New Polls: Is Hillary's Lead Narrowing or Holding Steady?

Guy Benson
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Posted: Aug 08, 2016 11:30 AM
New Polls: Is Hillary's Lead Narrowing or Holding Steady?

It's a fair question to ask, given our significant attention to last week's raft of pessimistic-looking data.  Since Friday, a number of new surveys have been released, some of which appear to tell contradictory stories,  Let's start with the numbers most likely to cheer the Trump camp.  First and foremost, there's the Reuters tracking poll that shows Trump within three points nationally -- eight full points closer than the series measured in early July.  A number of Trump supporters on social media are pointing out, not unfairly, that their man is roughly statistically tied here despite the pollster's abrupt and controversial methodological alteration, which some have suggested was designed to help Hillary Clinton.  Allahpundit's weekend deep-dive into the survey is worth a read, but here are two relevant takeaways:

Lots and lots and lots of whites who, for the moment, aren’t supporting either Trump or Hillary. More than 20 percent(!!) of Reuters’s sample of white likely voters chose “other,” refused to answer about their presidential preference, or said they won’t vote this year. That’s ironic because, until a few weeks ago, Reuters had a big problem in its polls with people choosing “neither” as an option instead of Trump or Hillary. So they eliminated “neither” as a choice in order to force people to pick one of the two nominees. And yet they’re still getting tons of none-of-the-above type answers, which makes it harder to guess what the true state of the race is. Which way do those white voters eventually break? Do they come home to the GOP reluctantly or is their animosity to Trump so great that they tilt to Hillary?...When you try to look at Hispanic likely voters, you get … nothing. “There Aren’t Enough Responses To Give Sufficiently Accurate Results” appears in lieu of a graph. You get a similar message when you try to look at black likely voters, but you can see the effect of blacks on the results if you look at white likely voters first and then add blacks to your result. (The numbers move from a 10-point overall lead for Trump to a lead for Hillary of one-tenth of a point.) When you try to add Hispanics also, though, the overall numbers barely move. (Hillary’s lead grows to eight-tenths of a point.) Either Reuters’s sample of Hispanic likely voters is freakishly tiny or it points to that group being very evenly divided between Trump and Clinton, which simply isn’t true.

Two key questions: What will those legions of undecided white voters eventually decide, and does Reuters significantly under-sample Hispanics? The answers to both obviously color the predictive value of this poll. Then we have the LA Times/USC survey, which has consistently been among the friendliest to Trump. Its latest installment is no exception, with Mrs. Clinton ahead by one measly point; an effective tie. That's the good news for Trump. The bad news is that this still represents an eight-point swing toward the Democratic ticket since the convention, which is roughly in line with other polling. For instance, fresh numbers from Morning Consult show Clinton comfortably ahead by nine points, while Washington Post/ABC News pegs her lead at 51-44 among likely voters. As has been established in other measurements of public opinion, it's basically indisputable that the GOP nominee's dust-up with a Muslim Gold Star family was a sharp net negative for him. What remains to be seen is whether the fallout from that mess will dissipate over time, and whether Trump can avoid another similarly-damaging controversy if that disadvantage starts to fade from public memory. Here's a major factor helping to drive Hillary's overall edge in WaPo's numbers, in addition to her now-familiar dominance on most "presidential qualities" questions:

She's still underwater on overall favorability, but just barely.  He's in characteristically poor shape, with a negative rating in the 60's. The reason for her improvement? Democratic unity. As others have noted, she's pulling dominant numbers among liberal and moderate Democrats, where as Trump is losing more than one-fourth of conservatives. The RCP polling average at the onset of the week has Clinton leading Trump head-to-head by seven percentage points.  I'll leave you with the Cook Report's Amy Walter explaining why, despite two very hard weeks and a statistically-significant polling disadvantage, Trump is still in this race.  One core excerpt from her larger argument:

Clinton got a decent convention bump in the polls. Whether or not it sticks depends on three things: 1) Trump’s ability to keep the focus on her weaknesses and off of his. So far, he gets an “F” here; 2) things out of her control - how President Obama handles a potential terrorist attack, another Wikileaks dump with more serious allegations about her, or an expose on the Clinton Global Initiative that puts her in a bad light; 3) unforced errors. Clinton is obviously much more disciplined than her opponent, but she’s also shown some glaring lapses - whether it was her “dead broke” comment to Diane Sawyer or her most recent comments to Fox’s Chris Wallace about her “truthful” testimony to the FBI.

Some of those "lapses" keep coming because she seems clinically incapable of telling the truth.