These and other doubts about Trump have produced a sharp 14-point swing in preferences among registered voters, from +2 points for Trump in mid-May, after he clinched the GOP nomination, to +12 points for Clinton now, 51-39 percent. That snaps the race essentially back to where it was in March.
Adding third-party candidates Gary Johnson (Libertarian) and Jill Stein (Green) to the mix makes no substantive difference: a 10-point Clinton advantage, 47-37-7-3 percent among registered voters. Looking at those who say they’re certain to vote in November likewise produces a very similar result: +11 Clinton in the two-way matchup, +9 in the four-way.
The national poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds another apparent impact of Trump’s problems: Perhaps benefitting from comparison, Barack Obama’s job approval rating has gained 5 points, to 56 percent, matching its high since the early days of his presidency. That includes 55 percent approval specifically on handling the economy.
Trial heats are hypothetical; they ask which candidate people would support if the election were today – which it isn’t. At least as important are the underlying sentiments informing current preferences, and they show the extent of Trump’s troubles given his recent controversial comments. Among them:
• The public by 66-29 percent think he’s unfairly biased against groups such as women, minorities or Muslims.
• Americans by 68-28 percent think his comment about Judge Gonzalo Curiel was racist. Regardless of whether or not it was racist, 85 percent say it was inappropriate.
• While most Americans disapprove of Clinton’s handling of her email while secretary of state (34-56 percent, approve-disapprove), they’re equally disenchanted with Trump’s handling of questions about Trump University (19-59 percent, with more undecided).
• Most generally, the public by 56-36 percent, a 20-point margin, says Trump is standing against their beliefs as opposed to standing up for their beliefs.
Clinton, further, receives substantially better marks than Trump’s for her response to the lone-wolf terrorist attack June 12 in Orlando, Florida: Americans by an 18-point margin, 46-28 percent, say Clinton did a better job than Trump overall in responding to the attack.
Another result marks a rebuke to Trump in his own party. On June 15, referring to Republican leaders, he said, “Just please be quiet. Don’t talk.” In this survey, however, Republicans and GOP-leaning independents by a wide 62-35 percent say party leaders should speak out when they disagree with Trump, rather than avoid criticizing their likely nominee.
Indeed, Trump is supported by just 77 percent of Republican registered voters in the two-way test in this survey, compared with 85 percent in this group last month and, again, essentially back to his in-party support in March. In the four-way trial he’s at 74 percent among Republicans.
Results of this poll temper the notion that last week’s Brexit vote in the United Kingdom marks a broader dissatisfaction with the status quo that advantages Trump on this side of the Atlantic. On one hand, nativist sentiment, populism and economic anxiety clearly benefitted Trump in the race for the Republican nomination. On the other, his general election campaign requires broader support – and he’s had a dreadful few weeks.
Qualifications, Temperament and Anxiety
Doubts about Trump are reflected in yet-sharper questions about his qualifications for office – perhaps the most basic hurdle for a candidate to clear – and continued widespread anxiety about a potential Trump presidency.
Sixty-four percent of Americans now see Trump as unqualified to serve as president, up 6 points from an already-high 58 percent last month. Thirty-four percent see him as qualified.
Clinton’s numbers are essentially the opposite, and unchanged: Sixty-one percent see her as qualified for the office, 37 percent as not qualified. Moreover, while 33 percent feel strongly that Clinton is not qualified, many more – 56 percent – feel strongly that Trump doesn’t pass this test.
Clinton also continues to surpass Trump easily in views of which candidate has the better personality and temperament to serve effectively. Clinton’s vast 61-28 percent lead on this question is essentially unchanged from last month’s 61-31 percent.
For all this, Clinton is hardly beloved. Fifty percent of Americans say they’re anxious about the idea of her as president (vs. 47 percent who are comfortable with it). When it comes to a Trump presidency, however, anxiety rises to 70 percent, with just 27 percent comfortable with the idea. These are about the same as when last asked in January, and the 70 percent anxiety number matches Trump’s unfavorability rating in an ABC/Post poll last week.
