After running even with Donald Trump early last week, Hillary Clinton now holds a five-point lead in the latest Post-ABC Tracking Poll overall, as well as clear advantages on several personal attributes.
Enthusiasm for Clinton and Trump now stands at rough parity, both significantly lower than it was among supporters of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney four years ago. But Clinton has a clear advantage in affirmative support, with 55 percent of her backers saying the main reason they are voting for her is because they support her, compared with 43 percent of Trump voters. More Trump voters say they are voting for him mainly because they oppose Clinton.
The Post-ABC poll finds Clinton with a 48 percent to 43 percent lead in overall vote preferences, just on the edge of statistical significance but continuing a clear trend of improvement since the race was locked at 46 percent at the beginning of last week. Clinton has benefited from more united support from non-white voters as well as with “pure” political independents who do not lean toward either party.
Clinton’s advantage in the tracking poll is slightly larger than her standing in other national surveys released in the past week. Clinton was up three points in a CBS News/New York Times poll, two points in a Fox News poll, one point in a McClatchy-Marist poll and tied in the IBD/TIPP daily poll released Saturday — results that lean in her favor, but not by a significant margin.
The new Post-ABC poll asked voters which candidate they favored across five personal attributes debated during the campaign, including honesty, empathy, qualifications, moral character and temperament.
Clinton holds clear advantages on four of the five qualities, some by very large margins. By 58 percent to 32 percent, more voters prefer Clinton’s personality and temperament, and by 55 percent to 36 percent, more say she has better qualifications for the job than Trump does. The Democratic nominee also holds an eight-point advantage on the question of which candidate has a better understanding of the “problems of people like you,” and a seven-point lead when voters are asked which candidate has stronger moral character.
But Trump maintains a 44 percent to 40 percent edge over Clinton on which candidate is more honest and trustworthy, though that result is down from an eight-point edge earlier this week after the FBI announced the discovery of additional emails that might be relevant to from their investigation of her use of a private server while secretary of state.
While voter preference on candidate qualities seemed clear, they were more closely split on who they trust to deal with major policy issues. A previous wave of the Post-ABC Tracking Poll released this week found neither candidate held a double-digit advantage on trust to handle the economy, terrorism, immigration, health care or corruption in government.
There are sizable minorities of Trump and Clinton supporters who do not vouch for some of their personal qualities. About 82 percent of Clinton supporters say she is more honest and trustworthy than Trump, while 18 percent do not, saying neither is better than the other or that they have no opinion. Defections from Trump are sharpest on the issue of personality and temperament, with 27 percent of his backers saying he does not have a better personality and temperament than Clinton; 17 percent say he is not more qualified. Fewer than 3 in 10 of these voters say their vote for Trump is mainly because they support him, while two-thirds say they are mainly voting against Clinton.
Voters’ opinions on the personal traits of Clinton and Trump are closely tied to which candidate they support. But the poll finds the connection is closer on the question of which candidate “better understand the problems of people like you.” Fully 84 percent of likely voters say they support the candidate who is more empathetic, while only 1 percent choose the opposite. The connection is weakest for temperament, with 77 percent supporting the candidate they prefer on this question while 6 percent choose the opposite (nearly all of them Trump supporters).
The contrast between the candidates’ results on personal characteristics helps explain Trump’s historically weak standing among white women with college degrees. In the 2012 election, Republican Mitt Romney won that group by six points. Today, the Post-ABC poll finds Clinton leads that group by 16 points, 54 percent to 38 percent.
On all five attributes measured, white college-educated women prefer Clinton to Trump, and are more likely to say so than voters overall. White women college graduates are 12 points more likely than voters overall to say Clinton has better temperament than voters overall, 10 points more likely on “moral character,” nine points more likely on empathy, eight points on honesty and seven points on overall qualifications.
In contrast to Trump’s struggles on personal traits among college-educated white women, he fared well compared to Clinton when it comes to being trusted to handle some top issues in a previous wave of the Post-ABC Tracking poll this week (where Trump fared slightly better in overall voting). Trump topped Clinton by six points on this group in trust to handle terrorism and national security, five points on handling corruption and four points on the economy, while trailing by seven on immigration and health care alike.
This Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted on cellular and landline phones Nov. 1-4, 2016, among a random national sample of 1,685 likely voters and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York.