By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto
The State of the Race
Heading into the two parties' conventions, the race for President is a dead heat, a change from last month when Hillary Clinton led by six points. Forty percent of registered voters now say they will back Clinton (a dip of three points), while 40 percent will vote for Trump (a bump up of three points). A month ago, Clinton led Trump 43 to 37 percent.
Most registered voters say they have made up their minds about who to support: 90 percent of Trump voters and 88 percent of Clinton voters say their choice is set. About one in 10 of each's candidates' supporter say their minds might change before the election.
The race looks essentially the same in a three-way contest when Libertarian candidate Governor Gary Johnson is added to the mix. He gets 12 percent of the vote, but Clinton and Trump remain tied, with 36 percent each.
Candidate Qualities and the Email Controversy
While Clinton was not indicted for matters relating to her use of a private email account and server for her work as Secretary of State, she was harshly criticized by the FBI director, and her standing on some key candidate qualities has taken a bit of a hit.
Sixty-seven percent of voters now say Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, up from 62 percent last month and the highest percentage this election cycle. Only 28 percent view her as honest. Clinton's ratings on honesty were more positive soon after she announced her presidential bid in April of last year. Also, fewer now say she is prepared for the job of president than did so last month - although half still say she is.
Although Clinton receives lower marks on these attributes compared to last month, views of Trump have not improved on these measures and remain mostly negative. Sixty-two percent of voters don't think he's honest (compared to Clinton's 67 percent), and two-thirds continue to say Trump is not prepared for the job of president, compared to 48 percent who say that about Clinton.
On the email matter specifically, most voters think Clinton did something wrong when she set up a personal email address and server for work while she was Secretary of State, including 46 percent who think what she did was illegal, up slightly from 41 percent last month.
There are partisan differences. Most Republicans (78 percent) and half of independents think what Clinton did was illegal. Among Democrats, 43 percent say she did nothing wrong, and another 35 percent said she did something improper but not illegal. Few Democrats think she broke the law.
Voters are divided on whether the FBI investigation into the email matter was fair. Forty-eight percent express at least some confidence that the investigation was independent and impartial, while 47 percent have little or no confidence. Most Republicans and a slim majority of independents don't think the investigation was impartial, while most Democrats think it was.
2016 Presidential Vote Choice: Past Conventions and the Demographics
How does the state of the 2016 race compare to similar points in recent elections? CBS News polling showed tight races heading into both the 2012 and 2008 conventions. Barack Obama led Mitt Romney by just 1 point four years ago, and before both conventions in 2008, Obama had a three-point edge over John McCain.
(It should be noted that the 2008 and 2012 polls were conducted in August, as the conventions were held later in the year.)
While the 2016 race is now neck and neck, each candidate continues to perform well with their party's key voters. Clinton enjoys strong support from women, African Americans, and younger voters, while Donald Trump gets the support of men, white voters (particularly those without a college degree), and white evangelicals. Each candidate is also winning the support of eight in ten of their party's voters.
Independents have changed since the last poll. Clinton has lost some ground with independent voters and they have now swung Trump's way. Independents were virtually split in last month's poll, but Trump now leads Clinton by 12 points among them.
Trump widened his lead among white voters from six points last month to 13 points now, and while Clinton led with white women last month (a group Romney won in 2012), the candidates are now even among white women.
Most of the interviews for this poll were conducted before Clinton's former rival, Bernie Sanders, endorsed her for President. 67 percent of Sanders supporters in the primaries say they will vote for Clinton in November, while just 9 percent say they will cast their vote for Trump - not too different from a month ago.
In July 2008, after an often contentious primary contest, 61 percent of Clinton backers said they would vote for her primary opponent, Barack Obama, in the general election, while 20 percent said they would support McCain.
The Candidates on the Issues
Trump has improved his standing with voters on handling some important issues. The candidates were tied on handing the economy and jobs in June, but Trump has opened up an 11-point lead over Clinton on that issue now, and he has pulled even with her on handling terrorism and national security. Last month, Clinton had an 8-point advantage over Trump on illegal immigration, but that has been cut to 3 points.
The candidates are about even on the issue of trade, while Clinton has a 31-point advantage on handling race relations.
Overall views of the presumptive nominees remain negative. The major party candidates are well-known to voters, and more than half have an unfavorable opinion of both Clinton (54 percent) and Trump (54 percent). While there's little difference between the two, this is the first time during the campaign that Clinton's favorable rating (28 percent) is lower than Trump's (30 percent).
When compared to past likely nominees heading into their conventions, Trump and Clinton's unfavorable ratings are the highest in CBS News polling going back to 1984, when the question was first asked.
The Veep Choice: How Important Is It?
As the conventions draw near, there is increased speculation about who the candidates will choose as their running mates. Most voters say a vice presidential candidate matters at least some in their vote for president, but just 30 percent say it matters a lot; another third says it doesn't really affect their presidential vote.
Voters Not Looking Forward to the Rest of the Campaign
The campaigns are expected to kick into high gear after their conventions and voters are not especially excited about that. Sixty-one percent of voters are not looking forward to the next few months of the presidential campaign, and there is little difference between Clinton and Trump voters on this question.
In fact on 27 percent of voters are very enthusiastic about voting in the 2016 presidential election, and they are less enthusiastic now than they were at the beginning of the year, when 33 percent said at the time they where very enthusiastic. Twenty-four percent of voters say they are not at all enthusiastic, up from 15 percent in January before the primary season began. Both Clinton and Trump supporters are similarly enthusiastic, or unenthusiastic, about the election.
This poll was conducted by telephone July 8-12, 2016 among a random sample of 1,600 adults nationwide, including 1,358 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 margin of error for the sample of registered voters is three 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.
This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
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