Slight Shifts in Intention Aid Trump, Amid Anxiety About Both Candidates (POLL)

PHOTO: Donald Trump attends the grand opening ceremony at the new Trump International Hotel, Oct. 26, 2016, in Washington.PlayChip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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With his latest controversies abating in intensity, Donald Trump’s supporters are ramping up their intention to vote, edging him closer to Hillary Clinton. And anxiety about a Trump presidency, while high, is off its peak — now rivaled by discomfort with Clinton.

Sixty-one percent of likely voters polled say they’re anxious about the possibility of Trump as president, with nearly half “very” anxious. But that’s down from 68 percent in June, and anxiety about Clinton has moved the other way, up 5 points, to 56 percent in this ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll.

In a four-day average of interviews, 48 percent of likely voters polled say they would support Clinton if the election were today, while 42 percent pick Trump, compared with 49 and 40 percent, respectively, yesterday and 50 and 38 percent Tuesday. Gary Johnson has 5 percent support, Jill Stein 1 percent.

See PDF with full results here.

The poll was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates. The first five nights of tracking were by ABC only; as of this report, The Washington Post has joined the tracking poll, which is based on a rolling average of nightly interviews.

The Clinton and Trump changes in the latest results are slight, down 2 and up 4 points from Oct. 23, and not statistically significant. That said, the last two nights have been better for Trump, a result that aligns with events: Interviews last Thursday to Sunday immediately followed peak controversy over his treatment of women, his refusal to say whether he will accept the outcome if Clinton wins and the final debate, in which most say Clinton prevailed. Some of the heat has abated since.

Additionally, and typically at this stage, the results are chiefly about turnout. Voter attitudes haven’t changed; intention to vote has. It ebbed among Republicans in the first days of the tracking poll, perhaps reflecting heightened criticism of Trump. The latest results find more Republicans and somewhat fewer Democratic-leaning independents saying they will vote. That underscores the critical importance of get-out-the-vote efforts by both campaigns in the final two weeks.

As reported Sunday, the share of Republicans who are likely to vote dropped by 7 points from mid-October. In the nights since, Republicans have halfway recovered from this turnout drop as the news cycle has moved beyond the final debate. They accounted for 27 percent of likely voters in the first three nights of tracking, versus 31 percent in the last two. (The share of Democrats has been steady, 36 percent.)

At the same time, the share of independent likely voters who lean to one of the parties has shifted: Among independents, 38 percent were Democratic leaners in the first three nights of tracking, versus 28 percent in the last two. Vote preferences among all independents have followed suit, from an 8 point advantage for Clinton during the first three nights of tracking to a 5 point deficit in the latest full tracking (four-night) results.

Democratic-leaning independents were a key support group for Bernie Sanders. In mid-October, 72 percent of them were likely to vote, versus 66 percent now. While this 6 point difference doesn’t reach statistical significance, given the sample size, it is a group to watch in the next two weeks.

High Anxiety

Results on anxiety demonstrate the sharp polarization in the race. Among Clinton supporters, nearly all — 93 percent — say the idea of a Trump presidency makes them anxious, and 84 percent say it makes them very anxious. The opposite is true among Trump supporters: 90 percent are anxious about a Clinton presidency, 76 percent highly so.

Other differences also are telling. Women are 12 points more apt than men to be comfortable with Clinton as president; men are 13 points more likely than women to be comfortable with Trump. Compared with nongraduates, college graduates are 14 points more anxious about Trump and 12 points less anxious about Clinton. Anxiety about Clinton reaches 64 percent among whites, versus 38 percent of nonwhites. For Trump, it’s 55 percent among whites, and 76 percent among nonwhites.

There are five groups in which majorities say they’re comfortable, rather than anxious, about one or the other of the candidates as president. For Trump: evangelical white Protestants (65 percent), Republicans (65 percent), conservatives (62 percent), white men who don’t have college degrees (59 percent) and rural residents (58 percent). For Clinton: Democrats (75 percent), liberals (71 percent), nonwhites (60 percent), the nonreligious (57 percent) and urban dwellers (53 percent).

There’s not insubstantial concern within their own houses. A fifth of Clinton’s supporters and a quarter of Democrats are anxious about her as president. A quarter of Trump’s supporters and 3 in 10 Republicans have anxiety about him.

In terms of change from June, anxiety about Trump eased by 13 points among Republicans, 10 points among conservatives and 8 points among moderates. Anxiety about Clinton has increased by 11 points among likely voters who don’t have a four-year college degree, 10 points among men and 8 points among conservatives and independents alike.

Vote Groups

Vote preferences among groups have been generally stable; as noted, it’s intention to vote that has been shifting slightly. Clinton leads among women, 53 to 37 percent, while she's behind among men, 43 to 47 percent; that 20-point gender gap is nearly double the average in presidential elections since 1976.

One difference from past elections is nonwhites overall: Trump’s support in this group, 20 percent, is typical for a Republican, while Clinton’s, 68 percent, is lower than typical for a Democrat. Barack Obama won 80 and 82 percent of nonwhites in his two elections, and the average since 1976 is 78 percent.

Clinton is winning 88 percent of blacks and 65 percent of Hispanics, both essentially matching the average for Democratic presidential candidates. The difference, then, is nonwhites who aren’t black or Hispanic; accounting for about a quarter of nonwhites, they are splitting evenly between Clinton and Trump, 42 to 42 percent. It’s a group that voted for Obama 66 to 31 percent, per the 2012 exit poll.

Methodology

This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Oct. 22 to 25, 2016, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,135 likely voters. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 36-29-29 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.

Question 5 was asked Oct. 24 to 25 among 638 likely voters; those results have a 4.5 point error margin.

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