Hillary Clinton holds a narrow three-point edge over Donald Trump as supporters of each candidate lock in to their candidate as the best equipped to handle a variety of national issues, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News Tracking Poll.
The poll finds that despite the 2016 campaign’s vast differences from four years ago, voters are dividing in very similar ways to 2012 when Barack Obama won reelection by a four-point margin.
Voters’ rankings of the most important issue in their votes could be seen as a danger sign for Democrats: The economy ranks first at 29 percent, followed by corruption in government, terrorism and national security, health care and immigration.
But when asked which candidate voters trust to handle each, Clinton runs equal to or slightly ahead of Trump to handle four of the five issues, including the economy, terrorism, immigration and health care. Trump holds a clear 48 percent to 39 percent advantage on dealing with corruption in government.
No candidate holds a double-digit edge on any of the five issues tested in the poll, and the vast majority of voters are trusting of their candidate down the line. Fully 75 percent of Clinton voters trust her over Trump to handle all five issues, while 83 percent of Trump’s backers are similarly united.
In overall support, 47 percent back Clinton while 44 percent back Trump in the latest four-day wave completed Tuesday, little different from her 47-45 edge in the previous wave but a break from the past six days where Clinton and Trump have been within two points.
Clinton’s current three-point edge is not statistically significant, but it provides some evidence that her decline in support tracked by the Post-ABC poll and other national and state surveys might be easing. In the tracking poll wave released Monday, Trump topped Clinton by one point, 46 to 45 percent.
One shift since Trump’s high point has been an easing in support among political independents, a group that favored the Republican by as much as 19 points last week. No candidate has maintained a consistently large edge with independents all year, as we noted at the time, and Trump’s lead with the group has come back to eight points in the latest wave, 47 percent for him compared to 39 percent for Clinton. Shifts among independents may reflect less switching of support than changing the makeup of independents, given the group’s mix of closet partisans and less-engaged voters generally that are less likely to turnout.
Trump’s position with independents closely resembles Mitt Romney’s five-point winning margin among the group in the 2012 network exit poll, which was not sufficient to overcome Democrats’ overall party identification advantage over Republicans.
The Tracking Poll finds several other parallels to the election four years ago in the way groups are angling to vote. While the gender gap showed signs of expanding earlier this year, Clinton’s 10-point lead among women is similar to Obama’s 11-point margin four years ago, and Trump’s six-point edge with men nearly matches Romney’s seven-point edge.
Along religious lines, Trump’s 79 percent support among white evangelical Protestants is just one point different from Romney’s 78 percent support among the same group. Clinton’s 63-percent support among likely voters who do not affiliate with a religion is only somewhat short of Obama’s 70-percent share with this group.
One persistent break from 2012 voting patterns is the divide among whites by educational attainment. White voters without college degrees favor Trump by a 33-point margin (62-29 percent), slightly larger than Romney’s 26-point edge among the group. But white college graduates have moved more sharply in Democrats’ direction, with Clinton now holding an 8-point lead (49-41 percent), a reversal from Romney’s 14-point winning margin in 2012.
That shift has been tracked all year and continues to be pronounced among white women with college degrees, who favored Romney by six points but support Clinton today by a 19-point margin.
This Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted on cellular and landline phones Oct. 30-Nov. 2, 2016, among a random national sample of 1,151 likely voters and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York.