Elections

Clinton surges to big lead in McClatchy-Marist poll

What do the polls mean?

Polling numbers can range drastically from poll to poll, sometimes showing one presidential contender far ahead of the other while another shows the two neck-and-neck. How do you know what to believe?
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Polling numbers can range drastically from poll to poll, sometimes showing one presidential contender far ahead of the other while another shows the two neck-and-neck. How do you know what to believe?

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has surged to a 15-point lead over reeling, gaffe-plagued Republican Donald Trump, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.

Clinton made strong gains with two constituencies crucial to a Republican victory – whites and men – while scoring important gains among fellow Democrats, the poll found.

Clinton not only went up, but Trump also went down. Clinton now has a 48-33 percent lead, a huge turnaround from her narrow 42-39 advantage last month.

The findings are particularly significant because the poll was taken after both political conventions ended and as Trump engaged in a war of words with the parents of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in an explosion in Iraq 12 years ago while trying to rescue other soldiers.

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“This is coming off the Democratic convention, where a bounce is expected,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York, which conducted the nationwide survey.

“What you don’t want is to have the worst week of your campaign,” a characterization many analysts use to describe Trump’s recent days.

Other polls have shown Clinton in the lead, though Marist’s is the largest so far.

Among poll respondents, Clinton was seen more often as a potential president. Fifty-three percent said they would find her acceptable; 39 percent felt that way about Trump.

Francis Duffy, 76, an Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, Republican, said she was voting for Clinton because she found Trump to be scary. “I just don’t feel that Donald Trump is qualified. I think he’s a loose cannon,” she said.

In a four-way race, Clinton retains her lead. She gets 45 percent to Trump’s 31 percent. Libertarian Gary Johnson has 10 percent, and the Green Party’s Jill Stein has 6 percent.

The new survey showed Clinton has cut sharply into the Republican nominee’s advantages in every ethnic and racial group.

After a bitter battle with rival Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont senator whose supporters fought all the way to the convention, she has solidified her strength among Democrats, 90 percent of whom now back her, up from 83 percent last month.

Jorge Vietes, 78, a native of Argentina who lives in Stockton, California, sided with Sanders in the primary, and is not swayed by Trump’s efforts to woo Sanders’ voters.

“I have no choice but to go for Clinton,” said Vietes, an independent voter. “Trump is kind of a crazy guy.”

Trump gets the nod from just 79 percent of Republicans, down from 85 percent last month. Some top GOP officials have put distance between themselves and the billionaire businessman, with some saying they’ll back Clinton.

Men had been the bedrock of Trump support. Last month, he was up by 14 percentage points among men; he’s now down 8.

Clinton remains strong with women, among whom she holds a 20-point advantage.

Trump, who gleefully cited polls at campaign events as he swept the Republican primaries, has lately questioned polling.

In Jacksonville, Fla., he said Wednesday, “I hear we’re leading Florida by a bit.” He added, “I don’t know why we’re not leading by a lot. Maybe crowds don’t make the difference.”

And at a rally in Virginia on Tuesday, he said: “I think these polls – I don't know – there's something about these polls, there's something phony.”

Janelle Pierre-Louis, 19, an independent voter and college student in Port St. Lucie, Florida, said she’s voting for Clinton because she can’t see voting for Trump.

“The way he represents himself is just not favorable,” she said. “And he wants to build a wall and target immigrants? I’m not sure why he wants to cut off immigrants.”

Trump collapsed almost everywhere that he’d built decent support. Even among white voters, a demographic that has favored Republican White House candidates in recent elections, Trump was lagging, ahead of Clinton, but only just barely, 41-39.

Paul House of Chiefland, Florida, is an independent voter, but said he’s backing Trump. Clinton “just seems so dishonest and has had so many things she’s been two-faced about. We’ve got more than enough of that in our government.”

But John Hawkins, of Gainesville, Florida, who had been in the Sanders camp, said he’s for Clinton. Trump never had a chance with him., he said.

“I think the guy is crazy. He gets a deferment status out of Vietnam and he starts something with a military family? I just don’t see anything presidential about him,” Hawkins said.

That’s a troubling finding for a Republican. In 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney won whites by 20 points, and still lost the election. In 2008, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., won the white vote by 12 points and lost.

Clinton wins moderates, 50-27 percent. She is far ahead with black voters, 93-2 percent, and with Latinos, 55-26 percent.

More encouraging for Clinton, 57 percent of her backers say their vote is for her, while 40 percent say it’s largely an anti-Trump vote.

Among the no-Trump voters is Cassandra Crockett, 66, a retired registered nurse from Winston-Salem, N.C., who says she’s “really not that fond” of Clinton.

Trump, though, is “a racist and he starts trouble everywhere he goes,” she said. She was disturbed by Trump’s seeming call for Russia to hack Clinton’s email.

“That’s just not acceptable to invite a foreign country into our election,” she said. “I don’t trust her, but at least she can represent us. I can’t see him meeting with any foreign leaders.”

Most of Trump’s backers – 57 percent – say their vote is against Clinton, while only 36 percent called it a pro-Trump decision.

Wayne Jones, a Canton, Ohio, retiree, says he’s voting for Trump, but is not particularly a fan and doesn’t believe Trump actually wants to become president.

“This is the biggest scam ever pulled in an election,” the independent voter said. “No one with his education, his smarts, would go out and shoot himself in the foot everyday if he wanted to be president.”

On issue after issue, Clinton ranked ahead of Trump. She’s up by 8 when asked who can best handle the war on terror. She’s ahead 21 on immigration, 14 on gun violence, 14 on trade and 4 on creating jobs, which had been one of Trump’s strengths.

David Lightman: 202-383-6101, @lightmandavid

Lesley Clark: 202-383-6054, @lesleyclark

How the survey was conducted

This survey of 1,132 adults was conducted August 1, sponsored and funded in partnership with McClatchy News Service. Adults 18 years of age 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 upon a list of telephone 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 cell phone numbers from Survey Sampling International. After the interviews were completed, the two samples were combined and balanced to reflect the 2013 American Community Survey 1-year estimates for age, gender, income, race, and region. Results are statistically significant within 2.9 percentage points. There are 983 registered voters. The results for this subset are statistically significant within 3.1 percentage points. The error margin was not adjusted for sample weights and increases for cross-tabulations.

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