Resources

Main Menu

Monmouth University Polling Institute

National

Prez Race Narrows on Debate Eve

Monday, September 26, 2016

Most voters will watch, but very few expect debate to change their minds

West Long Branch, NJ – Hillary Clinton has a 4 point lead over Donald Trump among voters likely to cast ballots in November.  While this is down from a 7 point lead last month, Clinton continues to have an advantage on the question of presidential temperament.  The latest Monmouth University Poll also finds that 3-in-4 voters plan to watch tonight’s debate, but very few actually expect to learn anything that will impact their choice of candidate.  A majority also feel that third party candidates should have been included in the debate and that debate moderators should fact check the candidates.

Currently, 46% of likely voters support Clinton and 42% back Trump, with 8% supporting Libertarian Gary Johnson, and 2% backing Jill Stein of the Green Party.  Support among all registered voters stands at 45% Clinton, 40% Trump, 8% Johnson, and 3% Stein.  In late August, Clinton’s likely voter support was the same at 46% while Trump’s support was lower at 39%.  Third party support is basically unchanged.

Clinton has the support of 91% of Democrats while Trump gets the backing of 85% of Republicans.  This result is in line with Clinton’s partisan support over the summer, but represents an improvement for Trump, whose GOP support was below 80% in prior polls.  Independents prefer Trump over Clinton by 39% to 33%.  In late August, Clinton had a 5 point advantage among independents while earlier last month Trump held a slim 2 point edge.

Clinton leads among millennial voters under 35 years old by 48% to 28%, although a sizable number give their support to Johnson (13%) and Stein (4%).  Voters who are 35 to 54 years old split their support at 42% for Trump and 41% for Clinton.  Voters age 55 and older are also divided at 47% for Clinton and 46% for Trump.  Clinton had a clear edge among all these age groups last month.

“Clinton’s support has softened since the summer, but she has still managed to grab a share of those who tend to vote Republican,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Both major party candidates continue to have high negative ratings, although Trump’s standing has improved slightly.  Currently, 36% of voters have a favorable opinion of Clinton and 54% have an unfavorable view of her, compared with a 34% to 51% rating last month.  Likewise, 32% of voters have a favorable opinion of Trump and 57% have an unfavorable view of him, compared with a 26% to 57% rating last month. 

Clinton has a slight edge on the “lesser of two evils” metric.  Nearly half of voters (47%) say it is very important to them to make sure Trump does not get elected.  Somewhat fewer voters (41%) feel the same about Clinton.  When the responses to these two questions are combined, 13% of voters say it is at least somewhat important to keep both Clinton and Trump out of the White House, 44% say it is important to stop Trump, 36% say it is important to stop Clinton, and 7% say they don’t feel it is important to stop either candidate from being elected.  Among voters who are currently supporting a third party candidate or are undecided, 43% say it is important to keep both major party nominees from being elected, 18% say it is important only to stop Trump and 17% say it is important only to stop Clinton, while 22% say stopping either candidate is not important to them.

Clinton has an advantage over Trump on presidential temperament although there is no edge when voters are asked about actual issue areas.  Just under 6-in-10 voters (58%) say Clinton has the right temperament to be president, including 47% of undecided voters and third party supporters.  Only one-third (35%) feel that Trump has a presidential temperament, including just 15% of undecided voters and third party supporters.

Voters are divided on who would better handle two key issue areas.  On the economy and jobs, 48% prefer Trump and 48% prefer Clinton.  On dealing with the threat of terrorism on U.S. soil, 48% prefer Clinton and 45% prefer Trump.  Trump has an advantage on these two issues, though, among voters who are undecided or supporting a third party candidate – 44% to 32% over Clinton on the economy and 43% to 26% over Clinton on terrorism.

“If persuadable voters’ final calculation comes down to temperament, Clinton should pick up a few points.  If it comes down to issues, Trump may see a bump,” said Murray.

The First Debate

Three-in-four voters (75%) plan to watch the first debate.  However, they are more likely to be those who already back Clinton (81%) or Trump (79%) rather than undecided voters or those supporting a third party candidate (48%).

Despite the anticipated interest, very few voters expect that the debate’s outcome will have an impact on their ultimate candidate choice.  Just 2% say it is very likely that the debate will cause them to change their mind or help them decide on their vote choice.  Another 10% say the debate is somewhat likely to have an impact.  Fully 87% do not see any possibility where the debate will actually have an impact on their vote choice.  Those who anticipate the possibility of changing their vote because of the debate include just 8% of Clinton supporters, 12% of Trump supporters and only 25% of those who are undecided or supporting a third party candidate.

“Pundits expect that a lot will be riding on the first debate.  The voters?  Not so much,” said Murray.

There has been a bit of controversy over whether third party candidates should be included in the presidential debates and what the role of the moderators should be.  A majority of voters (55%) believe that either Gary Johnson or Jill Stein should have been allowed on the debate stage tonight, with the vast majority of this group saying that both candidates should have been included.  Just 39% of voters agree with the debate commission’s decision to limit participation to the two major party nominees.

