WaPo/ABC poll: Trump still within margin of error?

Is it possible that, after all the allegations about Donald Trump that have emerged over the last two weeks, that Hillary Clinton might have only gained two points in a national poll series — and Trump remains within the margin of error? Er, probably not, but that’s what the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll shows. Thanks in part to a deeply dug-in electorate and a lack of enthusiasm for any choice, Hillary leads by four in both the two-way and four-way race polling. Even the Post’s Scott Clement and Dan Balz can’t quite believe the data, emphasis mine:

Overall, Clinton leads Trump by 47-43 percent among likely voters, a slight edge given the survey’s four-percentage-point error margin. Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson has the support of 5 percent, and Green Party nominee Jill Stein is at 2 percent. Among registered voters, the poll shows a similar four-point margin, with Clinton at 44, Trump at 40, Johnson at 6 and Stein at 3. In a two-way matchup, Clinton leads Trump by 50-46 percent among likely voters and by 50-44 percent among registered voters.

The current findings show only slight changes from the last Post-ABC survey, which was taken on the eve of the first presidential debate. At that time, Clinton held an insignificant two-point edge over Trump among likely voters. The findings are somewhat better for Trump than other polls taken since the video, but if Clinton were to maintain such an advantage until Election Day, that could translate into a sizable electoral college majority.

Citing other polls to call into question one’s own? That’s an interesting marketing strategy. According to RCP’s aggregation and averages, it might be a wee bit overstated as well. The latest NBC/WSJ poll puts Hillary up 11 points, but that seems to be an outlier, as does the LA Times tracking poll that puts Trump up by one and Rasmussen’s Trump +2. The RCP average puts Hillary up by less than six points in both the four-way and binary races, so a Hillary +4 isn’t outside the ballpark.

Still, the other internals seem to call into question whether this is for real. Hillary has a poor 42/56 favorability rating, but Trump’s is worse at 37/62. Hillary has a lead on almost all of the issue questions, with the most depressing being an eight-point advantage on ethics in government (45/37, RVs). Despite Trump’s attempts to paint himself as a working-class hero, Hillary beats him by double digits on protecting the middle class (51/37, RVs).

But it seems even more suspect when looking at the responses to the allegations and remarks that have come out since the 9/22 poll. The videotape makes 35% of voters less likely to support Trump, and 68% believe that Trump has made “unwanted sexual advances on women.” Only 40% buy the explanation that Trump’s “grab her by the p****” tape was just “typical locker room talk by men.” Even with all of that, though, Trump has barely lost ground. Why?

The rest of the poll suggests that he’s hitting a floor. The percentage of Trump voters who are firm in their decision went up from 85% to 88%; Hillary’s went up from 83% to 89%. The bigger question, though, is whether Trump’s voters will show up. His voter-enthusiasm number dropped to its lowest level in weeks, to 79% from 91% in late September. Twenty-one percent now say they are not enthusiastic, compared to 16% for Hillary. Until this iteration of the poll, Trump held a distinct advantage in enthusiasm, but now that ten-point advantage has morphed into a four-point deficit — a 14-point swing in 21 days. That indicates that the attacks may be working, and it might make a difference on Election Day.

That’s perhaps a bit more interesting as it relates to the generic Congressional ballot, which stands at a surprising D+3 — indicating nearly no change in the makeup of the House, and perhaps signaling some unexpected strength for Republicans in the Senate battle. With a D+8 polling sample and their nominee’s voters getting a bit demoralized, Republicans have to feel pretty good about being within three points on the generic Congressional ballot.