Dissatisfaction with Trump and Clinton alike raises the question of a third way – but partisanship is a strong anchor, and this poll indicates little traction to date for an alternative party. Just 18 percent of registered voters say there’s a third-party candidate they’re seriously considering – and when asked to name that candidate, a mere 2 percent offer Johnson’s name, and 1 percent mention Stein, a very low level of unaided recall.
When presented directly with Johnson and Stein as alternatives, they receive 7 and 3 percent support, respectively, as noted – drawing similarly from both major-party candidates. Johnson’s selected by 6 percent of Trump’s supporters and 5 percent of Clinton’s in a two-way matchup; Stein, by 4 percent of Clinton’s and 1 percent of Trump’s.
The president’s resurgent approval rating is particularly welcome for Clinton, given his reported eagerness to campaign for her.
His advance is broadly based, and political divisions remain high – 88 percent approval for Obama among Democrats, 50 percent among independents and just 18 percent among Republicans. Tellingly, 85 percent of Obama approvers support Clinton, vs. just 8 percent of Obama disapprovers.
Obama’s approval rating is similar to both Bill Clinton’s 57 percent and Ronald Reagan’s 56 percent at about this point in their presidencies, and far better than George W. Bush’s 29 percent.
That said, discontent with the status quo does remain, and poses some risk for Clinton as the incumbent party’s nominee. Registered voters by 56-39 percent say they’d rather see the next president set the nation in a new direction from Obama’s rather than continuing his course. “New direction” voters favor Trump over Clinton by a wide margin, 64-26 percent – but those who want to stay Obama’s course back Clinton even more widely, 87-6 percent.
It’s notable, too, that the number of Americans who prefer a new direction is about the same now as it was at this stage of Reagan’s presidency – when the nation went on, nonetheless, to elect Reagan’s vice president George H.W. Bush, to the top job.
Partisanship can follow political preferences, and in this poll Democrats account for 36 percent of all adults and 37 percent of registered voters – a non-significant (+3) difference from last month. (The former is numerically its highest since 2009, the latter, since 2012.) Republicans account for 24 percent of all adults and 27 percent of registered voters, about their average in recent years, with the rest independents.
This accounts for little of the shift in voter preferences, however. Even using the same party divisions from last month’s ABC/Post survey, in which Trump was +2, he’d now be -8. The reason, mentioned above, is his comparatively weak performance among Republicans – 77 percent support – compared with Clinton’s support among Democrats, 90 percent.
Obama’s gain in approval, similarly, is not fundamentally based on any change in partisanship – last month’s partisan divisions would put him at 54-42 percent now, vs. his actual 56-41 percent in this poll.
There are notable shifts among groups in the latest vote preference results. Largest is a 16-point loss for Trump, and 17-point advance for Clinton, among white Catholics, a potentially key group that accounts for one in seven registered voters.
Clinton, further, is now leading among young adults, a group in which Trump was surprisingly competitive last month. Trump is -11, and Clinton +11, among registered voters who don’t have a college degree, as well as among liberals and conservatives alike. And Trump is -10, Clinton +11, among white men.
Clinton continues to prevail mightily among nonwhites – by 77-15 percent now, vs. 69-21 percent last month; that includes 90-8 percent among blacks and 69-20 percent among Hispanics. (For an adequate sample size, this combines results among blacks, and separately among Hispanics, from May and June.) Trump leads Clinton by 50-40 percent among whites, down from 57-33 percent last month.
In another division of potential interest, Clinton leads Trump by 57-33 percent in the states that Obama won in 2012 (+24 points), while Trump leads more narrowly, by 51-41 percent (+10), in the states Mitt Romney won four years ago.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone June 20-23, 2016, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults, including 836 registered voters. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including the design effect, for the full sample, and 4 points for registered voters. Partisan divisions are 36-24-33 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents, in the full sample, 37-27-30 among registered voters.
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.