Clinton Leads by 4 Nationally; Trump Hurt Himself in Debate

| Tom Jensen

PPP’s new national poll finds Hillary Clinton leading by 4 points both in the full field of candidates, and in a head to head match up with Donald Trump. In the full field she gets 44% to 40% for Trump, 6% for Gary Johnson, 2% for Evan McMullin, and 1% for Jill Stein. She leads Trump 49/45 if voters had to choose just between the two of them.

Monday night’s debate was a big success for Clinton. 54% of voters think she won it, to only 31% who think Trump won. Beyond that simple fact it opened up several issues that may persist for the rest of the campaign:

-The discussion about Trump’s personal taxes in the debate has voters thinking several things that could prove very problematic for his ability to make a comeback in the final 40 days. Only 31% of voters think Trump pays his fair share of federal income taxes, to 52% who think he does not. 46% of voters nationally think that they personally pay more in federal income taxes than he does, to only 36% who think Trump pays more.

Of course Trump could settle these issues in voters’ minds by releasing his tax returns. And 62% of voters think he should do that to only 27% who don’t think it’s necessary for him to. But voters have a theory on why Trump might not want to release them: just 35% think Trump is as rich as he says he is.

-For the most part when Donald Trump says or does something, his voters go along with it no matter what it is. But his criticism of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado for gaining ‘a massive amount of weight’ is a step too far even for his core supporters. Overall just 17% of voters think it’s acceptable for Trump to criticize her weight, to 65% of voters who say they think it’s inappropriate. Even among Trump’s voters just 29% stand by him on those comments, to 45% who say he’s in the wrong.

-Voters have no clue where Trump stands on the Iraq War following the debate. 29% think he supported it. 26% think he opposed it. And a 34% plurality think that he both supported and opposed the war. Even among Trump voters just 50% think he solely opposed the war in Iraq, despite his repeated adamant claims to have done so.

-Trump did come out of the debate with an advantage on one issue. By an 18 point margin, 49/31, voters think he’s the candidate more likely to cause a nuclear war if he was President. 

-Trump’s response on whether he would accept the results of the election if he lost didn’t do much to assuage his supporters’ fear of voter fraud. Only 21% of them think that if Clinton wins the election it will be because she got more votes, to 65% who think it will be because the election was rigged to her benefit.

Trump’s supporters are mad about various process issues related to the debate Monday night, but they still want him to participate in the rest of them nonetheless:

-Overall Lester Holt has a 37/28 favorability rating nationally. When we first asked about him in a national poll in February 2015 he was at 30/15, so there hasn’t been that big of a shift. Views towards him are very polarized along candidate support lines in this year’s election though- among Clinton voters he has a 56/11 favorability rating, while among Trump voters it comes in at 18/49.

-Trump floated the idea that he may have intentionally been given a defective microphone in order to help Clinton on Monday night, and a plurality of his supporters are lapping that conspiracy theory up. 40% of his voters think he was deliberately given a bad microphone in order to skew the debate, to 37% who disagree, and 23% who aren’t sure. Few non-Trump supporters buy this line of thought though- overall just 23% of voters think he was purposely given a bad mic.

-Despite biased moderators and rigged microphones, 91% of Trump voters think he should still participate in the remaining debates to only 6% who think he should sit them out. Overall 76% of voters want Trump to do the other two debates, with just 17% preferring for him to stay home.

This was our first national poll since Trump said he wasn’t a birther anymore, and we found that has had a pretty big impact on the views of his supporters:

-In May we found that only 23% of Trump voters nationally thought that Barack Obama was born in the United States, to 59% who thought he was not. Now 41% of Trump voters say that Obama was born in the United States and the share that say he wasn’t has declined 26 points to 33%. Trump’s declarations on the birther issue have really illuminated the cult like aspect of his supporters. Trump didn’t invent birtherism, but when he embraced it, belief in it among conservative voters went way up. And when he dropped it, belief in it among conservative voters went way back down.

-This campaign has shown there isn’t much Trump can do that would reduce the enthusiasm of his supporters for him. But we found one thing in this poll that would do it: actually apologizing for his 5 years as the leader of the national birther movement. A whooping 89% of Trump voters say he should not apologize to President Obama for spreading birtherism, to only 6% who think that he should say he is sorry. Never apologizing for anything is one of the greatest virtues Trump has to his base.

There aren’t a lot of undecided voters in the head to head match up between Clinton and Trump, but when you drill down on them you see how Trump’s neverending controversies could end up making it impossible for him to win over enough of them to win the election:

-Only 13% of them think Trump pays his fair share of taxes, 53% think he doesn’t. By a 54/16 spread they’d like Trump to release his tax returns.

-Only 10% of them think his comments about Alicia Machado’s weight are appropriate, 60% think they’re inappropriate.

-50% of them think Trump should apologize to President Obama for his leadership of the birther movement, only 23% think he shouldn’t say he’s sorry.

Finally we polled on who Americans want to win the World Series. 21% are pulling for the Cubs to 15% for the Red Sox, 11% for the Indians, 8% for the Rangers, 7% for the Dodgers, and 2% for the Nationals. The Cubs may be what brings America together in the final month of this miserable campaign season- Democrats and Republicans alike are pulling for them to end the drought. And another thing Americans can agree on across party lines is that Washington winning the World Series is their very last choice.

Full results here

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