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Top Earners Back Clinton After Decades With GOP: Bloomberg Poll

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Higher-income voters are narrowly supporting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in another sign of how the 2016 presidential race is fracturing traditional voting blocs.

In a two-way contest, Clinton beats Republican Donald Trump 46 percent to 42 percent among likely voters with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more, the latest Purple Slice online poll for Bloomberg Politics shows.

The findings may sound an alarm for Trump because they show he’s failing, at least so far, to dominate among a group of voters who historically have supported Republicans, including Mitt Romney in 2012. In that election, the group made up 28 percent of the electorate and backed Romney over President Barack Obama by 10 percentage points, exit polls show.

Since 1996, the Republican presidential nominee has won or tied among voters with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more, according to a compilation of exit polls by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Cornell University. Republicans also won the top-earning groups publicly identified by the Roper Center in the 1976-1992 elections.

Higher-income voters do pick Trump over Clinton as the candidate they think would be best for their own investments, 45 percent to 36 percent. Among those who say Trump would be better for their holdings, 17 percent aren’t supporting him. The poll’s overall margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points, and is higher in subgroups like those.

“While he trails in the vote, Trump has advantages on economic and investment issues that matter to these higher-income voters,” said pollster Doug Usher of the Washington-based Purple Strategies, who directed the survey. “His campaign’s detours have put him on weaker ground overall. Closing the gap will depend on bringing the conversation back to jobs, trade, and the economy.”

As is the case with other demographic groups, these voters give both nominees high negative ratings. Trump is viewed favorably by 36 percent, while 42 percent view Clinton favorably.

Higher-income voters give Clinton the overwhelming edge, 57 percent to 18 percent, on which candidate has been more transparent about sharing personal tax and health records with the public.

A plurality of 43 percent say it’s very important that a presidential candidate make their tax returns public, while 42 percent say that about health history.

Among those backing Trump in the two-way race, just 19 percent say it’s very important for a candidate to share their tax returns, while 45 percent say that of health history.

More than two-thirds, 71 percent, say the public’s need for information about personal records such as health history and tax returns are more important than a candidate’s right to privacy.

“Voters want more openness from their candidates, including health and tax records,” Usher said. “It’s going to be difficult for Trump to win the debate over releasing his taxes.”

The survey was conducted Sept. 16-19, using a nationally representative opt-in panel of 600 respondents. It’s the latest in a series commissioned by Bloomberg Politics on key slices of the electorate. The last survey, earlier this month, found Trump decisively winning white voters who don’t have more than a high-school education.

When third-party candidates are included, the race is similarly tight among top earners, with Clinton at 41 percent and Trump at 37 percent. Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson gets 9 percent and Green Party nominee Jill Stein receives 2 percent.

A majority of higher-income voters, 56 percent, say that regardless of their vote, they think Clinton will be the next president.

Solid majorities side with Clinton when it comes to two of her major tax proposals. More than six in 10 high-income voters say they support the so-called Buffett Rule, named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett and backed by Clinton and Obama, that would tax incomes exceeding $1 million at a minimum rate of 30 percent. More than half, 53 percent, support Clinton’s plan to expand the estate tax to apply to estates worth more than $3.5 million ($7 million for married couples). 

Trump is viewed as stronger than Clinton on several themes resonating with this year’s electorate: knowing what it takes to create jobs, having new ideas, combating terrorists at home and abroad, reining in the power of Wall Street, and having the ability to change the way Washington does business.

For her part, Clinton is viewed as stronger on fighting for the middle class, caring about “people like me,” having the right temperament for the presidency, being ready to lead on the first day on the job, having the skills needed to conduct foreign policy, being a good role model for children, and sharing the same values as the likely voter.

On questions of trustworthiness and honesty, the higher-income group is torn, with near-majorities saying they’re not sure whether those qualities better describe Clinton or Trump. On trustworthiness, 29 percent pick Clinton and 26 percent Trump; on honesty, a quarter Clinton, 26 percent Trump.

“Clinton’s fundamental weakness on trust has been consistent throughout the campaign, and has only been reinforced by events during the campaign,” Usher said.

The FBI director’s determination that Clinton and her staff were “extremely careless” in their handling of classified information when she used private e-mail as secretary of state is her biggest vulnerability among eight items about her tested in the poll. More than half of high-income likely voters, 56 percent, say they are bothered a lot by that finding.

For Trump, the most troubling vulnerability of eight tested about him was his verbal treatment of women, including calling them names like “pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs,” and “bimbo.” More than half, 59 percent, say they’re bothered a lot by that.

The income group that gave Romney a 10-point advantage in 2012 now looks relatively favorably on Obama, awarding him a job approval rating of 49 percent and a favorability score of 51 percent.

That’s a better score than Clinton or Trump, and equal to former President Bill Clinton. U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan is viewed favorably by 40 percent, while 37 percent and 36 percent say they have favorable views of Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence and Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine.

Alex Castellanos, the chairman of Purple Strategies, is working for a super political action committee backing Trump that has no connection to the firm. He has no involvement in the planning or execution of Bloomberg Politics polling and sees the results only when they are published.


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