Democratic nominee picks up support from women, swing voters in latest WSJ/NBC News poll
Hillary Clinton is consolidating a substantial lead over Donald Trump less than a month before Election Day, picking up support from women and swing voters as the Republican nominee navigates a roiling sex scandal, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds.
Heading into the final presidential debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Mrs. Clinton led Mr. Trump by 11 percentage points among likely voters, 48% to 37%, a big jump from the six-point edge she held in mid-September.
Moreover, the Republican presidential nominee is losing his advantage on matters that were once the cornerstone of his campaign—his trade policies, command of economic issues and claims to be more honest and straightforward than his opponent.
The poll also found that Mr. Trump had been damaged politically by the release of a 2005 recording in which he spoke about touching women sexually without consent, a problem that has been compounded in recent days as women have come forward to accuse him of unwanted sexual conduct over the last 30 years.
The poll is a snapshot of the electorate at a particularly rocky time for Mr. Trump, but there is little time for him to change the political dynamic now.
“The guy is losing support on his way to November. You can’t win that way,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the survey with Democrat Fred Yang.
“The cake has been baked,” said Mr. Yang, who noted that the share of voters viewing Mr. Trump positively has changed little and has never topped 30% in Journal/NBC polling this year.
“The Trump coalition right now seems to be mostly the hard core,” he said.
As Mrs. Clinton expanded her lead in the new survey, third-party candidates took a declining share of the vote. Support for Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson dropped two points from September, to 7%, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein drew 2%, down one point from the prior month.
The poll was conducted Oct. 10-13, after the second presidential debate but before this week’s sexual-misconduct allegations against Mr. Trump. The New York businessman has denied all misconduct.
While Mr. Trump’s core supporters haven’t abandoned him and not defected to the Democratic side, Mrs. Clinton’s gains stem from a widening advantage among women and the support of voters who had been undecided or planning to vote for third-party candidates.
“What we’re watching is some reluctant voters deciding to come to Clinton,” said Mr. McInturff.
Among the reluctant Clinton backers is Angelica Varela, a 47-year-old Hispanic voter in California. A longtime Republican voter, she expects to back Mrs. Clinton, because she is offended by Mr. Trump’s statements denigrating Mexicans and women.
“It’s very difficult, because I have my reservations with her, too,” Ms. Varela said. “But I can’t get myself to vote for Trump. Everything he does, it’s an embarrassment to the country.’’
The controversy over the 2005 videotape, which showed Mr. Trump bragging that his celebrity allowed him to kiss and grope women, has reached deeply into the awareness of the electorate.
Fully 95% of registered voters said they had heard about the tape, and 64% said they had concerns about it.
But the poll suggested that the recording wasn’t in itself a knockout blow for Mr. Trump: 53% of voters said they didn’t believe it disqualified him from being considered as president or that he should withdraw from the race because of it. Nearly one-third of voters said the recording did disqualify Mr. Trump.
Austin Burns, 23, of Colorado, said he likely would vote for Mr. Trump despite concerns about the 2005 video, because Mr. Trump had made the recorded comments so long ago, and “he has turned himself around; he did apologize.”
The poll found that voters are more concerned about the 2005 recording than about the assertions Mr. Trump is raising as a rebuttal: That Mrs. Clinton had criticized women who brought forward accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior by her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Some 48% of voters said that was a concern, while an equal 48% share said it wasn’t.
Voters’ perceptions of the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses are shifting, and Mrs. Clinton has gained ground on Mr. Trump on some of his signature issues.
Skepticism about the benefits of international trade deals has been a central pillar of Mr. Trump’s “America First” campaign platform. In a Journal/NBC News poll in May, voters preferred him by a 10-point margin—48% to 38%—when asked which candidate would handle trade policy best.
Now, Mr. Trump’s advantage on trade has narrowed to 3 points, 46% to 43%.
On economic issues, the two candidates are effectively tied. That is a substantial change from June, when Mr. Trump, touting his experience as a businessman, had commanded a 47%-to-37% advantage on the question of which candidate would best handle the economy.
Even one of Mrs. Clinton’s greatest vulnerabilities, the voters’ lack of trust in her honesty, is receding. Asked which candidate is more honest and straightforward, voters favored Mr. Trump by 4 points, 38% to 34%. In June, he had a 16-point advantage, 41% to 25%.
Despite her lead over Mr. Trump, Mrs. Clinton carries liabilities as a candidate. By 13 percentage points, more voters say they would feel uncertain or pessimistic about her election than who say they would feel optimistic or satisfied. That is the highest mark of pessimism of any candidate tested in October of an election year dating to 1996—exceeded only by Mr. Trump.
By 10 percentage points, a larger share of voters holds a negative view of Mrs. Clinton than holds a positive one—the weakest standing of a major-party nominee at this point in elections in recent decades, except for George H.W. Bush in 1992 and Mr. Trump this year.
The Journal/NBC News survey was conducted Oct. 10-13 and included 1,000 registered voters. The margin of error for that group was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The margin of error for 905 likely voters in the survey was 3.26 percentage points.