New CBS poll shows Trump doing better against Hillary -- or is it Hillary doing worse against Trump?

The good news for Trumpers is that his deficit in this one is half of what it was in that splashy Bloomberg poll from a few days ago. Bloomberg had it 49/37. CBS has it 43/37. He’s within striking distance, sort of.

The bad news is that he has the same problem in both polls that he’s had for the past several weeks. He can’t get north of 40 percent. I already flagged this piece in a post yesterday but it’s worth reading it now if you missed it to grasp how unusual it is for a presumptive nominee to poll in the 30s at this stage of the game. There’s reason to think Bloomberg was an outlier in finding Hillary at 49 percent — they’re the only poll this month to have her above 45 — but there’s every reason to think that Trump really is polling in the mid- to high 30s. Four of the last five national polls have placed him at either 37 or 39 percent; the fifth, Reuters, has him at 33(!!!) today. (If you want to see what Trump’s slide looks like in graph form, click here and scroll down.) He’s in uncharted territory for recent Republican nominees. And unlike McCain and Romney, he’s already a household name to most voters. He’s been ubiquitous in media as a presidential candidate for a full year. If you’re a persuadable voter who’s not on the Trump train now, what’s going to bring you aboard?

Clinton has an advantage over Trump on handling an international crisis. Fifty-four percent of voters have at least some confidence in Clinton’s ability to handle an international crisis, compared to 38 percent who say that about Trump

Voters are also skeptical of their judgment. Sixty-nine percent of voters say Trump does not show good judgment, while fewer — but still more than half — say that about Clinton (52 percent).

Each candidate does have their strengths, however. Fifty-nine percent of voters say Clinton is prepared for the job of president, compared to 30 percent who think Trump is prepared. Trump is viewed as more of a straight-talker; 56 percent think Trump says what he believes, while 62 percent think Clinton mostly says what people want to hear.

It’s hard to imagine late deciders rolling the dice on a “smash the system” change agent if they’re not convinced first that he’s prepared for the job. People want reform, a remade system, not chaos. Hillary’s going to spend the next five months painting “chaos” all over Trump.

The most ominous numbers for him here have to do not with his preparation or temperament but with basic demographics. Romney won 59 percent of the white vote in 2012 per exit polls (which may or may not be the best measure). Trump’s expected to do at least as poorly with minorities as Mitt did, which means he’ll have to run up the score with whites. If you believe CBS, Trump’s lead among whites right now is … 43/37. Trump leads big among his core base of whites without a college degree, 50/29, but Hillary runs up the same margin with whites who do have a college degree, 51/30. Romney beat Obama by 14 points among white women (56/42) in 2012. In today’s poll, Hillary actually leads among white women, 43/35. Trump is underperforming Romney by more than 20 points in a group he needs to consolidate. Maybe that’s due to Hillary’s first-woman-nominee pitch starting to resonate, or maybe attacks on Trump for things he’s said about women in the past are starting to bite. Either way, Democrats aren’t “supposed to” win white women in modern elections. That’s a major problem if it holds unless Trump crushes Clinton utterly with white men. He’s leading big with them right now, 51/31, but not big enough. Romney won white men with 62 percent.

One other notable split: Hillary’s already performing better with her own party than Trump is with his. She’s at 81 percent among Democrats and 74 percent with liberals, suggesting she has more work to do to unite the left. Trump, however, is at just 73 percent with Republicans and 67 percent with conservatives. He had seemed to unify the party a few weeks ago, before the Judge Curiel business took off, but now appears to have backslid. Fifteen percent of conservatives say they prefer Clinton compared to eight percent of liberals who say they prefer Trump. Another recent poll conducted by ABC found that Hillary had gained five points recently among conservatives in terms of favorability. The #NeverTrump cohort on the right remains small but the defections from Trump lately among conservatives are contributing to his struggle to crack 40 percent overall.

Ah well. National polls ultimately mean nothing; it’s the battleground polls that matter. A new one out of Iowa shows Trump down there too, but by a mere three points. And he’s above 40 percent there (41, to be precise). One final note on the CBS poll, though: Nate Silver noticed a quirk in the Marquette poll of Wisconsin published yesterday showing Hillary up seven there among registered voters. Her lead actually increased when Marquette refined the sample and looked at likely voters. That doesn’t typically happen in presidential polling. The rule of thumb is that the average Republican voter is more likely to turn out on election day than the average Democrat is, meaning that a poll of likely voters should be more favorable to the GOP than a poll of registereds. Most of the polls this month showing Clinton with a modest four-point lead over Trump were of registereds; the Bloomberg one, showing her up 12, was of likely voters. (On the other hand, a Rasmussen poll of likely voters had her up just five.) Silver’s theory is that because college-educated people are more likely to vote than those without degrees and because Hillary’s cleaning up with the college-educated, it may be that the usual registered/likely voter expectations this year don’t apply. A more refined voter screen, which is designed to better mirror the actual electorate on Election Day, may show a wider Democratic lead. Keep an eye out for that in polls to come.

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