Powered by the same coalition that twice elected Barack Obama, Democrat Hillary Clinton holds a clear lead over Republican Donald Trump in a hypothetical matchup for the November election, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The survey shows that the former secretary of state is viewed more favorably than the New York billionaire on a series of issues and on a series of candidate attributes, although both rate poorly on the question of honesty.
Clinton leads Trump 50 percent to 41 percent among registered voters and has made steady progress against her potential rival over the past six months. Her margin over Trump has increased from three points last September to six points in December to the current nine points.
Clinton is assembling a potentially winning coalition of minorities, women, young voters and voters with college degrees. Trump is chosen by barely one-fifth of nonwhite voters — about the same percentage as Republican Mitt Romney received when he ran against Obama four years ago.
Clinton garners about the same low percentage of white voters as Obama did, but Trump receives a smaller share than Romney did in 2012. Nearly a tenth of white voters say they favor neither candidate or would not vote in November.
Clinton has a 21-point lead over Trump among women, while Trump has a five-point edge among men. Along educational lines, white voters are sharply divided. Trump carries voters without college degrees by 57 percent to 33 percent; Clinton wins those with college degrees by 52 to 37.
The survey also highlighted a significant generational difference in candidate preferences. Trump and Clinton are virtually tied among voters age 40 and older. But those under age 40 favor Clinton by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.
Clinton enjoys significantly stronger support among Democrats than Trump does among Republicans. It is probable that more Republicans would rally behind their nominee by the time of the election, as has been customary in recent contests, but the strong opposition to his candidacy inside the party could make the task of unifying the GOP more difficult than usual.
The other good news for Clinton in a possible general-election matchup with Trump is the improvement in perceptions of Obama. His overall approval rating stands at 51 percent in the new poll, while his disapproval rating is 43 percent.
Obama has been at or just above 50 percent in both Post-ABC polls this year, and his disapproval rating is the lowest it has been since two months after his reelection in 2012. Democrats’ hopes of retaining the White House hinge in part on the president’s standing this fall.
Also, slightly more poll respondents said things have gotten better during Obama’s presidency than say they have gotten worse — 48 percent to 43 percent.
When Americans are asked who they think would win if Clinton and Trump were the nominees, Clinton is the overwhelming choice, with 59 percent naming her compared with 36 percent choosing Trump. That is an increase of five points for Clinton since January.
About one-third of all Republicans — 32 percent — doubt that Trump would defeat Clinton in November, up from 21 percent in January. Independent voters also are more bullish about Clinton’s chances against Trump than they were at the start of the year.
On four issues — the economy, terrorism, immigration and dealing with international crises — Clinton was rated better by Americans on each one, by varying margins.
Trump does best on the economy, where Clinton’s advantage is just four points, 49 percent to 45 percent. Clinton’s advantage grows to 14 points on terrorism; 19 points on Trump’s signature issue of immigration; and 29 points on dealing with an overseas crisis. Almost a quarter of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they trust Clinton more than Trump on immigration.
Clinton, Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) also were tested on a series of four candidate attributes. Trump scored the lowest of the four — although on several of the attributes, no one looked particularly good.
Just 27 percent of Americans rated Trump as honest and trustworthy. That compared with 37 percent for Clinton, 42 percent for Cruz and 47 percent for Rubio. The good news for Rubio is that he was the only one with a net positive rating, in part because 14 percent said they had no opinion.
Trump scored just as low on the question of whether a candidate “understands the problems of people like you.” Just 26 percent said yes. Clinton came the closest to breaking even, with 49 percent saying yes and 50 percent saying no. Just over 4 in 10 rated Cruz and Rubio positively on the empathy measure.
Clinton and Trump were miles apart on two other attributes — having the right kind of experience and the right kind of temperament and personality to be president.
By a 2-to-1 ratio, Americans see Clinton as having the experience to serve in the Oval Office; by almost 3 to 1, Americans say Trump does not. On the issues of temperament and personality, 58 percent said Clinton has what it takes to serve effectively as president, while 25 percent think that of Trump.
Jobs and the economy continue to rate as the most important issues in the minds of Americans, although their importance has decreased significantly in the past four years. In the current survey, 28 percent cite jobs or the economy as the top issue. Four years ago, they were the choice of about half of all Americans.
Second in importance is immigration, cited by 11 percent, followed by issues of ethics, honesty and corruption in government at 8 percent.
The Post-ABC poll was conducted March 3 to 6 among a random national sample of 1,000 adults reached on conventional and cellular phones. The margin of sampling error for overall results is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points; the error margin is four points among the sample of 864 registered voters.
Emily Guskin contributed to this report.