Trump Rated More Honest; Contest Stays a Dead Heat (POLL)

PHOTO: Hillary Clinton campaigning in Florida, left, and Donald Trump campaigning in Pennsylvania, November 1, 2016. Credit: Clinton; Reuters, Trump; AP PhotoPlayClinton; Reuters, Trump; AP Photo
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Hillary Clinton trails Donald Trump for the first time this campaign in who is seen as more honest and trustworthy — a sign of further possible fallout from renewed FBI scrutiny of Clinton-related emails. A steady 6 in 10 likely voters disapprove of how she has responded to the issue.

Clinton has advantage in other areas, and the race between them is now a dead heat in the latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll: 46 percent each. A majority of respondents, 55 percent, continue to expect Clinton to win, though that's down 5 points from its peak last week, before FBI Director James Comey announced the latest review of emails related to her use of a private server while she served as secretary of state.

See PDF with full results here.

Enthusiasm for both candidates remains weak — 46 percent of Clinton's supporters and 52 percent of Trump's are very enthusiastic about their choice, compared with, for example, 64 percent for Barack Obama and 62 percent for Mitt Romney at this point in 2012.

That absence of enthusiasm reflects the historic unpopularity of both candidates, potentially affecting motivation to vote. That said, 23 percent of respondents deemed likely voters say they have already voted. It was 17 percent at this point in 2012, so it looks to be on pace for a record high.

Clinton leads among those who say they've already voted, 54 to 41 percent. Notably, this number can vary substantially — or at least it did in 2012 — as pre–Election Day voting accelerates.

Among other results is a gradual collapse in support for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, from a peak of 9 percent support in September to just 3 percent now. Jill Stein of the Green Party has 2 percent and has held steady.

Honesty

The race is close because assessments of honesty and trustworthiness are far from voters' only concerns. Earlier tracking results, for instance, found Clinton much more likely to be seen as qualified to serve as president — another key candidate attribute.

Trump's lead in honesty and trustworthiness raises the question of whether Clinton has been damaged by Comey's announcement last Friday that the FBI was investigating additional emails that passed through her private server. Vote preferences have not changed significantly pre- and post-Comey, suggesting that the impact, if present, is a subtle one, perhaps more likely to influence turnout than vote choice.

Notably, Trump has not gained significantly in being seen as honest. Rather, her score has dropped 7 points since Sept. 8 in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. The number who volunteer that they don't see either as honest and trustworthy has risen in that period from 8 to 12 percent, a small but significant change.

Compared with early September results, Clinton has lost 14 points among independents in being seen as more honest than Trump and 13 points among moderates — two groups less firmly anchored by partisan or ideological preferences. That said, she has also lost 10 points among Democrats on this measure.

Expectations

The shift in expectations also may be related to the Comey announcement, since 60 percent of likely voters expected Clinton to win immediately before his announcement, with that figure slipping to 55 percent in the past four days. In the same period, she has had a 5 point decline in expectations that she'll win "easily," from 26 to 21 percent.

Again there's essentially no change for Trump — a nonsignificant 2 point gain, from 29 to 31 percent, in likely voters who predict he will win. The rest have no opinion.

The shift in expectations is broadly based across partisan and ideological groups, essentially the same, for example, among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents as it is among Republicans and GOP leaners. Large majorities of each candidate's supporters (particularly Clinton's) continue to think their candidate will win, but the number of her supporters who think she'll win easily is down 8 points, from 45 percent last week to 37 percent now.

To the extent that perceptions of a closer race drive turnout, the shift could be helpful to Clinton in the days ahead. Still, expectations of a Clinton win remain strong and unchanged among one group whose turnout has been a source of concern for Democrats, millennials (age 18 to 35).

Among other groups, expectations of a Clinton victory have declined more among college-educated likely voters, from 68 percent to 61 percent now, led by an 11 point drop among white men with a college degree, a battleground group. Expectations are steadier among whites without a college degree, white women with a degree, blacks and Hispanics.

Johnson

One dynamic related to the tightened Clinton-Trump race is a decline in support for Johnson (compared with steadier support, albeit minimal, for Stein). In early September, 11 percent of registered voters and 9 percent of likely voters supported Johnson, versus only 4 and 3 percent, respectively, now. Stein has held steady at 3 and 2 percent, respectively.

This appears to have aided Trump more than Clinton. In September, 11 percent of Republican and GOP-leaning likely voters supported Johnson; that's at 4 percent now, as Trump has consolidated in this group. Leaning Democrats, by contrast, have shifted from Johnson by just 3 points, from 5 to 2 percent.

Stein has retained her support, 2 percent among leaning Democrats and 1 percent among leaning Republicans.

Groups

The latest results are consistent across groups. Trump, who has consolidated in the GOP base, is backed by 88 percent of Republicans and 85 percent when GOP-leaning independents are included; Clinton has the support of 87 percent of Democrats and 85 percent when Democratic leaners are included. Across the last six nights of tracking (for an adequate sample size), pure independents have backed Trump over Clinton, 55 to 23 percent.

A large gender gap continues, with Clinton up 10 points among women while Trump is ahead by 11 among men — about twice the size of the customary gender gap in exit polls dating to 1976. A vast racial gap is evident, with Trump up 15 points among whites, Clinton leading by 48 points among nonwhites.

Turnout among racial and ethnic groups thus is critical. Nonwhites account for 25 percent of likely voters in the latest results. That matches their share of likely voters in the final ABC/Post tracking poll in 2012, which accurately estimated the election's outcome.

Lastly, an unusual finding historically — albeit consistent this year — are the very similar results among all registered voters (44 percent for Clinton to 43 percent for Trump) and likely voters (46 percent each, as noted). Likely voters customarily are a more Republican-aligned group than registered voters overall. In this election, however, the effect of more education (higher among likely voters and a better group for Clinton) changes the equation.

Methodology

This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Oct. 28 to 31, 2016, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,182 likely voters. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 37-29-29 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.

Questions 7 and 8 were asked Oct. 30 to 31, among 659 likely voters; they both have 4 point error margins.

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.