Poll: Clinton widens Mich. lead as Trump support slides

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Donald Trump’s support in Michigan is showing signs of collapse as Democrat Hillary Clinton widens her lead to nearly 12 percentage points in a new statewide poll released to The Detroit News and WDIV.

Clinton led Trump 42.2 percent to 30.6 percent in a four-way poll of 600 likely state voters conducted after the second debate Sunday night. It followed last weekend’s GOP crisis over a decade-old recording of Trump making sexually aggressive comments about women.

When asked, 1 in 4 Republicans surveyed said their billionaire nominee should drop out of the presidential race. Trump has dismissed the idea suggested by some Republicans such as U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Michigan’s U.S. Reps. Fred Upton of St. Joseph and Justin Amash of Cascade Township.

“He is continuing to hemorrhage support. And that is the wrong direction for any campaign in mid-October,” pollster Richard Czuba said. “And if he does not do something to stanch the loss of his Republican support immediately, this is going to get completely out of hand for the entire Republican ticket.”

The Monday-Tuesday poll reveals “a lurking tsunami out there for the Republicans” running for Congress, the Michigan House of Representatives and other local offices, said Czuba, president of the Lansing-based Glengariff Group.

When likely voters were asked whether they were likely to vote Democratic or Republican for Congress, women polled said Democratic by a 19-point margin. Among all voters, Democrats had a 7-point margin, a result that Czuba said suggests concerns for Republicans down the ballot.

Among all women, Clinton holds a nearly 2-to-1 advantage, 48 percent to Trump’s 24.6 percent, a historically low amount of support from female voters, he said.

“Donald Trump is making it increasingly difficult for women to consider themselves Republican,” Czuba said. “And that’s what I think is going to play down the ballot.”

Clinton’s lead over Trump is expanding, but it is not because she’s gaining any new support since a Sept. 27-28 poll commissioned by The Detroit News and WDIV-TV found her leading Trump 42 percent to 35 percent after the first debate.

“She’s not adding voters,” Czuba said. “But the problem for Republicans is their candidate is losing voters.”

If Trump falls below 40 percent support in the Nov. 8 election, Democrats would be poised to win back the Michigan House and wipe out Republican candidates running for statewide education boards, said Brian Began, a GOP consultant at the Lansing firm Grassroots Midwest.

“If this is the going trend where whatever sort of novelty Donald Trump had is starting to wear off, it’s time to brace yourself and plan for the worst at this point,” Began said of down-ballot Republican candidates.

Clinton leads outstate

Trump’s support in a two-way race with Clinton without third-party opponents hovered at just over 33 percent, with 47 percent favoring Clinton and 12 percent undecided.

In a four-candidate race, Clinton led Trump by 18 percentage points in vote-rich southeast Michigan and maintained a 5-point lead among voters in all other corners of the state, according to the poll conducted by Glengariff Group Inc.

“I expected all along that the more people saw Donald Trump inching closer to being president, the more they would run away,” said Brandon Dillon, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party. “And I think Republicans are poised to pay a deep and steep price on Election Day for nominating him.”

Support for third-party candidates inched up in the latest poll. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson’s support stood at 10.3 percent, up 1 percentage point from two weeks ago. Green Party nominee Jill Stein had 4.6 percent, a gain of 1.6 points.

Johnson’s increased support is largely coming from the Republican base, where Trump is losing ground, Czuba said. Support for Johnson among voters who say they lean Republican rose from 10 percent two weeks ago to 15 percent in the new survey.

Republican leaders have been reeling since Friday when the Washington Post published a 2005 recording of Trump bragging to a television host about how his celebrity allows him to kiss and fondle women without their consent. Trump also boasted about his unsuccessful efforts to have sex with a married woman.

During Sunday’s debate, the businessman said his comments were words and not action.

About 31 percent of voters surveyed said the Trump recording made them less likely to vote for him, while 55 percent said it would not influence their vote. The poll had a margin of error of plus-minus 4 percentage points.

Former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, a co-chair of Trump’s Michigan campaign, acknowledged his candidate has been damaged by the around-the-clock coverage of the Trump tape.

“Do I expect 72 hours of non-stop coverage of Donald Trump on a terrible issue to have an impact? Yeah, I do,” said Hoekstra, a Holland Republican and former House Intelligence Committee chairman.

Quitting presidential race

Some GOP leaders like Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley sought to distance themselves from Trump by calling for him to quit the race and renouncing their endorsement. Upton and Amash never endorsed the New York real estate mogul before calling for him to withdraw.

About 43 percent of Michigan voters said Trump should withdraw from the race, while 49 percent said he should stay in.

About 24 percent of self-identifying strong Republican voters said their party’s nominee should bow out. Half of female voters said he should get out.

Even if he did withdraw, Trump’s name would still be on ballots that have already been printed, including more than 876,000 ballots distributed to absentee voters.

“Short of action by a judge, the ballot is set and cannot be changed,” Michigan Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams said Wednesday.

Hoekstra called the poll question “a hypothetical that can’t happen.”

“There’s no mechanism for pullout,” he said.

GOP enthusiasm wanes

Republicans in increasingly tough re-election campaigns, such as U.S. Reps. Mike Bishop of Rochester and Tim Walberg of Tipton, have maintained their endorsements of Trump, but shied away from publicly discussing the nominee.

“That could be the one saving grace, that Republicans still turn out and vote Republican; they just don’t vote for Donald Trump,” Began said.

But the poll shows Republican interest in going to the polls continues to slide.

Voters were asked to rank their enthusiasm on a scale of 1 to 10. Strong Republican voters scored an average of 5.3, while strong Democrats clocked in at 6.7 percent.

Czuba said he has never seen such a wide enthusiasm gap between the two parties.

“Typically the two bases track very close to each other in their motivation,” he said. “And that’s not happening anymore. A lot of people are becoming disgusted by this election.”

Hoekstra said Trump can reverse his decline by contrasting his policies on immigration, the economy, renegotiating international trade pacts and combating the Islamic State terror group.

What remains unknown about the impact of Trump’s candidacy on the Republican Party is how many new voters he attracts to the polls who aren’t factored into conventional polling, Began said.

“The only other X-factor is what sort of people come out of the woodwork to vote for Trump (with him) being Mr. Anti-Establishment,” he said.

(517) 371-3661

Twitter: @ChadLivengood