When FBI Director James Comey sent his letter to eight congressional Republicans on Friday announcing the discovery of additional emails “pertinent” to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email use, Republican Donald Trump took the news as a boost to his campaign in the final run-up to the November 8 election.
But a new poll released Monday morning — the first poll conducted entirely after Comey’s letter became public — appears to show that Trump’s hopes may be in vain.
The poll conducted by the online magazine Politico with the research firm Morning Consult shows that Clinton continues to lead Trump by three percentage points, both in a national head-to-head race and in a four-way contest including Libertarian Candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein.
In the one-on-one matchup, Clinton tops Trump with 46 percent support, to 43 for Trump. In the four-pronged race, Clinton garners 42 percent, Trump 39, Johnson seven and Stein just five percent.
Clinton’s support is down slightly following the FBI letter, but not enough to shift the dynamics of the presidential race, Politico reporter Jake Sherman said in his analysis of the poll on Monday.
“In a separate poll conducted before Comey’s disclosure, Clinton was leading by three points in the four-way race, and five points in the two-way race,” Sherman noted. “Put simply, there is not yet evidence that the revelations have drastically altered the contours of the election.”
The poll was taken Saturday and Sunday, with 1,172 “Likely” voters surveyed. The poll’s estimated margin of error is two percentage points either way — placing Clinton’s three-point lead outside that margin.
Perhaps most significantly, 39 percent of the voters surveyed, about four out of 10, in the Politico/Morning Consult weekend poll said that the latest Clinton email news — that the FBI will review a new batch of possibly Clinton-related emails found as part of a separate investigation — will have no bearing at all on their vote in the presidential election.
At the same time, while 33 percent said that the news makes them “much less likely” to vote for Clinton, Politico noted that the bulk of those voters were not planning to vote for Clinton in any event, regardless of Friday’s news.
“Most of those voters are already aligned against Clinton. Nearly two-thirds of Trump voters, 66 percent, said it makes them much less likely to vote against Clinton,” Politico’s Sherman wrote. “Among the small pocket of undecided voters remaining, 42 percent said it made them less likely to vote for Clinton, including 30 percent who said it made them much less likely to vote for her. But just as many, 41 percent, said it makes no difference either way.”
But the fact that the FBI’s “October Surprise” produced little change in the race should not, itself, be a surprise. According to a study published Sunday by FiveThirtyEight.com polling expert Harry Enten, such last-minute bombshells rarely alter the dynamics of a presidential race in any significant way.
For example, the 2008 financial collapse coming about a month before the election was thought to be devastating to Republican John McCain. But Democrat Barack Obama led the national polling average by six points before the financial news — and won the election by seven points.
In the 2004 campaign, just three days before the election, a tape surfaced showing terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden talking about the election and ridiculing then-President George Bush. Though pundits argued over whether the tape would hurt Bush or his Democratic opponent John Kerry, it turned out to have no real effect at all. Bush led the polling average by three points before the tape emerged. He won the election by two points.
As have most polls this election season, the Politico/Morning Consult poll showed a high level of polarization among voters, with 81 percent of Democrats saying they would vote for Clinton and 82 percent of Republicans committed to Trump. Only five percent of Democrats and six percent of Republicans planned to vote for the candidate of the opposing party.
Also on Monday, the NBC News/Survey Monkey tracking poll showed no effect from the Friday FBI-email news. The daily poll showed Clinton holding a six-point lead on Saturday and Sunday, virtually unchanged from the previous four days.
In the Huffington Post/Pollster.com national polling average, which factored in the Politico/Morning Consult Poll and other polls released on Monday, Clinton’s lead over Trump held steady at 5.7 points, 46.4 to 40.7, with Johnson sinking to 4.5 percent of the vote.