Most voters (60%) believe one of the duties of the moderators is to fact check candidates who state false information during the debates.  Only 31% say the moderators should leave it to the candidates to point out any false statements by their opponent.  Trump supporters (46%) are less likely than either Clinton backers (69%) or third party supporters and undecided voters (69%) to say that the debate moderators should fact check the candidates.

The Monmouth University Poll also asked voters what debate question they would ask the two nominees if they had the opportunity.  In general, voters want to hear specific proposals from the candidates, such as the Republican voter from North Carolina who asks, “What would be your plan to bring jobs back to the United States; a detailed plan?”  The main topics voters want to hear about are the economy, terrorism and national security, taxes, immigration, and social security.

Given the overwhelmingly negative outlook for this election, perhaps the most telling question came from the Rhode Island independent voter, who simply asks, “Why?”

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from September 22 to 25, 2016 with 802 registered voters in the United States.   The results in this release have a margin of error of + 3.5 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

                                                                         

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS                                                             

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)         

 

1/2.   If the election for President was today, would you vote for Donald Trump the Republican, Hillary Clinton the Democrat, Gary Johnson the Libertarian, or Jill Stein of the Green Party? [IF UNDECIDED: If you had to vote for one of the following candidates at this moment, who do you lean toward – Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?] [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

 

Registered voters

40%     Donald Trump

45%     Hillary Clinton

  8%     Gary Johnson

  3%     Jill Stein

  1%     (VOL) Other candidate

  3%     (VOL) Undecided

  0%     (VOL) No one

 

Likely voters

42%     Donald Trump

46%     Hillary Clinton

  8%     Gary Johnson

  2%     Jill Stein

  1%     (VOL) Other candidate

  2%     (VOL) Undecided

  0%     (VOL) No one

 

HEAD TO HEAD – TRUMP v. CLINTON  [Johnson/Stein/Other supporters reassigned to major party nominee they lean toward]:

 

Registered voters

43%     Donald Trump

49%     Hillary Clinton

  5%     (VOL) Other candidate

  3%     (VOL) Undecided

  0%     (VOL) No one

 

Likely voters

46%     Donald Trump

49%     Hillary Clinton

  4%     (VOL) Other candidate

  2%     (VOL) Undecided

  0%     (VOL) No one

 

 [QUESTIONS 3 & 4 WERE ROTATED]

3.      Is your general impression of Donald Trump favorable or unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of him?  

 

32%     Favorable

57%     Unfavorable

12%     No opinion

 

4.      Is your general impression of Hillary Clinton favorable or unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of her?  

 

36%     Favorable

54%     Unfavorable

10%     No opinion

 

Regardless of who you may support for president…

 [QUESTIONS 5 & 6 WERE ROTATED]

5.      How important is it to you to make sure that Donald Trump does NOT get elected president – very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important?

 

47%     Very important

  9%     Somewhat important

  7%     Not too important

34%     Not at all important

  3%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

6.      How important is it to you to make sure that Hillary Clinton does NOT get elected president – very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important?  

 

41%     Very important

  8%     Somewhat important

  8%     Not too important

40%     Not at all important

  3%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

[QUESTIONS 7 & 8 WERE ROTATED]

7.      Regardless of whether you would vote for him, do you think Donald Trump does or does not have the right temperament to be president?

 

35%     Does

61%     Does not

  4%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

8.      Regardless of whether you would vote for her, do you think Hillary Clinton does or does not have the right temperament to be president?

 

58%     Does

39%     Does not

  4%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

[QUESTIONS 9 & 10 WERE ROTATED]

9.      Who do you trust more to handle the economy and jobs – Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

 

48%     Trump

48%     Clinton

  4%     (VOL) Neither

  0%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

10.    Who do you trust more to handle the threat of terrorism on U.S. soil – Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

 

45%     Trump

48%     Clinton

  6%     (VOL) Neither

  2%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

11.    As you may know the first presidential debate between Trump and Clinton will be held Monday night.  Do you plan to watch the debate live or not?

           

75%     Yes

18%     No

  3%     (VOL) May watch clips later

  3%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

12.    [IF VOTE CHOICE IS DECIDED] How likely is it that the debate will change your mind about which candidate you intend to support – very likely, somewhat likely, or not likely?  [IF VOTE CHOICE IS UNDECIDED]  How likely is it that the debate will help you make up your mind about which candidate to support – very likely, somewhat likely, or not likely?

 

  2%     Very likely

10%     Somewhat likely

87%     Not likely

  1%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

13.    Should the debate include third party candidates Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, or should it be only the two major party nominees on stage? [If INCLUDE: Should the debate have included Johnson or Stein, or both of them?]

 

  6%     Johnson only

  0%     Stein only

49%     Both of them

  1%     (VOL) Depends

39%     Only major party nominees

  5%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

14.    Should the debate moderators fact check a candidate who states false information during the debate, or should they leave it to the candidates to point out any false information stated by their opponent?

 

60%     Should fact check

31%     Leave to candidates

  4%     (VOL) Both

  5%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

15.    If you could ask one short question of the presidential candidates at the debate, what would it be?  [VERBATIM ANSWERS WERE RECORDED]