Michelle Obama gave a warm personal endorsement to Hillary Clinton at a campaign rally for the presidential nominee.
Mrs Obama joined the candidate on the stump in North Carolina with Mrs Clinton hoping to succeed Barack Obama as US president.
“Yes, Hillary Clinton is my friend,” Mrs Obama told the crowd. Mrs Obama was speaking at her first joint appearance with Mrs Clinton. The two women served as very different first ladies and are not known to have a personal closeness.
But Mrs Obama said she has come out as a strong defender of Mrs Clinton because this election is “unprecedented” before a gibe apparently directed at Mrs Clinton’s Republican opponent Donald Trump. She said she wants to see someone in the Oval Office who will unify Americans and “who values and honours women”.
Mrs Obama’s aides have called the remarks her “closing argument” for Mrs Clinton.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump’s claims that the US presidential election is “rigged” have taken root amongst most of his supporters, a poll found, with many saying they will have serious doubts about the legitimacy of the outcome if Mrs Clinton wins.
In the Associated Press-GfK survey, just 35% of Mr Trump’s supporters said they are likely to accept the result of the election as legitimate if Mrs Clinton wins, while 64% said they are likely to have serious doubts about the accuracy of the vote.
“Of course I believe it’s rigged, and of course I won’t accept the results,” said Mike Cannilla, 53, a Trump supporter from the New York borough of Staten Island.
“It’s from the top: Obama is trying to take over the country, he’s covering up all of Hillary’s crimes and he’s controlling the media trying to make Trump lose.”
“Our only chance on November 9 is if the military develops a conscience and takes matters into its own hands.”
By contrast, 69% of Mrs Clinton’s supporters said they will accept the outcome if Mr Trump wins.
Only 30% of the Democrat candidate’s backers expressed a reluctance to accept the result if she is not victorious.
“If Hillary doesn’t win this election, that will be on us.” —@FLOTUS
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 27, 2016
Overall, 77% of likely voters said they will accept the legitimacy of the result if Mr Trump wins, while 70% said the same of a win for Mrs Clinton.
In the final weeks of the campaign, Mr Trump has made doubts about the integrity of the US election system a cornerstone of his closing argument.
Asked directly at the final presidential debate if he would accept the election result, Mr Trump refused to do so, saying: “I will keep you in suspense.”
But that statement did little to harm him with his base of supporters.
The poll found 44% of all likely voters said Mr Trump’s stance makes them less likely to support him, but the vast majority of his supporters said it made no difference to them.
“He should fight it all the way,” said George Smith, 51, a Trump supporter from Roswell, Georgia. “Spend weeks in court if he has to. He can’t let it be taken from him. That’s his right.”
Mr Trump has also repeated inaccurate claims that vote fraud is a widespread problem, and the poll found most of his supporters share that concern. Fifty-six per cent think there’s a great deal of voter fraud, 36% believe there is some, and 6% say there is hardly any.
Most Clinton supporters, 64%, think there is hardly any voter fraud. Overall, just 27% of likely voters think there is a great deal of fraud. A third of voters overall believe there is at least some, while 38% say there is hardly any.
While there have been isolated cases of voter fraud in the US, there is no evidence of it being a widespread problem. In one study, a Loyola Law School professor found 31 instances involving allegations of voter impersonation out of one billion votes cast in US elections between 2000 and 2014.
Beyond allegations of fraud, 40% of Trump supporters said they have little to no confidence that votes in the election will be counted accurately. Another 34% said they have only a moderate amount of confidence, and just 24% said they have a great deal or quite a bit of confidence in the vote count.
Among Mrs Clinton’s supporters, 79% said they have a great deal or quite a bit of confidence in the vote count’s accuracy. Many believe Mr Trump should voice support for the electoral system even in defeat.
“Be an adult. Accept the results,” said Shavone Danzy-Kinloch, 37, a Clinton supporter from Farmingville, New York. “If the shoe was on the other foot, he’d expect Hillary to do the same.”