US election: Clinton leads Trump by three points in latest poll

US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Nov 3, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton holds a narrow three-point edge over Republican rival Donald Trump as supporters of each candidate lock in to their candidate as the best-equipped to handle a variety of national issues, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll.

The poll finds that despite the 2016 campaign's vast differences from four years ago, voters are dividing in very similar ways to 2012, when President Barack Obama won re-election by a four-point margin.

Voters' rankings of the most important issue in their votes could be seen as a danger sign for Democrats: The economy ranks first at 29 per cent, followed by corruption in government, terrorism and national security, health care and immigration.

But when asked which candidate voters trust to handle each, Mrs Clinton runs equal to or slightly ahead of Mr Trump to handle four of the five issues, including the economy, terrorism, immigration and health care. Mr Trump holds a clear 48 per cent to 39 per cent advantage on dealing with corruption in government.

No candidate holds a double-digit edge on any of the five issues tested in the poll, and the vast majority of voters are trusting of their candidate down the line. Fully 75 per cent of Clinton voters trust her over Mr Trump to handle all five issues, while 83 per cent of Mr Trump's backers are similarly united.

In overall support, 47 per cent back Mrs Clinton while 44 per cent back Mr Trump in the latest four-day wave completed on Tuesday (Nov 1), little different from her 47-45 edge in the previous wave, but a break from the past six days where Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump have been within two points.

Mrs Clinton's current three-point edge is not statistically significant, but it provides some evidence that her decline in support tracked by the Post-ABC poll and other national and state surveys might be easing. In the tracking poll wave released on Monday (Oct 31), Mr Trump topped Mrs Clinton by one point, 46 to 45 per cent.

One shift since Mr Trump's high point has been an easing in support among political independents, a group that favoured the Republican by as much as 19 points last week. No candidate has maintained a consistently large edge with independents all year, and Mr Trump's lead with the group has come back to eight points in the latest wave, 47 per cent for him compared to 39 per cent for Mrs Clinton.

Shifts among independents may reflect less switching of support than changing the makeup of independents, given the group's mix of closet partisans and less-engaged voters generally that are less likely to turn out.

Mr Trump's position with independents closely resembles Mr Mitt Romney's five-point winning margin among the group in the 2012 network exit poll, which was not sufficient to overcome Democrats' overall party identification advantage over Republicans.

The Tracking Poll finds several other parallels to the election four years ago in the way groups are angling to vote. While the gender gap showed signs of expanding earlier this year, Mrs Clinton's 10-point lead among women is similar to Mr Obama's 11-point margin four years ago, and Mr Trump's six-point edge with men nearly matches Mr Romney's seven-point edge.

Along religious lines, Mr Trump's 79 per cent support among white evangelical Protestants is just one point different from Mr Romney's 78 per cent support among the same group. Mrs Clinton's 63 per cent support among likely voters who do not affiliate with a religion is only somewhat short of Mr Obama's 70 per cent share with this group.

One persistent break from 2012 voting patterns is the divide among whites by educational attainment. White voters without college degrees favour Mr Trump by a 33-point margin (62-29 per cent), slightly larger than Mr Romney's 26-point edge among the group.

But white college graduates have moved more sharply in Democrats' direction, with Mrs Clinton now holding an 8-point lead (49-41 per cent), a reversal from Mr Romney's 14-point winning margin in 2012.

That shift has been tracked all year and continues to be pronounced among white women with college degrees, who favoured Mr Romney by six points but support Mrs Clinton today by a 19-point margin.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted on cellular and landline phones between October 30 and November 2, 2016, among a random national sample of 1,151 likely voters and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. Sampling, data collection and tabulation was done by by Abt-SRBI of New York.

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