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Preliminary Exit Polls: Videotapes, emails didn’t swing a lot of votes

Most voters decided by summer’s end: Early exit polls suggest that only one out of ten voters made up their minds in the last week, according to preliminary exit polls. Six in ten had made their choice by the end of the summer, which is good news for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

That’s because both candidates had to deal with controversy in something of an October surprise: first, Trump was forced to defend himself after a videotape from 2005 was released in which he bragged about groping women; and second, FBI Director Jim Comey’s announcement that his bureau was reviewing new emails related to Clinton’s private email server as secretary of state seized from ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-N.Y.) laptop (Comey announced this week that agents found no new information).

Other takeaways from an early look at voters:

  • First-time and immigrant voters About one in ten voters in early exit polls identified themselves as first time voters. About one in ten voters identify themselves as not having been born as U.S. citizens.
  • Immigration policy: Voters at the polls continue to express majority support for a path to legal citizenship. About seven in ten say most illegal immigrants should be allowed a chance to apply for legal status. Roughly a quarter prefer deportation as a strategy. Views on the infamous wall across the country’s southern border are somewhat more divided, though early exit polls suggest a narrow majority opposing the idea.
  • Sharp divide on criminal justice system: Clinton voters and Trump voters entered the voting booth today with far different views of the way the criminal justice system is working. The large majority of Clinton voters say the country’s criminal justice system treats blacks unfairly. The large majority of Trump voters see a system that treats everyone fairly. These views differed massively by race. Among black voters, fully eight in ten say the system is unfair to blacks. Whites are divided on the issue.
  • Government dissatisfaction: American voters in 2016 are an unhappy lot when it comes to their government. Preliminary exit polls suggest about seven in ten voters are either dissatisfied or flat at angry at the way the federal government is working. Trump voters that hold the strongest views: about four in ten are angry, compared with about one in ten among Clinton voters.
  • Clinton and Trump voters divide on role of government: Trump and Clinton voters also divide on what they want the federal government to do, with a large majority of Clinton voters saying the government should be doing more to solve people’s problems, and the large majority of Trump voters saying government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.
  • Approval for Obama, but mixed views about continuing policy: As Obama prepares to exit the national stage, preliminary exit polls suggest his approval rating may top 50 percent among voters. Clinton’s voters are very high on the president she served: about two in three strongly approve of his job performance. Still most of the electorate is not prepared to have a president that just continues Barack Obama’s policies: nearly half would like to see more conservative policies, including about one in ten Clinton voters. About three in ten say they hope to see more Obama style leadership. And about two in ten, including about a quarter of Clinton voters, would like to see the next president take on a more aggressively liberal agenda.
  • Faith in accuracy of the vote count: Early exit polls suggest most Americans who have cast a ballot have at least some confidence that their state will count that vote accurately. Overall, about half say they are very confident in their state’s electoral process, and another third are somewhat confident. Overall, about one in seven say they are not confident, including a higher share (about two in ten) Trump voters.
  • Personal qualities: What were today’s voters looking for in a candidate? To some extent they fractured in their search, but overall, about four in ten were looking for change this year. About two in ten, on the other hand, were looking for experience, and another two in ten for good judgment. At the bottom of the list, a candidate who “cares about people like me”.  Among Trump voters, the vast majority chose ‘change’. Clinton voters were more divided in what they hoped to find in their candidate.
  • Supreme Court: The Supreme Court figured prominently in the minds of both Trump and Clinton voters at the polls today. Overall, fully seven in ten voters said it was at least ‘an important factor’, and two in ten called it the most important factor.
  • Honesty, Trump’s treatment of women and Clinton’s email: On the negativity surrounding these two candidates: a majority of voters (about six in ten) say they don’t consider Clinton honest and trustworthy. Slightly more give Trump a thumbs down on this front. About six in ten are at least somewhat bothered by Clinton’s use of private email while secretary of state, including about three in ten Clinton voters. About seven in ten are at least somewhat bothered by Trump’s treatment of women, including more than four in ten Trump voters.
  • Views of the parties: Voters had mixed views of both major national parties today. The public roughly divides favorable/unfavorable on the Democratic party, while preliminary exit polls suggest the majority may tilt negative on Republicans. As of early evening, nearly one in four Trump voters had a negative view of the GOP. About one in ten Clinton voters dislike the Democratic party.

2016 election aftermath: Trump wins, Clinton concedes

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