With 12 days to go, Hillary Clinton holds a six-point edge over Donald Trump among an electorate fixated on the campaign and nervous about their candidate losing, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News Tracking Poll.
More than three in four Clinton and Trump supporters say they are "very anxious" at the thought of the other candidate becoming president, fears that underscore perceptions of the election's high stakes and stark contrast between contenders.
Among all likely voters, 56 percent are anxious about Clinton becoming president while 61 percent are anxious about Trump. While anxiety for Trump is slightly higher than for Clinton, the five-point gap has shrunk from a 15-point difference August when 67 percent were anxious about Trump's presidency following the Democratic National Convention and a high-profile dispute with a Muslim Gold Star father. Then, 52 percent of likely voters said a Clinton presidency made them anxious.
In the new poll, two-thirds of likely voters are anxious about just one of the two party candidates — almost always the one they don't support — while just over one-quarter express anxiety about both Clinton and Trump becoming president.
In overall vote preference, Clinton tops Trump 48 percent to 42 percent among likely voters in the tracking poll conducted jointly by The Washington Post and ABC News. Clinton's margin in the survey is little different than her 47-43 edge in a mid-October Post-ABC poll, but less than the double-digit leads in earlier waves of the tracking survey reported by ABC News through Monday.
The Post-ABC Tracking poll finds 57 percent of registered voters are following the election "very closely" and 85 percent say they're absolutely certain to vote or have already cast ballots. Both measures are similar to four years ago, and nearly identical percentages of Clinton and Trump supporters are reporting high attention to the race.
The poll underscores how widespread concerns about Clinton make it difficult for her to expand beyond a single-digit edge over Trump, as well as Trump's continuing challenges in appealing beyond a core base of supporters.
Clinton inspires anxiety among at least half of voters in a variety of swing voting groups, as well as some who lean Democratic, including 67 percent of independents, 56 percent of Catholics, 52 percent of women, 53 percent of voters under age 40 and 55 percent of moderates. Uneasiness about a Trump presidency is higher among all of these groups except independents, though not always by wide margins.
For Trump, women represent the most formidable barrier to catching Clinton in the campaign's final days and continue to see the businessman in a sharply different light than men do. A majority of women, 55 percent, say they are "very anxious" about Trump becoming president, compared with 38 percent of men. The gender gap is smaller when asked about Clinton, with 44 percent of men and 36 percent of women saying they are very anxious if she takes office.
Women's resistance on this question translates to the vote choice, where Trump trails Clinton by 53 to 37 percent among women overall. If the 16-point margin holds through Election Day, it would be the widest for a presidential candidate since Bill Clinton's decisive victory in 1996, according to exit polling. Trump's margin among men is a narrower 47 to 43 percent, handicapped by the fact men have consistently turned out at lower rates.
Beyond women, Trump faces renewed struggles in party unity since dozens of Republican leaders called on him to drop out earlier this month. He leads Clinton by 82 to 8 percent among Republican likely voters, while Clinton holds a wider 89-8 margin among Democrats. Trump's support with Republicans has dipped from 90 percent just before the first debate in September, while Clinton's standing is little changed from 88 percent at that point.
This Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone October 22-25, 2016, among a random national sample of 1,775 adults, including landline and cell phone respondents. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 points; the error margin is plus or minus 3 points among the sample of 1,135 likely voters. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York.