The 2016 presidential race has tightened dramatically in recent days. As of November 3, Hillary Clinton’s lead in the RealClearPolitics national polling average has narrowed to only 2.0 percentage points in a four-way race – which is almost a tie (and 1.3 in the head-to-head matchup).
However, what’s really going to matter is the electoral college. That means the game will be won or lost in the battleground states. To win, Donald Trump will need to run the table in battleground states where he’s been competitive or even slightly ahead (like Ohio), and he will have to take a state or two from Clinton that many analysts thought would go blue (like Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Colorado). One pollster noted, “No one has been elected president since 1960 without carrying two of the key swing states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.”
In November 3 polling averages:
6 battleground states are virtually tied.
Trump leads in 3 battleground states.
Clinton leads in 5 battleground states.
That’s a shift for Trump in recent days, however, since Clinton was ahead in so many states, the new Trumpmentum has turned some states into dead heats.
In some cases, Clinton still leads in polling averages (which stretch back partly before the FBI director’s letter as they average polls over multiple days), but recent polls after the letter came out show a Trump lead or a much closer race. That’s true in New Hampshire, for example, where the race is now virtually tied (with a microscopic Clinton advantage) after a trio of polls showed the FBI director’s letter has helped Trump. One of those polls found that the letter is turning half of independents away from Clinton. Clinton had a solid lead in that state before the letter. In other states, like Pennsylvania, Clinton still leads in polling averages covering multiple past days, but recent polling has the race in the margin for error.
The bottom line: If you’re Clinton, you’d be worried about the continued tightening in critical states and hoping to stanch the bleeding. If the polls continue tightening, it could be a dramatic night on election day, and the election is five days away. However, if you’re Trump, you’d be worried that you need to outperform in so many states to have a chance, and the electoral math is still looking perilous. You’d also be hoping that Clinton doesn’t level out now that the Comey letter’s immediate impact is past.
The tough electoral math for Trump is why sites that predict the election using forecasting models still overwhelmingly predict Clinton will win. But that’s tightening too. Still, FiveThirtyEight predicts a 66.7% chance that Clinton will win. You can see different routes to electoral college victory here.
Of course, other factors could also prove decisive. Millions of Americans have already early voted, and experts say those numbers are favoring Democrats in many states. Although Democrats typically have an early voting lead, they are outperforming the last election in some states. Turnout will be extremely important.
There are wildcards in the race. How independents break. How the Comey letter changes turnout. How African-American and young voters turn out. If there’s some undetected polling error since the race has been so non-traditional and Trump is an unusual Republican nominee. Even what’s going on in some battleground states because there hasn’t been a lot or recent polling.
Multiple polls are now starting to capture the ramifications from the surprise (and controversial) letter that FBI Director James Comey sent to Congress. Comey told Congress the FBI wanted to review a cache of newly discovered emails to see if they were significant to the previous Bureau investigation of Clinton’s private email server. The FBI now has a warrant to do so. The polls do show that Trump benefited from that news as the polls tightened in his favor. In some battleground states, polls were already starting to tighten before the letter.
All states in which the polling average is under 3.0 will be coded as a virtual tie because that’s in the margin of error for most polls. Again, the polling averages encompass part of the pre Comey letter period, so the recent polling after the letter is also indicated under each state’s name.
Here’s what you need to know as of November 3:
Battleground States That Are Virtually Tied
Florida is a must win state for Donald Trump. What’s going on in polling there? The race is a literal tie in RealClearPolitics polling average.
Three polls measure the post Comey time frame. Two show Clinton leading by 1 and 3 (in the margin for error). One shows Trump leading by 4. Polls right before the letter show Trump up 4, and Clinton up 1 and 1.
Thus, it’s safe to say that Florida is a dead heat. Early voting trends in Florida show more women are turning out. In Florida, 4.5 million voters had already voted, as of November 2. Data from ElectionSmith shows that 55 percent of those who voted are women, and they have cast over 60 percent of all votes by registered Democrats so far. That’s about the same proportion of those voting in 2012.
The Quinnipiac poll that found Clinton up 1 determined that Trump was winning with white voters, Republicans, men and independents. Clinton was winning with non-white voters, women, and Democrats. The gender gap was present but not as pronounced as some other states.
The polls in Colorado have shifted a lot in the past two months. Clinton was ahead in the double digits in this state in August, but now it represents a possible pick up for Trump. Colorado has a large number of independent and white voters, groups that may help Trump.
Clinton leads in the RealClearPolitics polling average by only 2.6 percentage points, although that’s up slightly from the day before.
The most recent poll out of Colorado shows the race literally tied. Two other polls captured the post Comey letter period. They showed Clinton leading by 1 and 3 percentage points.
The race is now tied in RealClearPolitics polling averages for North Carolina. North Carolina is perceived by many experts as a must-win state for Trump, and it had been polling in Clinton’s favor all month, although never by a lot.
Three polls have been conducted that measure the post Comey letter time frame. They show Trump up 2 and 7 and Clinton up 3.
WRAL-TV reported that the poll that found Trump with the big lead noted that “Trump has flipped the gender gap in recent weeks, cutting Clinton’s 12-point lead among women down to 7 points while widening his dominance among male voters from 9 points to 23 points. He also has erased her lead among voters 50 and older…while maintaining his slight lead among voters ages 18 to 49.”
The most recent poll, which registered the 3 percentage point lead for Clinton found: “North Carolina women likely voters back Clinton 52 – 42 percent, while men back Trump 46 – 41 percent. White voters go to Trump 59 – 33 percent, while non-white voters back Clinton 77 – 10 percent.”
