Clinton's Support Drops by a Third as Trump, Carson Surge in GOP Race

Damaged by increased doubt about her honesty and empathy, Hillary Clinton's lost

ByABC News
September 14, 2015, 12:00 AM

— -- Damaged by increased doubt about her honesty and empathy, Hillary Clinton has lost a third of her support for the Democratic presidential nomination in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, while non-politicians Donald Trump and Ben Carson have surged on the GOP side, commanding more than half the vote between them in a crowded field.

The results are remarkable, particularly in the Republican contest: Even as Trump’s lead for his party’s nomination has grown, six in 10 Americans see him as unqualified to serve as president and as many say he lacks the personality and temperament to succeed in the job. His rating for empathy is far worse than Clinton’s; for honesty and trustworthiness, slightly worse.

See PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

That said, Trump –- and to some extent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side – has capitalized on an anti-establishment streak in political sentiment. Trump also has better ratings among Republicans than from the public at large, and he continues to draw particular support from those who favor his controversial positions on immigration.

All told, among registered voters, 33 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents now favor Trump for the nomination, with 20 percent for Carson –- up 9 percentage points and 14 percentage points, respectively, since July. Jeb Bush has crumpled to 8 percent, down from a field-leading 21 percent in March and his first single-digit result in ABC/Post polls this cycle. Among others, Scott Walker’s tumbled to 2 percent, down 11 points since midsummer.

In the Democratic contest, Clinton's drop is dramatic, yet not enough to threaten her clear lead. She's supported by 42 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who are registered to vote, down from 63 percent in July, while Sanders has gained 10 points, to 24 percent, and Joe Biden's up by 9 points, to 21 percent. If Biden doesn't run, most of his support moves to Clinton, boosting her to 56 percent – exactly double Sanders' support in this case.

Even if still in a strong position, Clinton's trajectory leaves no question that she has trouble. Just 39 percent now see her as honest and trustworthy, matching her career low; that has dropped by 14 points since last summer. At 46 percent, her rating for empathy –- understanding the problems of average Americans -– is at a career low (albeit by a single point). Her support in the primary has tanked in particular among women, previously a mainstay of her candidacy, from 71 percent in July to 42 percent now.

The e-mail imbroglio is part of it. Fifty-five percent of Americans in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, disapprove of Clinton's handling of questions about the matter, 54 percent think she's tried to cover it up and 51 percent think she broke government regulations by using a private server for work-related e-mail during her time as secretary of state.

That said, Clinton may have hit a landing pad on the issue: Disapproval of her handling of the situation is no worse now than it was in May, and fewer than half, 44 percent, call it a legitimate issue in the presidential election, actually down a scant 4 points.