Presidential preferences have narrowed in the ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll -- but not expectations of the outcome.
Fifty-nine percent of likely voters polled say they expect Hillary Clinton to win the election, essentially the same was it was in early September. That includes nearly all of her own supporters and a fifth of Donald Trump’s.
There are vast divisions, as well, on the question of vote fraud: More than nine in 10 Clinton supporters think votes nationally will be counted accurately; just 50 percent of Trump’s agree. And 70 percent of Trump backers think voter fraud is common. A mere 11 percent of Clinton’s say the same.
Vote preferences, for their part, show the narrowest division in the tracking poll to date, with 48 of likely voters polled for Clinton, 44 percent for Trump. Trump’s gained 6 points since the start of tracking, while Clinton’s -2 (not a significant change). This reflects slight shifts in intended turnout and recent consolidation for Trump in his party.
The results show sharp differences from the first four nights of tracking -- immediately after a very difficult two weeks for Trump -- compared with the past three nights, as those controversies have receded to some extent. Given that these are the two least popular presidential candidates in ABC/Post polling history, ambivalence about turning out looks to be a factor.
Two elements specifically are at play in the tracking trends in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. One is a slight rise this week in the share of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who emerge as likely voters. The other is consolidation in their support for Trump, from 78 percent on the weekend to 84 percent now. That may have been personified Wednesday night by Sen. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who said Oct. 7 that he would not endorse Trump (“I’m out”), but now says he’ll vote for him.
Shifts of this size have occurred in ABC News and ABC News/Washington Post tracking polls in two previous elections. In 1996, Bill Clinton went from a 19- to a 10-point lead over Bob Dole in five days. In 1992, a particularly wild ride, Bill Clinton went from +14 to +7 against George Bush in four days; back to +19 in the next four days; back to +11 in four more days; and then dropped further, to +3, toward the end of the race. Final estimates in both polls were accurate.
It’s notable that even as vote preference results show movement this week, expectations don’t. In early September, 57 percent of likely voters expected Clinton to win, and 59 percent do now, matching the high in five ABC/Post polls since January.
This may not be the best thing for Clinton: Loosely-affiliated Democrats, Bernie Sanders supporters and others less strongly supportive of her may be more apt to take a bye on voting if they feel confident she’ll prevail without them.
At the same time, while six in 10 expect a Clinton win, fewer, 27 percent, think it’ll be by a wide margin; a third instead think it’ll be close. Again, though, confidence has grown; expectations of an easy win by Clinton are up by 8 points from early last month.
Twenty percent of Trump supporters and one in four Republicans see Clinton as the likely winner; it’s 53 percent among independents, jumping to 88 percent among Democrats and 93 percent among her own supporters. Far fewer Trump supporters, 67 percent, are confident he’ll win, as are just 62 percent of Republicans. And just 19 percent of Trump’s voters think he’ll win easily; more than twice as many Clinton supporters, 45 percent, see an easy win for their side.
Results on vote fraud show how this frequent Trump theme resonates with his supporters -- and not at all with Clinton’s. That said, confidence in vote counting is not supreme in any group. Even among Democrats, a less-than-monolithic 63 percent are “very” confident that votes across the country will be counted accurately; that drops to just 38 percent of independents and a mere two in 10 Republicans.
It’s also a rare political question on which whites and nonwhites are in similar places -- just 41 percent of whites, and 47 percent of nonwhites, are very confident in the vote count.
Ninety-four percent of Clinton’s supporters express confidence in the vote count, including 72 percent very confident. Just 52 percent of Trump supporters are confident -- and a mere 16 percent are very confident that the votes nationally will be accurately counted.
Partisan differences also are extreme on the question of vote fraud, such as a person voting multiple times or someone voting who is not eligible. Seven in 10 Trump supporters, 61 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of evangelical white Protestants and 58 percent of conservatives think this happens very or somewhat often. Just one in 10 Clinton supporters, 14 percent of liberals and 17 percent of Democrats agree.
Those gaps extend the potential impact of Trump’s refusal to say whether he’d accept the outcome if Clinton were to win, raising the question of whether -- Trump himself aside -- his supporters would do so, or not.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Oct. 23-26, 2016, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,109 likely voters. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 37-28-29 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.
Q5 was asked Oct. 25-26 among 649 likely voters; those results have a 4-point error margin. Q6-7 were asked Oct. 24-26 among 961 likely voters; those results have a 3.5-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.