Trump leads by an average 2.0 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics polling average for Nevada.
Two polls measure the post Comey letter time frame. They have him up 6 and 4. The most recent poll, by CNN/ORC, shows the 6 percentage point lead. The poll indicated that some Gary Johnson voters are shifting to Trump. The poll reported that Nevada voters were favoring Trump on a host of issues, including the economy, terrorism, and immigration.
Trump leads Iowa in the polling averages by 1.4 percentage points.
However, and this could be important: There are no polls out of Iowa yet that measure the post Comey letter fallout. The last poll was conducted on October 22, six days before the letter, and it shows that the race was a tie at that point.
Clinton leads an average of 0.8 percentage points in New Hampshire. That’s a virtual tie, and a pretty dramatic shift for Trump.
There have been three polls out of New Hampshire since the Comey letter. One shows the race a tie, one shows Trump leading by 5, and 1 shows Trump up by 1. The poll showing the race now tied, by The Boston Globe, found that the Comey letter hardened the positions of Democrats and Republicans but hurt Clinton with independents, finding that 52 percent were less likely to choose Clinton as a result.
A poll that straddles the time frame of both before and after the letter found Clinton leading 7 so, unless the most recent poll is an outlier, there’s a sharp drop off.
Trump’s lead in Ohio, while still somewhat tenuous, has strengthened in recent days. The RealClearPolitics polling average for Ohio is now showing Trump 3.3 percentage points ahead. There has been a sharp drop off for Clinton since the Comey letter.
Two polls measure the period after the letter, and each shows Trump up by 5 percentage points in Ohio. The race was tied before.
The gender gap was not as pronounced in Ohio as in other states; men favor Clinton, but women are divided. Furthermore, the demographic of Ohio voters favors Trump. “The 48 – 30 percent lead for Donald Trump among independent voters is pretty overwhelming. Ohio has a large number of voters that the Trump campaign has targeted,” wrote one pollster in a poll that found Trump up 5. “The Buckeye state is full of those who feel they have lost their jobs because of unfair trade treaties, and non-college educated whites.”
Ohio early voters overwhelming backed Clinton in the same poll, showing the perils of reading too much into early voting patterns.
Trump is up an average 4.0 in Arizona polling averages. This is good news for him because Clinton has been surprisingly competitive in Arizona, which is a traditionally Republican state. That she was competing for Republican states that Trump should have locked down was a bad sign for him.
Two polls measure the post Comey period, and they show Trump leading by 4 and 5 in Arizona, an increasing of his lead since the polls right before the letter, when he led by 2 and 1. Thus, the new polls indicate the race is now outside the margin of error.
The latest CNN poll out of the state said that voters prefer Trump on a host of key issues, such as the economy and trade.
Trump has led in Georgia, which is not surprising, but he has strengthened his lead now.
The one poll to measure the post Comey letter fallout time frame showed Trump up 9, and his polling average lead in Georgia is now 5.6%.
Thus, the state – which previously looked in peril for Trump – now looks like a potentially safe seat for him. In September, the race was virtually tied in Georgia, but Trump broke open a lead in October that he has maintained and, in recent days, Clinton has fallen off more.
Pennsylvania is crucial. Clinton leads there by an average of 3.0 percentage points, down from even the day before. The race has tightened in recent days.
For example, Clinton led Pennsylvania by 8.7 on October 13. She’s been gradually losing steam there, too. She led an average 5.8 just four days ago.
What does recent polling show? Two polls capture the post Comey letter time frame. They show Clinton leading by 2 and 4. That’s in the margin of error for one poll and not the other. It’s probably safe to say – barring some turnout factor or polling error – that Clinton still might hold onto Pennsylvania, but if her support there continues to erode in the days until the election, all bets could be off.
Voters had very unfavorable opinions of both candidates in one of the recent polls.
The latest poll out of Wisconsin is good news for Clinton. The Marquette University Law School poll – considered very credible and much watched by experts – shows Clinton with a 6 percentage point lead over Trump. She’s up 5.4 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics polling average.
In fact, she’s outperforming Democrat Russ Feingold, who is vying to regain his old Senate seat from Republican Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson. The Marquette poll showed that race a dead heat.
The Marquette polls internals did show a fall off in support for Clinton among independents (and a growth in support for Trump among Republicans) after the Comey letter. But she was up so much because Trump tanked in Wisconsin after the Billy Bush expose that she still has a healthy lead.
Trump campaigned in the state with Republican Governor Scott Walker in recent days. The other problem for Trump is that more affluent, educated suburban Republican voters have not warmed up to him in Wisconsin as much as rural, non college educated whites.
Clinton’s strength in Virginia, which went for Romney, underscores the wisdom of her vice presidential pick, since Tim Kaine is a former senator and governor from Virginia. She leads an average 4.7% in that state.
Two polls capture the post letter fallout. They show her up by 4. A third poll straddled the time frame and showed her up by 7. Thus, there’s some indication of a tightening in Virginia, but she maintains a healthy lead.
Trump has been targeting Michigan but polling averages show Clinton maintains a comfortable lead there of 5.7%. However, she was up by only 3 percentage points in the only poll to cover the post Comey fallout time frame, a much closer race. She was up by 7 in polls before it.
Clinton maintains a healthy lead in Maine of an average 6.6 percentage points. Only one poll measured the post Comey time frame, and it had her up 4, still a decent lead but down from before.