Don't look now, but Trump leads Clinton among likely voters in new CNN poll

As we’ve been tracking the national polls over the past few weeks and examining the trends (particularly the Morning Consult survey) I’ve been holding back from drawing any firm conclusions while offering everyone a single piece of advice: Wait until we shift to polling likely voters. That takes place after Labor Day for most of the larger polling groups and we’re now in the final phase of the game. With 62 days to go until the election, the CNN/ORC survey is out with their first poll of likely voters and Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton inside the margin of error by two points.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton start the race to November 8 on essentially even ground, with Trump edging Clinton by a scant two points among likely voters, and the contest sparking sharp divisions along demographic lines in a new CNN/ORC Poll.

Trump tops Clinton 45% to 43% in the new survey, with Libertarian Gary Johnson standing at 7% among likely voters in this poll and the Green Party’s Jill Stein at just 2%.

The topsy-turvy campaign for the presidency has seen both Clinton and Trump holding a significant lead at some point in the last two months, though Clinton has topped Trump more often than not. Most recently, Clinton’s convention propelled her to an 8-point lead among registered voters in an early-August CNN/ORC Poll. Clinton’s lead has largely evaporated despite a challenging month for Trump, which saw an overhaul of his campaign staff, announcements of support for Clinton from several high-profile Republicans and criticism of his campaign strategy.

This comports with hints we’ve been seeing since before the conventions. Trump performs better among likely voters and those with more enthusiasm to get out and vote. Whether that’s more a case of people being enthusiastic about voting for The Donald or against Secretary Clinton can be left to the soothsayers for now, but the result seems to work out in Trump’s favor. For a comparison we can look at the NBC Surveymonkey poll which also just dropped. They’ve still got Clinton with the same six point lead she enjoyed one week earlier, but NBC is still polling registered voters. If you want to see if a shoe has truly dropped, check that one next week when they hit likely voters.

The complete poll results are here but the demographic breakdowns aren’t going to hold any real eye openers compared to the registered voter results except in trimming the margins. Clinton is still doing better than Trump by a wide margin among women, but the gap has slipped. Clinton leads with the ladies 53-38, but Trump is more than making up for it with a 54-32 span among men. The other big divide is the marriage gap. 76% of single women go for Clinton, but only 36% of married women do. Marriage makes no difference among men, where Trump leads pretty much equally among both married and single guys.

It’s worth noting that Gary Johnson has leveled off at 7% and Jill Stein is below the background noise level at 2%. Neither are within striking distance of the 15% required to get on the debate stage. Also, going just by the demographics, Johnson is pulling more from groups where Clinton has typically done well, so conservative support for Johnson as a third party option may not prove terribly productive. He could actually be hurting Clinton more than Trump.

Finally, in terms of party support, Trump has reached 90% support among Republicans, essentially in the same window where Romney was at this point in 2012. (Clinton has the support of 92% of Democrats.) In fact, it’s pretty much the same number that Mitt had in the identical CNN/ORC poll from the week after Labor Day in that cycle. If the #NeverTrump movement is having any significant impact among Republicans at this point it’s not showing up in the numbers.