Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump end the 2016 campaign with the race between them close, their historic unpopularity intact — and, on the bright side, a weary electorate saying it's ready to accept the outcome and move on.
The race stands at 47 percent support for Clinton, 43 percent for Trump among likely voters in the latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll, with 4 percent for Libertarian Gary Johnson and 2 percent for Jill Stein of the Green Party. One more update is planned for Monday afternoon.
While the contest is a close one, Clinton has held a numerical advantage almost continuously during the campaign. The average result among likely voters in ABC/Post polls since June is 47 percent for Clinton, 42 Trump, 5 Johnson and 2 Stein — almost identical to the numbers today.
That said, given the reluctant nature of their support, results have fluctuated with events — better for Clinton after Trump’s most prominent controversies, better for Trump in Clinton's roughest periods and settling to a close race at other points.
That makes turnout critical, with preference among racial groups among the most prominent factors. Trump holds a 16 point advantage among whites — 53 percent to Clinton's 37. Clinton responds with a vast 77 to 15 percent among nonwhites, including 89 to 7 percent among blacks (typical for a Democrat) and 71 to 19 among Hispanics (a bit better than typical).
Trump has refused to say whether he would accept Clinton as the legitimate winner, raising the question of broader post-election comity. Unlike Trump, 79 percent of likely voters say they're prepared to accept the outcome of the election as legitimate, including large majorities across demographic, political and ideological lines.
There is a wide gap on the basis of candidate support in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates: 87 percent of Clinton supporters say they're ready to accept the outcome, compared with 68 percent of Trump's.
One of the most striking elements of the campaign has been both candidates' consistent unpopularity — the highest on record for major-party candidates in ABC/Post polling back to 1984 and in Gallup polling (to the extent comparable) since the 1940s. That remains so: 60 percent of likely voters see Trump unfavorably, and 56 percent feel that way about Clinton.
Two factors in those results are remarkable. One is the depth of strong sentiment. Fifty percent of likely voters see Trump not only unfavorably but strongly so, and 46 percent feel strongly negatively about Clinton.
The other is the degree of partisan hostility: A nearly unanimous 97 percent of Trump supporters see Clinton unfavorably, 92 percent strongly so. An identical 97 percent of Clinton supporters see Trump unfavorably, 91 percent strongly so. This depth of animosity is unprecedented in available data from previous elections.
While both are unpopular, an advantage for Trump emerges in one group: independents, whose weaker partisan affiliation has made them swing voters in some (but not the most) recent elections. Sixty-six percent of independents see Clinton unfavorably, versus 58 percent for Trump.
Negative and Early Voting
At the same time, the extent of negative voting — one feature of voter discontent with both candidates — is more of a challenge for Trump. Fifty-one percent of his backers say they're voting chiefly to oppose Clinton rather than to support Trump. A minority of Trump's supporters, 44 percent, are affirmatively for their candidate.
Clinton has more affirmative support, potentially a boost to her in turnout. Fifty-five percent of her supporters chiefly support her. Still, a sizable share, 42 percent, mainly oppose Trump.
Another aid to Clinton comes by dint of the record level of early voting. Thirty-six percent of likely voters in the latest (in this case, single day) results say they've already voted, favoring Clinton by 53 to 43 percent, suggesting greater success for her ground game, at least in this respect.
Also consistent with the campaign all season, Clinton holds substantial leads on key attributes; she's seen as more qualified than Trump by 55 to 37 percent and as having the better personality and temperament for the job by 57 to 34 percent. She has smaller advantages on having stronger moral character (46 to 39 percent) and understanding voters’ problems (48 to 41 percent).
That said, in a persistent comparative weakness for her, likely voters divide 44 percent for Trump to 40 for Clinton on who's more honest and trustworthy.
After months of speculation about their potential impact, the presence of Johnson and Stein in the race seems to make little difference. When their supporters are asked to choose between Clinton and Trump, overall preferences go to 49 to 45 percent, the same 4 point gap as in the four-way estimate.
An additional result finds a slight edge to Trump in whose family has been the greatest asset to the candidate in the campaign. By 46 to 41 percent, likely voters pick his family over hers on this question. The chief reason is that 85 percent of Trump supporters see his family as the greater asset, while fewer Clinton supporters, 75 percent, say the same of her family.
In another gap, women divide essentially equally, 44 percent Trump to 43 Clinton, while men are more apt to see his family as having been asset to him in the campaign, 48 to 39 percent. In the sharpest division, non-college-educated whites, Trump’s core support group, see his family as a better asset by 60 to 27 percent. College-educated whites pick his family far more narrowly, again 48 to 39 percent.
Results among groups, beyond the racial groups described above, underscore the country's deep, if typical, political divisions. Among Democrats and independents who lean toward the Democratic Party, 85 percent back Clinton; among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, 82 percent favor Trump, matching his low in tracking. Pure independents — those who don't lean toward either party, 7 percent of the electorate — divide closely, 40 percent Trump to 36 Clinton, with 18 percent for other candidates (chiefly Johnson or Stein).
Education is another key factor. Clinton leads by 54 to 35 percent among those who have a four-year college degree. Among those with less education, nearly 6 in 10 likely voters, it's 48 percent Trump to 43 Clinton.
The education gap is especially wide among whites. Among those with a college degree, it’s 47 percent Clinton to 41 Trump. Among whites without a college degree — Trump's mainstay, it’s 62 percent Trump to 29 Clinton. On this result, as in others, what matters ultimately is how many in each group — whether with positive motivations or negative ones — get out and vote.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Nov. 2 to 5, 2016, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,937 likely voters. Results have a margin of sampling error of 2.5 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 38-31-27 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.
Questions 7, 10 and 11 were asked Nov. 3 to 5 among 1,773 likely voters; those results also have a 2.5 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 City. See details on the survey’s methodology here.