Democrat Hillary Clinton’s lead over Republican Donald Trump has narrowed to five percentage points, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds, in a groundbreaking presidential election that is sparking feelings of alarm for most voters.
The nationwide survey shows a sharply polarized electorate that believes the country is headed in the wrong direction, feels less safe living in the United States than they used to, and gives negative ratings to the both presidential candidates.
Sixty-one percent report feeling alarmed about the election, swamping the 23% who are excited. Few are bored: Just 9%.
“I can appreciate how it might be desirable to have someone that is outside the political realm bringing a new perspective, but at the same time the complete lack of electoral experience is scary,” Gurleen Chadha, 23, a medical student from Los Angeles, said of Trump in a follow-up phone interview after being polled. She’s supporting Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee.
On the other hand, Michael Perrotta, 48, an account executive for a trucking firm on Long Island, worries about Clinton’s integrity. “She has a lot of investigations, and it’s a little questionable,” he said. He’s backing the presumptive Republican nominee. “I am sure Donald Trump is no angel, but he doesn’t have that special-interest thing.”
Clinton now leads Trump by five percentage points, 45.6% to 40.4% (Rounding would make the lead six points.) That’s closer than two months ago, when she led in the USA TODAY survey by double digits, 50%-39%. Since the poll last spring, both candidates have consolidated their claims to their parties’ nominations but neither has seen a significant bump in his or her standing. Indeed, Clinton’s support has dropped by almost five points.
“On one side, you have Hillary, who is being investigated by the FBI, and then you have Donald Trump, who has diarrhea of the mouth,” said Jay Brooks, 31, an engineer from Huntsville, Ala. “I don’t think either of them are electable or would be a good president.”
Brooks backs Johnson, but the third-party contenders face an uphill campaign despite expectations they will be on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed have never heard of the Libertarian candidate; 59% have never heard of the Green Party candidate.
The poll of 1,000 likely voters, taken by landline and cell phones from June 26 to 29, has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Clinton commands more positive allegiance than Trump. By more than 3-1, 74% to 22%, Clinton supporters say they are mostly voting for her, not against him. Trump’s backers are more evenly divided on their motivation: 48% are mostly voting for him; 39% are mostly voting against her.
Still, Trump supporters are a bit more likely to say they’re “excited” about the election, 27% compared with 24%. Clinton supporters are a bit more likely to say they’re “alarmed,” 62% to 56%.
And those in both camps vow their views are set in stone: More than nine of 10 of Clinton supporters and of Trump supporters say there is no chance they would switch to the other side. Just 12% of those surveyed are undecided, a smaller percentage than in the Suffolk Poll taken during the summer of the presidential race four years ago.
In the survey, 53% have an unfavorable opinion of Clinton; 60% have an unfavorable opinion of Trump. Nearly one in five respondents hold a negative view of them both — a swing group whose lesser-of-two-evils choice could determine the outcome of a competitive election, says David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.
“Despite their negative feelings toward both candidates, when asked to choose between the two, 26% chose Trump, 19% picked Clinton, 44% were undecided and 11% refused a response,” Paleologos says. While Trump has a slight edge, “the majority are up for grabs as these voters grapple with holding their noses and picking one of them or opting for a third party option. Or staying home, come November.”
Among key demographic groups, Clinton leads Trump overall because of her strength among female voters, 50%-38%. Male voters split almost evenly, with 43% for Trump, 41% for Clinton.
Trump leads by nine points among whites, 47%-38%, while Clinton leads among Hispanics by more than 2-1 and among African Americans by 10-1.
Both parties now are making final preparations for their national conventions, an opportunity to generate enthusiasm and shape impressions, especially among those voters who are just beginning to pay attention to the election. The Republican convention opens in Cleveland on July 18 and the Democratic convention in Philadelphia on July 25.
Partisan voters express strong opinions about a key decision each nominee will face: choosing a running mate.
- Republicans by 3-1 say Trump should pick a vice presidential candidate who has Washington experience. Just one in five of those who voted in GOP primaries or caucuses this year say he should pick another outsider to shake things up.
- Democrats by 2-1 say Clinton should pick a running mate with the sort of progressive positions that mark her primary rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Just one in four of those who voted in Democratic primaries or caucuses say she should choose someone with more centrist views.
“I would vote for Bernie Sanders if he was a candidate, but given he won’t be, I am voting for Hillary,” said Scott Hillstrom, 30, a tech specialist from Orem, Utah, though he offered her only a tepid endorsement. “I don’t want Trump to be elected, and I can stomach her being president.”
Asked to name the most important issue facing the next president, two issues dominate: jobs and the economy, cited by one in four, and terrorism and national security, cited by one in five.
Just 5% choose guns and crime as the top issue among a list of 13 options. When asked specifically about gun control, however, more than half say they would like it to be a significant subject of debate in this year’s campaign. More than three of four support a proposal to ban gun sales to people who are on the no-fly list. By 56%-34%, they back Clinton’s proposed ban on assault-style weapons.
“I don’t think anybody needs a weapon that holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition, except law enforcement,” said Tim Cook, 61, a retired janitor from Tulsa. “If it takes you more than 10 rounds to bring down a deer, you don’t need to be hunting.”
But Jacqueline Quinn, 49, an elementary school teacher from Tampa, is skeptical it would make a difference. “Unfortunately, I don’t think a lot of changes in the gun laws will stop the crazy people from getting guns, because I feel like if people want to harm others, they will find a way.”
Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslim immigrants, a position he has since modified, is supported by 41%; 49% oppose it. Among Trump voters, though, two-thirds support a ban.
Among all those surveyed, 54% say Muslim Americans are loyal citizens and allies in the battle against terrorism; just 24% say they need to be subjected to special scrutiny because of the threat of terrorism from their communities. But on this there is a sharp split: Clinton supporters by 73%-9% call Muslim Americans loyal citizens. Trump supporters by 42%-31% say they warrant special scrutiny.
“First off, you got to realize that Muslims believe if you are not a Muslim, you must be killed; that’s in their Bible,” said Francis De Cerio, 65, of Thorndale, Penn. De Cerio, who runs a small business installing fireplaces, supports Trump. (His interpretation of the Koran is disputed by Muslim scholars.) “Now you want somebody like that living next to you?”
“That’s not what America is all about,” Ashley Freeman, 25, a lab technician from Minneapolis who supports Johnson, said of the proposed ban on Muslim immigrants. “It’s not about banning people based on their religion from coming into our country.”
For what it’s worth, Clinton voters are much more confident than Trump voters that their candidate will win when the votes are counted in November. Six in 10 Trump supporters, 62%, predict victory for him. Nine of 10 Clinton supporters, 89%, say she will prevail.
Headline: Western Journalism