Given the news today about cops being shot in Baton Rouge, I don’t know if it’s worth writing up any new polls before, say, November 1st. America’s too volatile a place in 2016 to have any confidence about what the public’s mood will be next week, let alone three months from now.
For what it’s worth, though, here you go. CNN has the race 49/42, NBC/WSJ has it 46/41, and ABC/WaPo has it 47/43. Of the three, only the last one shows any movement towards Trump, which is interesting since their sample is D+10. (A month ago he trailed by 12.) The CNN poll actually has Hillary gaining two points since June despite the damage done to her by Emailgate. It may be more useful to think of these polls in the aggregate as a clue to the state of the race than by parsing the internal numbers: Scroll down through RCP’s poll history and you’ll find that Clinton’s current lead of four to seven points looks a lot like her polling in late June, before Comey’s announcement about the e-mail investigation on July 5th and the ambush of Dallas police a few days later (which may have also benefited the law-and-order candidate Trump). In other words, Hillary’s rough week may have just been a speed bump and now her numbers are returning to “normal.” Although as I say, in light of what’s going on right now, there really is no such thing as normal this year.
Here, in a nutshell, is why I think Clinton remains the favorite despite the fact that only the most hardened Democratic hacks still rate her as honest or trustworthy. From CNN, a look at how the public sees Trump:
Those are some strong, strong headwinds. Clinton is underwater in nearly all of those metrics too and actually rates more poorly than Trump on honesty, but her numbers aren’t as bad as his on most — and, importantly, she’s at 64 percent on whether she has the “right experience” to be president. (The two candidates’ favorable ratings tell the same story. Hillary is net negative in all three polls but not quite as sharply as Trump is. His 27/60 gap in the WSJ/NBC poll is the worst number they’ve ever seen for a nominee.) Relatedly, when WaPo asked voters if he has the right experience to be president, the split was 37/60, exactly the same number that they got for him back in September. In the course of 10 months, he hasn’t improved by even a single point in convincing people that he’s ready for the job. It’s hard to imagine late deciders breaking for a candidate like that.
More numbers from WaPo:
Again, that’s from a Democrat-heavy sample, but even a more balanced sample isn’t going to do much about that 28 percent Trump is pulling on the “temperament” question — which is an amazing result considering that his opponent is viewed by almost everyone as a near-pathological liar. (When NBC asked whether the candidates have the right judgment to be president, just 37 percent said Hillary did — while a measly 25 percent said so of Trump. Thirty-three percent said neither has the right judgment.) WaPo decided to probe that a bit by asking a follow-up aimed at a core weakness of each candidate. Do you think Hillary’s too willing to bend the rules? Fully 72 percent said yes. Do you think Trump is biased against women and minorities? A smaller but still substantial majority of 56 percent said yes. Then WaPo asked the key question: Which is a bigger problem?
I think Trump’s experience deficit is a bigger issue for him than his perceived bias against minorities but the fact remains that his liability is seen as more significant than hers, even though hers is enormous. That’s probably as tidy an explanation as you can get for why she leads now. WaPo also found that 83 percent(!) said when asked that they want the next president to put an “especially major” focus on improving race relations, which is bad news for Trump given impressions of his bias. That may not be an issue at the front of voters’ minds when they go in the booth but it’s a factor in weighing how much social chaos like today’s police shootings helps the authoritarian Trump. An anxious public may favor the “law and order” candidate in a racially tense environment … unless they suspect he’d actually make things worse by damaging race relations further. It’s hard to predict. We live in unpredictable times.
As for the four-way race, which in the end is the one that really counts, both CNN and NBC have Gary Johnson in double digits at 12 and 11 percent, respectively. (WaPo has him at eight.) Johnson continues to hurt both major-party candidates about equally, though. Check out his support in CNN’s survey among Sanders fans and among Republicans who supported someone besides Trump in the primaries:
Hillary’s lead drops from seven points head-to-head with Trump to six points with Johnson in the race, statistically a wash. As for GOP party unity, the data among the three polls is mixed. On the upside for Trump, according to CNN he wins Republicans 93/1(!) in a two-way race with Clinton and the number who say they’d like to see him named nominee by the delegates in Cleveland is up five points to 56 percent. On the downside, per NBC, just 38 percent of Republicans say they’re satisfied with him as nominee compared to 54 percent of Democrats who say they’re satisfied with Hillary. And 78 percent of Republicans say the GOP isn’t unified versus 40 percent of Democrats who say so about their own party, a number no doubt driven down by Sanders’s endorsement of Clinton last week.
One more number for you, this time from WaPo. Note the trendline among Trump supporters when they’re asked if they’re voting for him or against Hillary:
Trump fans increasingly justify their support for him in negative terms, which is not what you’d hope to see from a presumptive nominee who’s been trying to convince voters that he’ll make a good president. But here’s the kicker: Clinton fans are also less likely than they were in mid-May to frame their vote as a vote for Hillary rather than against Trump. Two months ago, Hillary supporters split evenly at 48 percent when asked about that; now they split 44/54. I wonder if that’s normal partisan dynamics at work, with both candidates seeming less appealing even to their own supporters as the opposition lands body blows against them, or if it’s unique to Trump and Clinton. They’ve both taken major damage over the last two months, Hillary from Emailgate and Trump from his “Mexican judge” blather in June. Either way, if you believe WaPo there are still more Clinton voters who are voting for her than there are Trump voters who are voting for him. Which I guess makes sense. If you’re a conservative who’s skeptical of Trump, there’s no argument in his favor except that four more years of Democratic government will be worse. Probably.
One last factoid: In both CNN’s and WaPo’s surveys, Hillary polls slightly better than Trump does when voters are asked whom they’d trust more to handle … immigration. That’s not that surprising, considering most polls show Americans support comprehensive immigration reform and that even on the right there’s some opposition to Trump’s “mass deportation” plan. Still, if you believe the storyline that Trump’s going to sweep to power in a great populist revolt and that that revolt is being driven first and foremost by a backlash to amnesty, you need to reckon with those numbers. No doubt immigration is a more important issue for Trump’s base than it is for Hillary’s, which means it may help his turnout effort more than hers even though her position is more popular overall. But there’s no reason (yet) to think immigration politics is going to save him, especially if the registration drives Democrats are organizing for Latino voters pan out.