As noted yesterday, from mid-May until this morning the one and only national poll with Trump actually ahead of Clinton was Rasmussen. Which was a sweet pretty niche for Ras, given what it meant in terms of traffic from Trump superfan Matt Drudge.
But all things must pass. New from the brand new USC/LA Times tracking poll: Trump 43, Clinton 40.
The poll shows big gaps along the lines of race, gender, age and education that have surfaced consistently during the campaign. Through Thursday’s results, Trump led among men, 47% to 36%, while Clinton had a smaller, 41%-34% edge among women. Trump led among voters 45 and older, Clinton among those younger.
Some of Trump’s strongest support comes from white voters who have not graduated from college, among whom he led 53% to 24%. Clinton, by contrast, dominates among minorities, leading 77% to 3% among blacks and 51% to 30% among Latinos.
Clinton also held a narrow edge among white college graduates, 42% to 40%. If she wins that group, Clinton would be the first Democrat to carry white college graduates since polls began asking such demographic questions in the early 1950s.
Reasons to question the result: The poll is, as I said, brand new, and just because Rasmussen’s not out on the limb by itself anymore doesn’t mean it’s not out on the limb. This result is awfully hard to square with those gruesome NBC battleground polls this morning. Reasons not to question the result: This actually makes three national polls in a row showing Trump tied or ahead. Ras is one, of course, and the other was yesterday’s NYT/CBS survey putting Trump and Clinton each at 40 percent. Whatever the true number is, there’s solid evidence that Hillary was damaged last week either by Comey’s Emailgate announcement, the police ambush in Dallas, or both. The demographic splits in the LA Times poll seem plausible too. The tilt among college and non-college voters is familiar, as are the age and gender divisions. The really striking number, though, is Clinton’s lead among Latinos. 51/30 is shockingly poor given Obama’s 71/27 domination of that group four years ago; if the LAT is right, Trump is already outpolling Romney with room to grow. Nor is this the only poll recently to show him doing better than expected with Latinos. McClatchy’s survey from a few days ago had Hillary with a strikingly similar 52/26 advantage. Hard to believe a Democrat would be stuck in the low 50s among a core group, but the numbers are what they are.
The most noteworthy number here, though, is Trump’s overall support — 43 percent, several points better than the 40 or so that he’s been accustomed to over the past two months. Of the last seven national polls taken (including this LA Times one), four now have Trump at 43 or 44 percent. That’s what Trump fans have been waiting to see. It’s fine to see Hillary tanking and tied with him at 40, as yesterday’s NYT poll had, but all that tells you is that Clinton’s numbers are volatile. Until Trump gets into the mid-40s there’s no reason to think he’s capable of winning this race. He’s showing signs now of doing that, including in Florida where he’s averaging 43.4 (and led in the RCP average until this morning.) On the other hand, the LA Times poll actually found his lead shrinking from 43.5 percent on Monday (good for a lead of 3.3 points) to 42.1 yesterday (good for a lead of just 1.2). It may be that Trump was experiencing a small bounce this week due to Hillary’s troubles last week and the buzz around Trump’s VP pick and now the bounce is starting to fade with another presumably to come after the convention. That’s the key question in polling right now, I think: Where will Trump be circa August 1st, once the convention is firmly past? If he’s at 45 or better, that’s evidence that he’s finally consolidated some Republican doubters and is making a game of it. If he’s back to 40 percent, he’s in trouble.
FiveThirtyEight gives him a 35.8 percent chance of winning based on its latest model, by the way. On June 29th, he was below 20 percent. From worse than a one-in-five chance to better than a one-in-three: It’s been a comparatively good couple of weeks.