Harvard CAPS/NRG 2016 Presidential Election Poll


Poll of 4,500 Americans conducted by Harvard University’s Center For American Political Studies and the National Research Group indicates Clinton holds a lead but negative attacks could draw the race even.

Cambridge, Mass, May 10, 2016: In a nationwide poll of 4,500 Americans designed by Harvard University Professor Stephen Ansolabehere and longtime pollster Mark J. Penn in collaboration with colleagues and students at Harvard, results indicate that Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 6 points -- 46% to 40% -- among likely voters nationally; and in key swing states, her lead among likely voters is 4 points – 45% to 41%.

"Secretary Clinton has a lead out of the gate, but will have to overcome sharp negative attacks with a message that unifies a very divided America. The primary process has exacerbated polarization on all sides but she may have an opportunity to reverse that and bring people together to move forward,” Mark J. Penn, presidential pollster and co-author of the poll.

  • Both candidates are viewed unfavorably by the electorate, and both have to win over many of their own party’s primary voters.
  • Trump is viewed unfavorably by 60 percent of voters. Clinton is viewed unfavorably by 52 percent of voters.
  • 64% of Sanders voters say they will vote for Clinton. Only 55% of Republican primary voters who did not vote for Trump say they will vote for Trump in November.
  • Clinton holds a statistically significant lead over all candidates, but negative messaging about her draws the race even with one opponent: Donald Trump.

This is shaping up into a contest of Domestic Politics against National Security. "This is the starting gate for the fall campaign. Clinton has a big opening on domestic issues: jobs and health care. Trump has a big edge on terrorism and defense. The fall campaign will be a hard-hitting contest over these fundamental issues facing our country," said Stephen Ansolabehere, Professor of Government at Harvard University and co-author of the poll.

  • The number one issue for voters is the Economy and Jobs. Among voters who care most about the Economy, Clinton leads 47% to 32%.
  • Among voters who list Health Care as the top issue, Clinton leads 52% to 26%.
  • Trump leads among voters concerned about Terrorism by 45% to 35%.
  • Trump leads among voters concerned about National Security and Defense by a margin of 53% to 30%.
  • 68% of Americans want to increase bombing in Syria>
  • 57% of Americans support sending ground troops to fight ISIS.

Immigration and Equality – the key issues in the primary – are less important to the general electorate, but still show a sharp contrast between the candidates.

  • Trump leads 67% to 19% among voters who care most about immigration.
  • 72% of Americans oppose allowing illegal immigrants to have drivers’ licenses.
  • 54% support deporting all illegal immigrants
  • 53% support building a wall along the Mexico-US border
  • Yet, 72% would grant a path to citizenship for any illegal immigrant who has been in the US at least 5 years, paid taxes, and not committed any crimes.
  • Clinton leads by 72% to 11% among those who care most about Equality (race relations, gender equality, or income inequality).
  • 82% of Americans support a federal law requiring companies to pay equal wages for equal work.

For full details about the poll, please click HERE.


The survey was designed by Professor Stephen Ansolabehere and Mark Penn in collaboration with colleagues and students at Harvard University. The survey was conducted by National Research Group.

National Sample of adult US citizens, n = 4500. Margin of Error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.

Conducted the last week of March 2016.

Beth Sidhu

Additional contacts:
Professor Stephen Ansolabehere, Department of Government, Harvard University, sda@gov.harvard.edu

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