A major 2016 presidential poll released on Sunday, October 30 shows that the presidential race nationally is tightening back to a virtual tie, matching a trend line seen in recent polling averages that find a closer contest.
Hillary Clinton has led in other recent national polls, however, so overall the latest presidential polls show a mixed bag. It’s important, of course, to not read too much into one poll. Patterns and averages can tell you more.
The most recent poll getting attention – by ABC News/Washington Post – shows Clinton with a 1-point lead over Donald Trump that is in the margin for error. The poll found more Republicans coming home for Trump, and Independents breaking his way. This was the same poll that also generated interest when, just a few days ago, it showed Clinton up a whopping 12 percentage points. The margin was 2 points for Clinton the day before.
The poll also found that 34 percent of likely voters are less likely to vote for Clinton because of the new FBI review into emails.
The RealClearPolitics four-way presidential polling average has Clinton up an average 3.4 percentage points from polling encompassing October 20-29, which is down from the previous week and even the day before. FiveThirtyEight’s average of Clinton vs. Trump has her up 5.5 percentage points on October 28, down from 5.8 the day before and 6.4 percentage points on October 26.
It will take several days to learn how FBI Director James Comey’s controversial letter to Congress will alter the race, if at all, as most recent presidential polls don’t yet reflect the time period of his letter. However, the ABC poll was conducted over a three-day time period that ended the day the Comey letter was released.
But some recent presidential polls show the race continues to tighten, with Donald Trump regaining some momentum after dropping in the polls earlier in October due to the string of sexual misconduct allegations lodged against him. The race was virtually tied in September until those allegations. Before September, Clinton had a healthy lead for most of the summer.
Of course, national polls can only tell us so much; a close look at key battleground states can be more instructive, and recent polling has also found a tightening in some swing states. However, some states have tightened in Trump’s favor recently, and some have tightened for Clinton, and the Democratic nominee led solidly in other battleground states (like Virginia and Colorado) and was even in striking distance in some reliably red states like Arizona and Texas. That’s why sites that use statistical models to predict the election, using Electoral College predictions, still have Clinton as the overwhelming favorite. For example, Five Thirty Eight gives Clinton an 81.1% chance to win the presidency.
A new battleground poll out of North Carolina October 30 found Clinton with a 6 point lead, and a poll out of Florida gave Clinton a 1 point lead, which is basically a tie, said CNN.
Comey’s letter could be a gamechanger, but it depends on how it plays. The Clinton campaign has mounted a fierce pushback, with Clinton herself saying that she found Comey’s letter deeply troubling and others criticizing the FBI director for a vague letter that violated past practice to not do anything that could be perceived as interfering in an election.
CNN reported, “Investigators believe it’s likely the newly recovered trove will include emails that were deleted from the Clinton server before the FBI took possession of it as part of that earlier investigation,” and they are seeking a warrant to review them.
The letter also could energize Clinton turnout of voters who might not have turned out before because she looked like a lock to win. However, obviously, emails and the FBI is not the subject that Clinton wanted to be talking about in the waning days of the election (especially with the election already showing some tightening), and Trump has highlighted the Comey development on the campaign trail as it dominates the news cycle. The disclosure could also help Trump rally holdout Republicans to his side.
Comey, in the letter, had told Congress that the FBI was going to investigate newly discovered emails to see if they were significant to the past FBI investigation into Clinton’s private email server. The New York Times and others have since reported that the emails were found on a device owned by Anthony Weiner, who is separated from long-time Clinton aide Huma Abedin. The FBI has not yet obtained a warrant for the emails, and it’s not clear who sent them or what they contain.
Here’s what you need to know, as of October 30:
ABC News/Washington Post
Most of those who said they are less likely to vote for Clinton because of the Comey letter were already planning not to support her, said ABC, but the finding could energize turnout.
It shows a tightening of the race. Clinton led in the same poll by 12 points in the first four days of the tracking poll. However, there has been at least a 7 point shift in Trump’s favor in the last few days, said ABC.
ABC said the shift is because more Republicans are now energized to vote, and they are more likely to back Trump than before. Furthermore, the poll found fewer weak Hillary voters were likely to vote, but the poll said that might be because she was leading in the polls so people didn’t think she needed their vote to win. Of course, the Comey letter could change that. Trump’s support among independents has also grown, said ABC.
Some have criticized the methodology of the ABC poll.
The LA Times/USC poll is a daily tracking poll so this result was measured on October 29, after the Comey letter release. However, this poll has consistently scored Trump better than other polls.
The Reuters/IPSO poll was taken the day before the Comey letter. It found good news for Clinton as her lead was outside the margin for error. This poll has not found the tightening of the race seen in the new ABC poll.
This tracking poll found Clinton with a solid lead. The poll was conducted October 23-28.
Times Picayune Lucid National Tracking Poll
This poll has found a slight tightening of the race in Trump’s favor, although Clinton still leads.
The polling was for October 27, the day before the Comey letter. The poll does not include a sampling error because those participating in the poll are volunteers and were not randomly selected.
Here are the RealClearPolitics averages for key battleground states. They almost entirely include polls taken just before the Comey letter release.
New Hampshire (5.2%)
North Carolina (2.5%)
Florida (Clinton 0.4%)
Ohio (Trump 1.0%)
Iowa (Trump 1.4%)
Nevada (Clinton 1.7%)
Arizona (Clinton 1.5%)