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Hillary Clinton heads into the first presidential debate with a 7-point lead over Donald Trump, but doubts among voters about about her trustworthiness and stamina are keeping Trump in the race, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.
“You wouldn’t bet for Clinton,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York, which conducted the nationwide survey. “But you certainly wouldn’t bet against her at this time.”
The first presidential debate is Monday at Hofstra University in New York and “clearly the stakes couldn’t be any higher for both of them,” Miringoff said.
She leads in a two-way matchup with Trump by 48-41 percent. She leads in a four-way contest 45-39, with Libertarian Gary Johnson drawing 10 percent support and Green candidate Jill Stein getting 4 percent.
Clinton’s lead is built on her résumé. She is winning because voters trust her more than Trump to handle immigration, fight terrorism and manage the nation’s economy, and they think she has the experience to do the job.
The weakness she’s been unable to shake is the public’s view of her honesty and trustworthiness. While voters don’t trust Trump either, skepticism of Clinton runs deeper and provides an opening for Trump to potentially tighten the race in the final month and a half.
“When it comes to specific areas of public policy, she seems to dominate those,” pollster Miringoff said. “When it comes to the qualities of a candidate she has some convincing to do.”
Clinton dominates when it comes to experience, with likely voters saying by 57-30 she has the knowhow to do the job. She wins on temperament, with voters by 50-38 giving her the edge.
“Some of the values Trump stands for, his morals, I just can’t get behind,” said Katie Harrington, 20, a junior at the University of Florida in Gainesville. “I can’t get behind someone who criticizes veterans, mocks women and outright attacks people of different nationalities.”
And Clinton scores when voters are thinking about the issues.
On immigration, they prefer her by 54-41.
On creating good jobs, they prefer her by 49-43.
On trade, they prefer her by 52-42.
And on handling terrorism, they prefer her over Trump by 52-41.
“Trump saying things like, ‘Oh, I can solve the ISIS problem in 30 days.’ That just doesn’t sit well with me because that just doesn’t make sense,” said David Shaevel, 42, a Clinton backer from Austin, Texas.
Clinton and Trump are both hugely unpopular and whoever wins the White House will lead a polarized nation.
Just 40 percent of likely voters have favorable opinions of Clinton and 37 percent of Trump, according to the McClatchy-Marist poll.
And she starts to lose out when voters think of honesty.
Most likely voters don’t find either of them to be “honest and trustworthy.” But Trump has the edge. Just 36 percent of voters think she’s honest and trustworthy; 44 percent think he is.
“If there’s an Achilles’ heel in her armor, honest and trustworthy is where that shows up the most,” Miringoff said.
Johnny Pfeiffer, 51, of Hernando County, Florida, said he was leaning Trump. But he said he was more opposed to Clinton than he was enthusiastic about Trump, who he acknowledged “does scare me a little bit.”
“Look at what she’s done,” he said. “Look at how she was when she was secretary of state. That was a bunch of baloney in Benghazi. And she and her husband were broke, then all of a sudden they became millionaires. I don’t trust her.”
And she’s vulnerable when it comes to connecting to voters.
Voters by 43-41 think Trump shares their values more than Clinton does.
And they split evenly, 44-44, on which candidate cares about people like them.
Along with trustworthiness, likely voters rated Clinton low on the question of stamina. The survey was taken after news coverage of Clinton’s bout of pneumonia and stumble while exiting a 9/11 commemoration ceremony.
Fifty-three percent said Trump had more stamina to be president; just 39 percent said that of Clinton.
While Clinton has battled the trustworthiness question throughout the campaign, Miringoff said the doubts about her stamina to be president might prove to be easier to resolve.
“I think between now and Election Day the vigor of the campaign will make those moments fade in people’s memories. Barring any other health incident – which would be a real problem. All bets are off if that were to occur,” he said.
Clinton holds a staggering lead over Trump among African-Americans, 93-3, despite Trump’s efforts to reach out to them for more support.
The survey was conducted Sept. 15-20, mostly before violence erupted in Charlotte, North Carolina, in response to a police shooting of an African-American. Both Clinton and Trump have criticized police in past days in the wake of police shootings in Charlotte and Oklahoma, though Trump also endorsed “stop and frisk” policing, which disproportionately targeted minorities when it was used in New York City.
Clinton also leads Trump among Latinos by 74-16.
But when pollsters also asked about whether voters supported third party candidates, Clinton registered 60 percent Latino support, less than Barack Obama in the 2012 election.
“I don’t really like Clinton or Trump. I think they both have character issues,” said Tom Murphy, a 59-year-old Latino from Phoenix who is backing the Libertarian Gary Johnson as a protest vote.
This survey of 1,298 adults was conducted Sept. 15-20 by The Marist Poll, sponsored and funded in partnership with McClatchy. People 18 and older residing in the contiguous United States were contacted on landline or mobile numbers and interviewed in English by telephone using live interviewers. Landline telephone numbers were randomly selected based on a list of exchanges from throughout the nation from ASDE Survey Sampler Inc. The exchanges were selected to ensure that each region was represented in proportion to its population. Respondents in the household were randomly selected by first asking for the youngest male. This landline sample was combined with respondents reached through random dialing of cellphone numbers from Survey Sampling International. After the interviews were completed, the two samples were combined and balanced to reflect the 2013 American Community Survey one-year estimates for age, gender, income, race and region. Results are statistically significant within plus or minus 2.7 percentage points. There are 1,094 registered voters. The results for this subset are statistically significant within plus or minus 3.0 percentage points. There are 758 likely voters defined by a probability turnout model that determines the likelihood respondents will participate in the 2016 presidential election based on their chance of voting, interest in the election and past election participation. The results for this subset are statistically significant within plus or minus 3.6 percentage points. The error margin was not adjusted for sample weights and increases for cross-tabulations.