NBC/SurveyMonkey poll: Hillary leads Trump by just two points head to head while leading Cruz by five

A little treat for the Trump fans out there who are tired, I’m sure, of being reminded that he polls terribly among the general electorate. This is the first survey I’ve seen in awhile showing him within shouting distance of Hillary; even more unusual, it has him faring better against her than Cruz does. Check the RCP averages of head-to-head match-ups and you’ll see how rare that is. Clinton leads Cruz by an average of 2.5 points. She leads Trump by an average of … 10.6 points. One of those leads is surmountable, the other, realistically, is — well, let’s say “less surmountable.”

But maybe things are changing? I don’t know. SurveyMonkey is an online pollster, but it uses big samples and I’ve linked their stuff before. If you’re looking for evidence that maybe Trump is closing the gap, here you go — although do note, when gauging whether this is an outlier, that no other poll has had Trump within five points of Hillary since mid-February. Five of the last eight put him down by double digits.

When given the choice between Clinton, Cruz, a third party candidate, or not voting, registered voters are fairly split between Clinton and Cruz: Thirty-seven percent would vote for Clinton and 32 percent would vote for Cruz. Another 19 percent would vote for an unnamed third party candidate and 10 percent would not vote at all.

When asked about Trump as the GOP nominee in November instead of Cruz, registered voters are split between Clinton and Trump, though the race is tighter: Thirty-eight percent would vote for Clinton and 36 percent would vote for Trump. Another 16 percent would vote for a third party candidate and 8 percent would abstain from voting.

One obvious element that makes this poll different from other recent surveys is the third-party data. Most pollsters only give respondents a binary choice between Clinton and her opponent; this poll gave them the option of choosing an unspecified alternative candidate instead. Does that explain why Cruz trails Hillary by more than Trump does? Compare these numbers and you’ll see that Trump fans, not surprisingly, are more inclined to boycott the race if their guy isn’t nominated than Cruz fans are:


Add up the “vote for Hillary,” third-party, and stay-home contingents and you get a total of 45 percent of Trump’s voters boycotting Cruz versus 41 percent of Cruz’s supporters boycotting Trump. That’s in line what would you expect, given how loyal Trump’s fans are to him. It also makes sense to me that there are more Cruz fans willing to vote for Hillary than Trump fans; I think that’s evidence of #NeverTrumpers showing up here. What I can’t quite square, though, is how Cruz consistently outperforms Trump in other head-to-head polls with Hillary but underperforms him here. The only way to make this data line up with that other data is if, for whatever reason, the third-party voters in a Clinton/Cruz race would be more likely to break for Cruz when forced to make a binary choice than third-party voters in a Clinton/Trump race would be likely to break for Trump. Maybe there’s some group of independents out there that’s adamantly anti-Trump and will oppose him no matter what but they’re less adamantly anti-Cruz and will back him if forced to choose between him and Hillary with no third-party possibility. Other than that, I don’t know. That’s something pollsters should note when polling head-to-head races the rest of the way, though. If the possibility of a third-party candidate scrambles the numbers, making Cruz less competitive with Hillary than Trump would be in the same situation, that’s important information. Maybe it’s time to stop giving respondents nothing but binary choices.

Now that I’ve given Trump fans their treat, though, it’s time to take some medicine. This Bloomberg poll has Trump’s favorables among married women, a key Republican bloc, at … 27/70. Cruz’s numbers are poor as well at 36/58, but he’s near parity with Hillary Clinton (40/58) at least. They’re tied at 43 percent among married women head to head. Against Trump, Clinton leads by 12 points. Republicans have won married women in every cycle since 1996; Romney beat Obama by seven points among that group. Gulp.