Shrinkage: Clinton's Lead Falls to Just Two Points in NBC's Four-Way Poll

Posted: Sep 13, 2016 4:30 PM

A political analyst's dilemma: Is it valuable to write up a national poll that was taken before several major events shook up the dynamics of the campaign? The latest survey from NBC News was in the field from September 5 through September 11, so it missed -- partially or entirely -- the fallout from Hillary Clinton's "deplorables" comments, as well as her much-discussed health incident. Those developments won't be fully baked into public polling until the next full round of results. Nevertheless, it's probably still worth pointing out that the general tightening trend of the race, as Hillary's image sustains blow after blow, was also detected in NBC's newest findings:

Hillary Clinton's national lead over Donald Trump continues to narrow. Clinton now leads Trump 48 percent to 44 percent, a decline of 2 points since last week, according to results from the latest NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll. In a four-way match-up, Clinton leads Trump by just 2 points — 42 percent to 40 percent. Libertarian Gary Johnson maintains 11 points, essentially unmoved even after his "Aleppo" campaign gaffe, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein maintains 4 points. About five weeks ago, just after the Democratic convention, Clinton saw a sizable 10-point lead over Trump. In several battleground states, and nationally overall, the race has tightened considerably. One notable area where Trump has made up ground is among independents who do not lean toward the Democratic or Republican Party...Trump also received a slight boost in his favorability ratings. Though a majority of voters say they have an unfavorable impression of Clinton (59 percent) and Trump (60 percent), the number of voters who say they have a strongly favorable opinion of Trump has increased by 4 points — from 12 points to 16 points — since the questions was last asked about a month ago. Currently, 38 percent of registered voters now have a favorable impression of Trump. Nearly an identical number — 39 percent — have a favorable impression of Clinton.

In many respects, this is a status quo outcome.  Hillary is laboring and largely failing to pull away from her opponent, stuck in the low-to-mid 40's, while Trump's support remains frozen in the high-30's to low 40's.  And as we've seen in other data sets, the presence of the Libertarian and Green candidates in the polling appears to benefit Trump.  This campaign just slogs along.  But the most worrisome sign for Team Hillary is that even though Trump's unfavorables continue to register at extremely high levels, she has basically drawn even him on unpopularity -- bad news indeed for a woman whose implicit slogan is, "hey, at least I'm not him."  That's obviously not cutting it right now:

Her overall number is (39/59); his is (38/60). Statistically identical.  Another point: All of these numbers are among registered voters, not likely voters.  That could be significant, given the recent WaPo/ABC finding that a likely voter screen -- which prices in Trump's enthusiasm advantage -- pulls the race even closer.  It's not unreasonable to conclude that if NBC had broken out a likely voter sample from these results, this contest could be straight-up tied.  And to repeat, this movement came prior to Americans hearing Hillary Clinton demean tens of millions of voters as irredeemably deplorable, and casting tens of millions more as misguided, pitiable souls.  And it came before the whole country saw video of her wobbling, buckling, and collapsing forward on Sunday morning.  That scary moment forced the Clinton campaign to admit that they'd been hiding a pneumonia diagnosis, promoting sharp criticisms from even many Democrats.  As I've said elsewhere, I think "deplorables" plays best as a base motivator and fundraising hot button for the Trump campaign, whereas Hillary's health scare is more likely to sow doubts among undecided swing voters. It will be fascinating to see how public opinion reacts to this one-two punch of events.  Stay tuned.  I'll leave you with the latest survey out of Virginia, where Trump is still sucking wind.  I continue to believe he should reallocate resources from the Old Dominion and Colorado to places like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Iowa and Nevada.  By the way, this is from the Democratic firm PPP, so proceed with caution.  On the other hand, these numbers are right in line with most of the mainstream polling over the last six weeks:

Overall, I think this is a fair precis of where things stand right now. The fundamentals still reflect my conclusions from a few weeks ago, when polling was far bleaker for Trump. He's improved and she's stumbled since then, so this path is a smidge wider than it was at that time, but it's still pretty narrow:

The RealClearPolitics national average is HRC +2.