Little change in presidential race after Clinton's troubles

September 21, 2016, 2:21 PM UTC

Hillary Clinton maintains her two point lead over Donald Trump, even after a week of bad news

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s bout with pneumonia, and the criticism of her claim – while ill – that half of Republican Donald Trump’s supporters were a basket of “deplorables” appear to have had little effect on the character of the presidential race, according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, the first completely conducted after all the events of the last two weeks.  Just after Labor Day, Clinton held a two-point lead over Trump; this week, the race remains a two-point contest.

One in five voters say they support other candidates – or are still undecided. 

Labor Day marked a turning point and a time of reassessment for voters; Clinton had generally held on to a larger lead before the holiday, which occurred soon after new stories about the Clinton Foundation and the emails that existed on the private server she used while Secretary of State.  But nothing since then that she, or her opponent, has done has had impact on the horserace.  

Next Monday’s first presidential debate may mark the next opportunity for voters to take another look.  As of now, voters look to the debates as an opportunity for Clinton: by an 11-point margin, registered voters think she will do the better job at the debate, and by a 19-point margin, they believe Donald Trump is the candidate more likely to misstate facts.

There is less sureness about Trump’s debate abilities from Trump supporters than there is about Clinton among her voters.  Among those now supporting Trump, 69% think he will perform better than Clinton in the debate.  83% of Clinton voters think she will do the better job. 

For the most part, voters want the moderators of the debates to correct misstatements by the candidates.  However, perhaps because 43% of Trump supporters are unwilling to say that Clinton will make the most factual errors, Trump voters generally want the moderators to stay out of correcting candidate errors. 

While it may not have impacted vote preference, Clinton’s pneumonia scare has made people slightly less willing to less willing to think she is healthy enough to serve effectively as president for four years.  Two weeks ago, half of registered voters thought she was physically strong enough and just over a third thought she was not.  Now voters are closely divided: 46% think she is healthy enough, 43% think she is not.

Clinton supporters are just as strongly convinced Clinton is healthy enough to serve now as they were two weeks ago.  Trump supporters have become even more negative.  Two weeks ago 72% believed Clinton was not physically strong enough, now 85% believe that.  And voters who currently support neither candidate have turned negative on this question.  Two weeks ago, a third thought she was physically strong enough, a third disagreed, and a third weren’t sure.  Now, by 15 points, they say she is not healthy enough.

Still, a majority of voters believe she is a strong leader.  And when it comes to toughness, six in ten voters say that word describes her, more than thought so two weeks ago (perhaps a result of her attempt to “power through” the bout with pneumonia).  While more people view Trump as healthy enough to serve, there is little difference in perception of each candidate’s toughness, suggesting that Trump’s efforts to paint Clinton as “weak” may not have – at least not as of yet – succeeded.

In fact, Clinton gets little sympathy for the possibility that her characterization of “half” of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables.”  A majority think it was wrong of her to make this comment (though many agree with it and believe she meant it). Seven in ten registered voters – including a majority of Clinton’s own supporters – say Clinton would have said this even if she were not sick.  

This is a polarized electorate.  What Clinton said is what most of her supporters believe: eight in ten Clinton voters agree with what she said.  Overall there is a division when it comes to agreement with Clinton’s entire statement, but half of all registered voters think a majority of Trump’s voters are racist.  And as for Clinton’s voters, 87% think this.  Trump voters vehemently disagree.


See the rest of this week's YouGov/Economist Poll

YouGov/Economist Poll archives