Following a week laden with controversies surrounding the presidential election, Hillary Clinton holds a 4-point lead over her Republican contender Donald Trump, according to a poll conducted after the release of the “Trump tape.”
Led by The Washington Post and ABC News, the poll, which has a margin of error of 3.5 points, is one of the first insights into how Mr. Trump’s recent comments about women and alleged assaults of others will effect him through the remainder of his campaign. Just two days before the second presidential debate, a 2005 recording of the Republican candidate making lewd remarks about sexual misconduct with women surfaced. Days later, several women came forward, publicly accusing Trump of groping them or kissing them without permission.
While a fleet of high-ranking GOP figures immediately denounced Trump’s remarks, the effect of his words on voters wasn’t yet clear, as many available polls were conducted before the tape leaked or in a polling period that overlapped with its release. Now, Trump has fallen behind Mrs. Clinton, with a majority of respondents believing he is guilty of the accused assaults and more than a third saying the revelation will make them less likely to cast a ballot for the candidate.
The poll, conducted between Monday and Thursday of last week, found that 47 percent of likely voters favored Clinton compared to 43 percent who plan to vote for Trump. Of registered voters, the same lead remains, with 44 percent likely to vote for Clinton, compared to 40 percent for Trump. Respondents had the second presidential debate and the Trump tapes to take into account, while those polled Wednesday and Thursday also had allegations of sexual abuse against Trump to consider.
The overall findings have only changed marginally when compared to the last ABC poll, taken two weeks prior on the eve of the first presidential debate. At that time, Clinton held a 2-point lead over Trump. What the poll does show, however, is that there are an increasing number of voters who take issue with Trump’s misogynistic remarks and find his accusers credible.
After Trump issued a rare apology for his remarks caught on the 2005 tape, around six in 10 voters say they didn’t find his apology sincere, including one-fifth of Republicans and more than half of independents. The decade-old remarks have made 13 percent of Republicans, and more than one-third of the electorate overall, less likely to cast a ballot favoring Trump, the poll found.
Trump has built a campaign on embracing a disenfranchised section of the electorate that embraces his “tell it like it is” attitude and disregard for political correctness. He’s managed to make brazen, controversial statements about women, Muslims, racial minorities, and prisoners or war without seeing a significant drop in support, and some have wondered if any statement was controversial enough to shake his base of supporters.
Four years ago, a tape of then-Republican candidate Mitt Romney declaring 47 percent of the population did not pay income tax and was dependent on the government for basic needs leaked less than two months before the 2012 election. Pollsters estimated that the comment accounted for a 1.6 percent jump in support for President Obama. The dip left the Romney campaign reeling for the remaining weeks of the election cycle.
In Trump’s case, comments seen as explicit and offensive have already created fractures in the party, pushing independents away from Republicans and leading some loyal GOP voters to abandon him. The lack of unified partisan support around the candidate could explain why he only dropped 2 points in the polls, as many women had already decided they would not support him before the tape's release.
As for the allegations of sexual assault several women levied against him last week, voters seem receptive to the claims, with 68 percent saying Trump has likely made unwanted sexual advances on women, including about half of Republicans.
Still, the same number of voters polled didn't necessarily plan to abandon him, indicating that while they don't doubt the allegations, they don't see them as damaging enough to switch sides.
“Trump needs to be careful going forward when talking about people's weight and looks, because those kinds of words do have a horrible impact on many women,” says Cathy Knight, a voter in Convington, Ga., who works an assistant for her husband’s construction firm, told The Christian Science Monitor last week. But, “Benghazi is really what’s driving my vote for Trump. I think about if it was my husband or son killed there.”
Many share Ms. Knight's dilemma, hinting that solidarity among policy issues, or possibly a distrust of Clinton, has led them to remain loyal to the GOP candidate, even when his character has come into question.
The poll wrapped up before the latest WikiLeaks release involving Clinton emerged, including the transcripts of her three paid speeches to Goldman Sachs.