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Poll: Are voters likely to accept the presidential election results?

Final election push
Candidates in the final push to Election Day 09:38

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

Concerns about Voting

The Trump campaign has raised the possibility that the 2016 election may be rigged, and concerns about voter fraud resonate with some registered voters.  Twenty-three percent of voters think widespread voter fraud happens a lot, and another 32 percent think it happens sometimes.  Trump voters are far more likely to believe widespread voter fraud happens in U.S. elections than Clinton voters.


Despite these concerns, registered voters are more confident that their vote will be counted than they were eight years ago.  Now, 45 percent of voters have a lot of confidence that their vote will be counted properly, up from 32 percent in 2008.


Regardless of the outcome, three in four registered voters say they will probably accept the official election results as legitimate even if their preferred candidate isn’t declared the winner of the 2016 presidential election.  Clinton voters (86 percent) are more likely than Trump voters (63 percent) to accept such a result, though most in both camps say they will probably do so.


Fifty-six percent of registered voters think it’s very important for a losing candidate to publicly acknowledge the winner as the legitimate president of the country.  Seventy-seven percent of Clinton voters think such a concession is very important, though just 36 percent of Trump voters agree.

But Clinton voters are more concerned than Trump voters about another potential source of election fraud – the possibility of a foreign government attempting to influence election and voting systems in the United States.  Forty-four percent of Clinton voters are very concerned about this, while just 26 percent of Trump voters are equally concerned.


Fifty-six percent of voters expect Clinton to win the election next week; she has been the expected victor in the race since the question was first asked in June. But that figure is down from 63 percent two weeks ago and at the level it was in early October.

Clinton’s Email Controversy

Eight in 10 registered voters have heard something about the latest development in the Clinton email controversy, including nearly half who have heard a lot about it, and a majority of likely voters who have yet to vote -- 62 percent -- say the FBI’s actions don’t make a difference to their vote.  

Perceptions have grown slightly that Hillary Clinton did something illegal when she set up her own personal email and server for State Department business.  Forty-eight percent now think she did something illegal, up six points from last month, and the percentage who thinks she did nothing wrong has dropped six points:  from 25 percent in October to 19 percent today.

Donald Trump and Allegations of Sexual Assault

The allegations of unwanted sexual advances brought by a number of women against Donald Trump are also familiar to registered voters – six in 10 have heard or read a lot about these allegations.  Although Donald Trump denies their validity, 54 percent of registered voters think the allegations are mostly true.

Fewer than half of voters think Donald Trump respects women even somewhat, while more than half think he either doesn’t respect them much (15 percent) or doesn’t respect them at all (38 percent).  Thirty-one percent of men and 44 percent of women don’t think Donald Trump respects women at all.

Still, six in 10 likely voters who have yet to cast their ballot say the allegations don’t make a difference in their vote, though four in 10 say they make them less likely to vote for him.  Most Democrats (60 percent) are less likely to vote for Trump because of these allegations, while most Republicans (81 percent) and independents (59 percent) say the allegations make no difference.

Views of the Candidates

Throughout this campaign, both Clinton and Trump have been viewed unfavorably by most voters, and with less than a week until Election Day this hasn’t changed.

When compared to past major party candidates, Trump and Clinton’s unfavorable ratings are the highest in CBS News polling going back to 1984, when the question was first asked. 

Some voters are uneasy about what these candidates would do if elected president, although opinions are largely influenced by who voters support in this election.

Three in four Clinton voters would be scared about what Trump would do if he was elected president, and a near equal percentage of Trump voters feel that way about a Clinton presidency.



On the positive side, about eight in 10 of each candidate’s supporters feel excited or optimistic about what their candidate would do if elected, but Trump voters are more likely to be excited about his potential presidency (32 percent), than Clinton voters are about a Clinton presidency (16 percent).

The Campaigns

Negativity about this year’s election campaigns abounds. Four in five voters now say this year’s campaign has made them feel more disgusted than excited. Similar percentages of Clinton and Trump voters, and men and women, say they feel disgusted with the race.

Majorities of each candidate’s supporters say they are at least somewhat enthusiastic about voting this year – but slightly more Trump voters than Clinton voters are very enthused.  Nevertheless, at 49 percent of likely voters overall very enthusiastic, enthusiasm lags behind the excitement voters felt prior to the 2012 presidential election. Then, 62 percent said they were very enthusiastic about voting.

