It’s the NBC/SurveyMonkey poll, which is worth flagging not only because the data supports the trend towards a tightening race but because its methodology should control for the “Bradley effect,” in case you’re worried about that. This is an online poll aimed randomly at people who take other surveys sponsored by SurveyMonkey, with the results then weighted to match the demographics of the electorate. You don’t need to confess your Trump love to a judgmental pollster on the phone, in other words. You can be honest knowing that you’re anonymous and talking to a machine.
All that said, my headline’s not accurate. It’s not Trump who’s inching closer to Hillary, it’s Hillary who’s inching closer to Trump.
Clinton now enjoys 48 percent support, while Trump holds steady with 42 percent. Last week, Clinton led Trump by 8 points…
Given the highly partisan nature of voting, it’s clear there are not that many voters who are persuadable. Since both parties’ conventions last month, a roughly equal number of Republicans and Republican-leaners support Trump and an equal number of self-identified Democrats and Democratic-leaners support Clinton…
The one group that is open to changing their minds are registered Independents who do not lean toward either party. Trump has made inroads with this group. Two weeks ago, Clinton led Trump by 8 points among this key group of persuadable voters — 40 percent to 32 percent. This week, that lead is down to just 4 points — 37 percent to 33 percent.
Last week Clinton led 50/42 head to head. Trump’s numbers haven’t budged since then; the race is closer only because she slid two points. Likewise, Trump has gained just a single point among independents while Hillary’s lost three. In the four-way race, Clinton now leads him by four points (which is right in line with other pollsters) after leading last week by seven. Once again, she’s lost more than he’s gained, with Trump picking up a point while Clinton has shed two. We saw the same thing in yesterday’s Monmouth poll, with Trump gaining two points in the four-way race while Clinton lost four. The story of the tightening race, at least so far, has more to do with Hillary losing support that she already had than Trump picking up votes that were previously unavailable to him. Maybe that’s because her convention bounce finally faded or maybe it’s because the latest round of news about influence peddling by the Clinton Foundation has reminded America anew that the Clintons are shady insiders who’ll use government to reward their cronies. But it is what it is. We’re seeing a small Clinton slide more so than a small Trump surge.
If you want to see this in graph form, here’s the RCP national poll average of the head-to-head race since shortly before the conventions in July:
Note the very recent downward spike for Hillary paired with the ambiguous Trump trend. She’s below 47 percent now for the first time since the start of the month. That’s not an especially hopeful sign for Trump given that he seems to be stuck between 41-42, but it’s something.
Let’s not miss the forest for the trees, though. I’m going to lift Hillary’s and Trump’s numbers in every poll over the last month of the four-way race from RCP (Gary Johnson and Jill Stein have been cropped out here) and post them below. Notice any floors and ceilings?
Hillary is at 41 percent or better in nearly every poll. Trump is at 39 percent or worse in nearly every poll. In fact, going all the way back to May, Trump has cracked 41 percent in the four-way race exactly twice, and one of those polls came shortly after the GOP convention when he was enjoying a bounce. He hasn’t seen 42 since the convention, and poll after poll now puts Clinton ahead by four points or so in the four-way. Remember too that Clinton reliably does better head-to-head against Trump than she does in the four-way race, meaning that if any Johnson or Stein voters shake loose down the stretch, odds are they’ll end up drifting towards Hillary. Something fundamental needs to change in the race for him to break through his ceiling. Every four years we hear “the debates are important,” but they really are important this time. They’re his only remaining opportunity to win over some of the 60 percent or so of voters who are stubbornly resisting him.
One more data point from the NBC/SurveyMonkey poll. Perceptions that your party will still be divided in November aren’t supposed to increase after the convention, right?
By the way, the LA Times daily tracker that Trump fans love so much shows him out to a nearly three-point national lead today. That poll has been bouncy lately, and it has a “house effect” that favors Trump by four points, which suggests an actual Clinton lead of one nationally, but it’s further evidence that the race has narrowed a bit. Not enough for Trump to get excited yet, but every little bit helps.