Hmmm: Hillary lead cut in half in WaPo/ABC tracking poll

A few days ago, ABC News reported a twelve-point lead for Hillary Clinton in their tracking poll, but … it didn’t last long. Just three days later, the same tracking poll shows her lead over Donald Trump down to six points. Needless to say, the most prominent conclusion from this roller coaster is that the race is still rather volatile, even with just twelve days to go:

With 12 days to go, Hillary Clinton holds a six-point edge over Donald Trump among an electorate fixated on the campaign and nervous about their candidate losing, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News Tracking Poll.

How does a tracking poll shift six points in three days? On October 22nd and 23rd, the first two days of the new tracking paradigm, the poll showed Hillary up 50/38, a big bounce from the 47/43 nine days earlier in the series’ normal tri-weekly configuration. By Monday it was 49/40, and then yesterday 48/42 — two three-point shifts on successive days. Oddly, support for Gary Johnson didn’t change at all in the same period, remaining at 5% in every result, nor did “no opinion.” It looks like Hillary’s support went to Trump, just based on the topline numbers.

The sample composition might have had some impact, but still doesn’t account for all of it. The 10/22 & 10/23 polls were D+9 at 36/27, while 10/24 had a 36/28 and 10/25’s was 36/29 – a D+7 which would follow the 2012 model. Those are small shifts, though, not of the kind likely to produce a six-point swing in two days.

Still, it’s a six point lead for Hillary with twelve to go. Assuming that this result is more reliable, it only changes the scope of the potential outcome rather than the outcome itself, especially because this result lines up much closer to the other national polls. Even friendlier tracking polls such as IBD/TIPP and Rasmussen show Hillary with a lead in their latest iterations, although the LA Times/USC tracking poll shows Trump rebounding to a 0.7-point lead today.

Perhaps more than any other election, the biggest feature of 2016 is the anxiety, bordering on paranoia:

More than three in four Clinton and Trump supporters say they are “very anxious” at the thought of the other candidate becoming president, fears that underscore perceptions of the election’s high stakes and stark contrast between contenders.

Among all likely voters, 56 percent are anxious about Clinton becoming president while 61 percent are anxious about Trump. While anxiety for Trump is slightly higher than for Clinton, the five-point gap has shrunk from a 15-point difference August when 67 percent were anxious about Trump’s presidency following the Democratic National Convention and a high-profile dispute with a Muslim Gold Star father. Then, 52 percent of likely voters said a Clinton presidency made them anxious.

This isn’t a surprise, either. Both candidates have had to rely heavily on negative campaigning, trying to distract from their own unfavorables by painting the alternative as an even bigger disaster. These results demonstrate their success; they’ve both made fear the biggest selling point, and Trump has succeeded at those sales better than Hillary. Even apart from the value judgment on each candidate (I made my own calculation clear two months ago), the nature of both nominees practically guaranteed this outcome.

The election will be over in twelve days. The hangover will last considerably longer.

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