Just over half of each candidate’s supporters say they strongly favor him or her. About one in four have reservations, and a similar percentage says theirs is a vote against the other candidate.

Eying the Opposition

For most voters, whether or not someone supports Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump doesn’t have much of an effect on their opinion of that person. 

However, Clinton voters are more likely to view a Trump supporter negatively than vice versa. Fifty-one percent of Clinton backers say they have a less favorable impression of someone if they know they back Trump for president, compared to about a third of Trump voters who feel that way about a Clinton supporter.

Candidate Qualities

Looking ahead, most voters don’t see these candidates as bringing the country together. Fifty-seven percent of voters say Clinton would not be the kind of president that would unite the country, and 64 percent say that about Trump. 

Voters’ evaluations of the candidates on key characteristics are largely unchanged since mid-October. Trump is more likely to be seen as a change agent than Clinton, but most voters don’t think he is qualified, has the right temperament to serve as president, or is honest and trustworthy.  Even more don’t think Clinton is trustworthy -- 64 percent say that - virtually unchanged since mid-October.  Fifty-six percent of voters do think Clinton is qualified to be president, and a similar percentage says she has the right temperament.  

Still, fewer than half of voters think Clinton (48 percent) or Trump (39 percent) understands their needs and problems. And while more voters think the policies of both Clinton and Trump would benefit the rich over the middle class or the poor, 57 percent of voters say this about Trump, compared to 37 percent who think that about Clinton. About a quarter say the policies of Clinton and Trump would treat all groups the same.

The Candidates on the Issues

Voters nationwide say issues (75 percent) will matter more to them in this election than the candidates’ personal qualities (15 percent).

The economy and jobs (38 percent) is the most important issue for registered voters when it comes to deciding their vote for president this year, followed by national security and terrorism (28 percent).  Further down on the list is health care (11 percent), while immigration is the top concern of just 7 percent of voters.


Trump leads Clinton on who would best handle the economy and jobs – voters’ top concern. Clinton has an advantage on foreign policy, health care and the issue of abortion.  They are closer on the issues of immigration and terrorism/national security.

Amid news that the costs of some Obamacare premiums are expected to rise, the health care law has become more prominent on the campaign trail. 54 percent of Americans now disapprove of the law, an increase of six points in just the last two weeks. Since the health care law was passed in 2010, Americans have held a more negative than positive opinion of the law.



The demographic contours of the race have not changed much. The gender gap remains notable this year: by large margins men support Trump and women support Clinton.  In fact, Trump’s support among men has increased in this poll after dropping in mid-October, amid allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances on women.  His support among men, and white men, is similar to what it was in early October.

Trump leads among white voters, including white men and whites without a college degree. Clinton has the support of white college graduates, and women regardless of educational attainment. Those living in households with a union member also back Clinton by a large margin.


The Parties and the 2016 House Vote

With Donald Trump trailing in many battleground states and congressional Republicans scrambling to maintain leadership of the House and especially the Senate, Republicans are divided as to how their standard bearer has affected their party.  While 39 percent of Republican voters think Donald Trump has been good for the GOP, 41 percent think he has had a negative effect.  In contrast, just 17 percent of Democrats think Hillary Clinton has been bad for the Democratic Party.  Nearly half (46 percent) think she’s been good for the party, while 35 percent don’t think she has had much of an effect either way.

Eighty-nine percent of registered voters and 85 percent of Republicans now think the Republican Party is divided, a 32-point increase among Republicans from just after their party’s nominating convention in July.  A feeling of party unity is far more prevalent when looking at the Democrats.  Fifty-nine percent of registered voters overall and 73 percent of Democrats describe the Democratic Party as united.

With control of the Congress at stake in this year’s election, some Republican leaders have expressed concern about the effect of Donald Trump’s candidacy on down ballot races.  Right now, likely voters lean towards voting for a Democrat (49 percent) over a Republican (46 percent) for their representative to the House if the election were held today.  Similar results were recorded two weeks ago.

This poll was conducted by telephone October 28-November 1, 2016 among a random sample of 1,561 adults nationwide, including 1,333 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 and the sample of registered voters 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 sample of likely voters is modeled among registered voters (N=1,333), assigning each respondent a probability of voting based on their responses. The margin of error for the sample of likely voters is plus or minus three points. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.  

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