanwhile, among young voters, again because of signs that fewer Democrats and Democratic-leaners in their ranks are joining the likely voter pool. Bernie Sanders was especially popular among young adults, and they’ve been far less strongly enthusiastic Clinton supporters than their elder counterparts.

Trump has a 15-point advantage over Clinton among whites, while Clinton has 68 percent support in the latest results among nonwhites, vs. Obama’s 80 percent among nonwhites in the 2012 exit poll. She’s backed by 88 percent of blacks (average for a Democrat) and 60 percent of Hispanics (a bit less than average; 10 percent peel off to Johnson and Stein). A notable difference is nonwhites who are not black or Hispanic. Obama won them by 66-31 percent; it’s a closer 45-40 percent, Clinton-Trump, in the tracking poll.

White Catholics, a swing voter group in elections from 1976 to 2004, are now with Trump by 57-36 percent, reopening his advantage in this group to near the margin he last saw in late September.

Trump counters Clinton’s 21-point lead among college-educated likely voters with a 12-point advantage among those who lack a college degree. (The latter are more numerous.) Clinton leads by 23 points among college-educated white women, a crucial bulwark for her. The two are even among college-educated white men, while Trump leads by 38 and 27 points, respectively, among non-college white men and non-college white women.

Non-college white men have been a steady Trump group. Non-college white women have been for him generally, but by less consistent margins. Where they end up may well prove critical in this still-unpredictable election.

Methodology

This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Oct. 25-28, 2016, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,160 likely voters. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 37-28-30 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.

Q6 was asked Oct. 24-27 among 1,268 likely voters; those results have a 3-point error margin. Q7 was asked Oct. 28-29 among 480 likely voters; those results have a 5-point error margin. Q8 was asked Oct. 26-28 among 415 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who are likely to vote; those results have a 5.5-point error margin.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York, N.Y. See details on the survey’s methodology here.

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