CBS/NYT national poll: Hillary Clinton's lead over Donald Trump narrows

Last Updated May 19, 2016 8:02 PM EDT

By Anthony Salvanto, Fred Backus, Sarah Dutton and Jennifer De Pinto

Looking ahead to the general election in November, Donald Trump trails both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders among registered voters, although by slightly narrower margins than last month. Hillary Clinton now holds a six-point lead over Donald Trump, down from 10 points a month ago. Trump trails Bernie Sanders by 13 points, down from 17 points.

Contentious primary contests on both sides haven't turned off many primary voters from voting for their party's candidate in a likely November match-up between Trump and Clinton, even if these candidates are not their preferred primary choice. Seventy-one percent of Republican voters who did not support Trump in the primaries would still vote for him against Clinton. On the Democratic side, 72 percent of Sanders supporters would vote for Clinton against Donald Trump.

Still, most voters are not content with the options of Clinton and Trump: while 46 percent of registered voters would be satisfied with that match-up, 52 percent want more choices. Most Republicans (55 percent) are satisfied, while most Democrats (52 percent) and independents (60 percent) are not. Eight in 10 Sanders supporters would like other choices.

The Republican Party and Donald Trump

With Trump as the likely Republican presidential nominee, eight in 10 think leaders of the Republican Party should support him even if they disagree with him on important issues, including 62 percent of voters that did not back Trump in the primaries.

Last week, Trump met with one of those Republican leaders, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. While Ryan remains unknown to many Republican voters nationwide, more view him favorably than unfavorably. But Trump is more popular and more familiar to Republican voters.

Republican voters think party unity is necessary. More than six in 10 think the party needs to be united in order for Trump to win a general election in November.


Does the Republican Party Need to Unite Behind Trump in Order to Win?

(Among Republican voters)


Total


Non-Trump Supporters
Yes63%
64%
No31
26

But can Trump unite the GOP? Most Republican voters (64 percent) think he can, but those who did not support Trump in the primaries are far less confident in Trump's ability to bring the party together.

And Republicans see their party as in need of unification. Eighty-four percent of Republicans say their party is divided now, and while most are hopeful about the future of the Republican Party, four in 10 are discouraged.

Primary voters who backed Trump and those who opposed him view the party's future differently. Most Trump backers (66 percent) are hopeful about it, while most non-Trump supporters are discouraged (66 percent).

In contrast, 50 percent of Democratic voters say their party is united (although 48 percent say it's not). Still, 80 percent are hopeful about their party's future, compared to 55 percent of Republican voters who say that about their party.

Views on party unity are a reversal of what they were in 2008. Back then, 61 percent of Republican voters said their party was united, compared to just 45 percent of Democrats who felt that way about their party.

GOP primary voters themselves are behind Trump. Most say they will support Trump now that he is the likely Republican nominee, including 37 percent who will do so enthusiastically. Voters who didn't support Trump in the primaries are, perhaps not surprisingly, less enthusiastic.

Still, 61 percent of GOP primary voters said the process for selecting their nominee has been fair - including most Trump and non-Trump supporters.

More than six in 10 voters nationwide are at least somewhat surprised that Donald Trump has emerged as the likely Republican nominee. Democrats are especially likely to be surprised.

The Race for the Democratic Nomination

Like Republicans, Democrats think party unity is necessary to achieve victory in November. Regardless of whether Clinton or Sanders is the nominee, more than eight in 10 Democratic voters think the party needs to unite behind the nominee in order to win a general election.

Majorities of Democrats think that either Democratic candidate will be able to unite the party, but more say that about Clinton (83 percent) than Sanders (68 percent).

Hillary Clinton maintains her lead over Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic nomination nationally. She is ahead by seven points.

Clinton leads in the delegate count according to CBS News estimates, and the percentage that expects her to be the nominee has risen since last month. Eighty-three percent of Democratic primary voters think Clinton will be the party's nominee, up from 70 percent in April. Even two-thirds of Sanders supporters (67 percent) expect Clinton to capture the nomination, up from 44 percent last month.

Sanders does have an enthusiasm advantage. Fifty-two percent of Democratic primary voters would enthusiastically support Sanders if he were the nominee, compared to 44 percent who feel that way about Clinton.

Most Democratic primary voters see the long nomination contest as a plus. 59 percent think it will help the eventual nominee because he or she will have been tested and better prepared for a general election, but a third think it will hurt the nominee because the critical statements the candidates have made about each other could weaken them. Both Clinton (60 percent) and Sanders supporters (62 percent) see the length of the nomination process as a positive.

This is a reversal from 2008, when Clinton and Barack Obama faced off in the primaries. Back then, when asked a similar question, more than half of Democratic primary voters thought the long nomination fight would hurt their nominee.


Impact of Length of Democratic Primaries on the Nominee
(Among Democratic primary voters)

Now6/2008
Help59%38%
Hurt3454

Sixty-eight percent of Democratic primary voters say the process for selecting the nominee has been fair, although Sanders voters (53 percent) are less likely to think that than those backing Clinton (84 percent).

General Election Match-ups: The Demographics

Both Democratic candidates enjoy strong support from liberals, moderates, women, and African Americans. Both candidates also have support among voters under 45, though Sanders' advantage among younger voters is particularly strong. Donald Trump leads his potential Democratic rivals among conservatives, white men, and white voters without a college degree.

Men favor Donald Trump against Clinton, though they are divided when Trump faces off against Bernie Sanders. Trump has a 12-point lead among white voters against Hillary Clinton, which shrinks to just three points against Sanders. White women are divided between Trump and Clinton but choose Bernie Sanders over Donald Trump. While Trump and Clinton are even among independents, Trump loses independents by 16 points when matched against Sanders.

05-2016-general-election-match-ups-demographics-1.jpg

The Campaign

There is diminished enthusiasm about voting. 40 percent of registered voters nationwide are less enthusiastic than usual about voting this year - higher than at any point during the 2012 election, perhaps reflecting a desire for more candidate choices.

However, Republicans are more enthusiastic than Democrats and independents, and those who support Trump in the primaries are particularly so -- 56 percent of Trump supporters say they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting this year.

Nearly half of Sanders' supporters say they are less enthusiastic this year, perhaps because it now appears unlikely their candidate will receive the Democratic nomination.

Voters are following the campaign closely. 60 percent of registered voters are now paying a lot of attention to the presidential campaign, up 3 points from April. Attention is about the same among both Republican and Democratic voters.


This poll was conducted by telephone May 13-17, 2016 among a random sample of 1,300 adults nationwide, including 1,109 registered voters. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News and the New York Times by SSRS of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.

The poll employed a random digit dial methodology. For the landline sample, a respondent was randomly selected from all adults in the household. For the cell sample, interviews were conducted with the person who answered the phone.

Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish using live interviewers.

The data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables.

The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher and is available by request. The margin of error includes the effects of standard weighting procedures which enlarge sampling error slightly.

The margin of error for the sample of 371 Democratic primary voters is six percentage points.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

CBS-NYT Poll Toplines May by CBSNewsPolitics