Nation/World

As Election Day nears, disgust and low expectations among voters, poll shows

An overwhelming majority of voters are disgusted by the state of American politics, and many harbor doubts that either major-party nominee can unite the country after a historically ugly presidential campaign, according to the final pre-election New York Times/CBS News Poll.

In a grim preview of the discontent that may cloud at least the outset of the next president's term, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are seen by a majority of voters as unlikely to bring the country back together after this bitter election season.

With more than 8 in 10 voters saying the campaign has left them repulsed rather than excited, the rising toxicity threatens the ultimate victor. Clinton, the Democratic candidate, and Trump, the Republican nominee, are seen as dishonest and viewed unfavorably by a majority of voters.

[At the close of an ugly contest, a stark reality of low expectations awaits the next president]

While her advantage has narrowed since mid-October, Clinton still has an edge in the survey because of a commanding advantage among women and nonwhite voters. She has the support of 45 percent of likely voters while Trump has 42 percent. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee, has slipped to 5 percent, and Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, is at 4 percent.

If she does win, Clinton will enter the White House to face immediate governing challenges not only from the deep partisanship ruling Washington but also from a large number of Trump's supporters who say they are not prepared to accept the results.

After weeks of Trump's accusations that the election is "rigged," a little more than 6 in 10 of his supporters say they will accept the results as legitimate if he does not win. More than a quarter of Trump's supporters say they will probably not accept the outcome if Clinton is declared the winner, and nearly 40 percent of them say they have little or no confidence that Americans' votes will be counted properly.

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Republican anger is not directed only at Clinton or the electoral process. About as many Republican voters say Trump's candidacy has been bad for the party as believe his campaign has been positive for Republicans, an extraordinary divide over their own standard-bearer on the eve of the election.

As Republicans face the possibility of their third consecutive presidential loss, their own voters overwhelmingly acknowledge the party is facing a schism: 85 percent of Republican voters said the party was divided, and only 14 percent said it was united.

But Republicans cannot even agree on who is to blame for the division, though they largely believe Trump has been the impetus for the breach, according to some follow-up interviews.

"I think Donald Trump has definitely divided the party," said Sheila Wagner, 79, a Republican from Redmond, Washington, who said she had already marked her ballot for Clinton, adding: "When he first declared he was going to run, I thought it was a joke. I just couldn't believe anyone would favor him."

[Some Trump supporters fear violence if Clinton wins]

Yet other Republicans point the finger at those very Republicans who have refused to support Trump.

"The old school, quote-unquote, the Bushes, the people who have been around a long time, aren't supporting Trump, and that's creating division," said Nora Reinhardt, 66, a farmer from Holt, Missouri. "Some Republicans, because of comments Trump has made, which I grant are uncouth and certainly not politically correct, have found they can't support him, although I think some of those people are coming around at this point."

Reinhardt said she was supporting Trump because she agreed with his policy positions.

Whatever their reasons, and despite how many of them think Trump has been detrimental to the party, more than 8 in 10 Republican voters are falling in line behind their nominee.

The nationwide telephone poll was conducted with 1,333 registered voters from Oct. 28 to Nov. 1 on cellphones and landlines. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for all voters.

More than 22 million Americans had already cast their ballots when the poll was taken, and roughly 1 in 5 likely voters who participated said they had already voted.

National polling averages showed a growing lead for Clinton in mid-October after the release of the "Access Hollywood" recording from 2005 in which Trump spoke crudely about women. As women from Trump's past came out over the next weeks to accuse him of sexually harassing them, his poll numbers dipped.

Yet after a rough few weeks, enthusiasm among Trump's supporters has rebounded, and 52 percent now say they are very enthusiastic about voting. Enthusiasm among Clinton's supporters has remained flat since September, with 47 percent saying they are very enthusiastic to vote.

Clinton holds a 14-point advantage over her opponent among women, while Trump leads among men by 11 points. White women, who have supported Republican candidates in the last three presidential elections, are evenly split in the current poll.

[Analysis: Why voters think Donald Trump is more honest than Hillary Clinton]

There is also a wide class divide: Clinton has the support of 48 percent of whites with college degrees — a constituency that historically votes for a Republican presidential nominee — while Trump is backed by 41 percent from the same voters. But Trump receives 55 percent from whites without college degrees, while Clinton captures just 30 percent from the same group.

Majorities of voters say that Trump is not qualified to be president and that he lacks the temperament to serve in that office.

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Last Friday, when the director of the FBI, James B. Comey, sent a letter to Congress about a renewed inquiry concerning Clinton's emails, Trump seized on the opportunity to shift the tenor of the campaign and focus on the controversy surrounding her handling of emails when she was secretary of state.

The Times/CBS poll began hours after Comey's letter became public, and most voters who were contacted said they had heard about the development. Even more voters said they were aware of accusations that Trump had made unwanted sexual advances toward a number of women.

[Some in the GOP are discussing plans for Clinton if she wins — starting with impeachment]

Yet about 6 in 10 voters overall said that the eleventh-hour disclosures about each candidate would make no real difference in their votes, but they were more likely to be negatively affected by the revelations about Trump than by those about Clinton.

Four in 10 likely voters said Trump's behavior toward women made them less likely to support him while fewer, one-third, said the newest development in the FBI investigation into Clinton's emails had that effect.

Also bolstering Clinton, and the possibility of a third straight Democratic term in the White House, is President Barack Obama's popularity.

Fifty-two percent of registered voters approve of the job Obama is doing, an increase from his standing earlier this year.

While Obama's standing has increased, the campaign has taken a toll on Clinton's image. Only 32 percent of voters think she is honest and trustworthy and, in an ominous sign should she win, a quarter of Democrats and nearly 6 in 10 independents do not think she will be able to unite the country if she wins the presidency.

"The campaign has gotten uglier and uglier," said Michael Pappas, a Republican real estate broker in Knoxville, Tennessee. "It's been about mudslinging and attacking personalities instead of talking about issues, talking about how we can help our country move forward and succeed."

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