By Grant Smith
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nearly one-fifth of registered Republicans want Donald Trump to drop out of the race for the White House, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday, reflecting the turmoil his candidacy has sown within his party.
Some 19 percent think the New York real estate magnate should drop out, 70 percent think he should stay in and 10 percent say they "don't know," according to the Aug. 5-8 poll of 396 registered Republicans. The poll has a confidence interval of six percentage points.
Among all registered voters, some 44 percent want Trump to drop out. That is based on a survey of 1,162 registered voters, with a confidence interval of 3 percentage points. That is 9 points higher than his support for the presidency in the latest Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll.
The figures underscored deep divisions within the Republican Party over Trump's candidacy. A number of prominent Republicans have declined to endorse him in the Nov. 8 election against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, citing his fiery rhetoric and policy proposals such as building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and temporarily banning Muslims from entering the country.
Mike Smith, a 74-year-old retiree from Clearwater, Florida, said he supported Trump for much longer than he should have, but now feels the candidate should drop out of the race. Trump "has not comported himself as a leader," said Smith, adding that he might vote for Clinton over his party's nominee.
"His policies don't seem to be well formed, they don't seem to make any sense," Smith said. "The support he has from Republicans almost seems obligatory rather than voluntary."
Trump found himself embroiled in yet another controversy on Tuesday after saying at a rally that gun rights activists could act to stop Clinton from nominating liberal U.S. Supreme Court justices - a comment his campaign said was misinterpreted, but that Clinton's campaign called "dangerous."
"If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks," Trump said at the rally at the University of North Carolina. "Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know," he continued. The U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment guarantees a right to keep and bear arms.
Megan MacDonald, 25, is a Republican but did not support Trump through the primary. He has not done anything since to change her mind, and believes he should leave the race.
"I just feel there are so many derogatory things that have come out of his mouth, and he's putting it out there – it's not like someone is finding skeletons in his closet," said MacDonald, a stay-at-home mom in Louisiana, who may pick a third-party candidate. "It feels like he's not even trying to be a decent person who we should look up to."
Trump had previously stirred criticism for engaging in a spat with the parents of a Muslim U.S. soldier killed in Iraq.
In addition, 50 prominent national security experts signed an open letter saying they would not vote for Trump in the fall, saying he "lacks the character, values, and experience" to be president. Trump dismissed the group as part of the Washington establishment that he blames for many of the United States' problems.
Stacie McDaniel, 42, said Trump's rhetoric has, at times, made her think he should drop out of the race.
"Sometimes I think he has good intentions, but his mouth gets overloaded," said McDaniel, a relocation director for a real estate company in Louisiana. "I think he says things that if he does get elected, he’s not going to get anything done."
Still, she plans to vote for Trump, she said, because she cannot bring herself to support Clinton. “I dislike Hillary so much,” she said. “As the lesser of two evils is why I’m voting for him.”
Indeed, neither Trump nor Clinton enjoys great popularity. Some 53 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Clinton, who has been accused of mishandling her emails as secretary of state, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling.
Nearly 63 percent have an unfavorable view of Trump.
Clinton led Trump by more than 7 percentage points in a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday, up from a less than 3-percentage-point lead late last week.
(Reporting by Grant Smith and Emily Flitter in New York; Writing by Richard Valdmanis in Boston; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)