Clinton leads, but is vulnerable as debate with Trump looms

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 September, 2016, 1:39am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 September, 2016, 1:39am

Hillary Clinton heads into the first presidential debate with a 7-point lead over Donald Trump, but doubts among voters 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 on 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 match-up with Trump by 48-41. She leads in a 4-way contest 45-39, with Libertarian Gary Johnson drawing 10 per cent support and Green candidate Jill Stein getting 4 per cent.

Clinton’s lead is built on her resume. She is winning because voters trust her more than Trump to handle immigration, fight terrorism and manage the nation’s economy, and 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, scepticism of Clinton runs deeper and provides an opening for Trump to potentially tighten the race in the final month and a half.

Whether its president Trump or Clinton, Asia needs to prepare for the good, the bad and the ugly

“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 by 57-30 saying she has the know-how 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 criticises 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 polarised nation.

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 vigour 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 African American for more support.

The survey was conducted September 15-20, mostly before violence erupted in Charlotte in response to a police shooting of an African American. Both Clinton and Trump have criticised 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 minorites 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 per cent 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.