Clinton vs. Trump: Trump Gains in Many Battleground State Polls

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton shake hands after the Presidential Debate on September 26, 2016. (Getty)

The 2016 presidential polls have shifted in Donald Trump’s favor in a series of battleground states in the past week, making it a tighter contest.

Hillary Clinton’s slim lead did stabilize in national 2016 presidential polling averages the morning of November 4. However, that was after days of steady decreases, and her overall national polling average by RealClearPolitics now remains in the margin of error for most polls (and it dropped again by evening from +2.6 to +2.3 in the four-way race).

Three national polls released November 4 had the race a literal or virtual tie. Of 9 national polls in the last few days, 2 are a literal tie, 5 are a 3% lead for Clinton or under (within the margin of error for many polls), and 2 showed Clinton with leads outside the margin of error for most polls. Trump does not lead in any of the national polls, though.

In multiple critical battleground states, where the election will be decided, Trump’s polling has continued to improve in recent days. For example, he’s now ahead an average 1.5% in New Hampshire. The past week’s shifts have turned a series of battleground states into virtual ties (North Carolina, Nevada, even potentially Colorado). In other states (like Iowa and Georgia), where he was leading slightly, he strengthened his edge.

In 12 of 14 battleground states, Trump improved his standing from October 27 (the day before FBI Director James Comey sent his letter to Congress on Clinton’s emails) and November 2-3.

However, since Clinton was ahead before in many battleground states, the shift has made the race deadlocked in more of those states. As of November 4, the race was virtually tied (less than 3% lead for either candidate) in six key battleground states, according to a review of RealClearPolitics polling averages. Trump led in three more.

Clinton led in five others, but her margin in some of those states has shrunk compared to the day before the Comey letter (and in Colorado her lead was only 3%, although that was a slight gain from the day before). In some states, the drop off seems to have stopped on November 4, though (like Wisconsin, Colorado, Georgia and Virginia). However, in others it continued – including, most critically, in Pennsylvania, where the most recent poll on November 4 showed the race tied and the polling average fell under 3%, within the margin of error in most polls.

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Voters wait in line for casting their ballots during early voting for the 2016 general election at Forsyth County Government Center October 28, 2016 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Early voting has begun in North Carolina through November 5. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Why the change? Clinton’s numbers have dropped off since October 27, the day before Comey sent his controversial letter to Congress about investigating newly discovered emails to see if they are significant to the Bureau’s past investigation into her private server. A few pollsters did ask voters about that, and they found small effects (although one poll found a large number of independents in New Hampshire were now less likely to vote for Clinton). However, many pollsters did not pose that question; instead, they found, in some cases, voters preferring Trump for reasons ranging from big Obamacare premium hikes to immigration issues and the economy. Some polls had started tightening before the letter, and the race was virtually tied previously before Trump plummeted in the polls in mid October in the midst of the Billy Bush tape and sexual misconduct allegations that he denies.

Some battleground states overlap with large Obamacare increases, which were announced by the government on October 24:

There isn’t a lot of new polling out of battleground states. What there is has sometimes been contradictory, and the number of polls is down overall since 2012.

The dearth of polls makes it a mystery what the current state of the race is in some states; In Minnesota, not considered a battleground by many but where Clinton’s lead was in single digits, the state has been rocked by news that it is facing one of the largest Obamacare rate increases (another October surprise that hasn’t been covered that way enough?) in the country. But there hasn’t been a non online poll since October 22 (and no poll measures only the post Comey letter time frame). Clinton led by 8, but the poll was before the Obamacare news, and the one before it showed a tie. Trump will probably need to pull a rabbit out of his hat on election day to prevail despite the shifting of the polls. It’s highly unlikely he could win Minnesota. However, the state does highlight the lack of polling, and that’s a trend seen across the country.

The election will be determined in the electoral college, where Trump still has a very difficult pathway to the presidency.

Most experts believe Trump must take Florida to win the electoral college. He needs to win states where the polls show it’s virtually tied or he has a small lead (like Ohio, Nevada, and North Carolina). In order to get to 270 electoral votes, he likely needs another state or two that was polling fairly comfortably pro Clinton in recent weeks (and where she still leads – just by less). States to watch because upsets there could be huge for Trump: Pennsylvania. New Hampshire. Colorado. Michigan. This electoral map shows how tough the pathway is for Trump and how critical flipping a state like Pennsylvania or Colorado would be (although if you make Nevada red in the map below, it gets Trump to 270 also):

This map, which Heavy created using the RealClearPolitics customizing website for the electoral college, shows how Trump needs to pick up more states even if he does well in states that are virtually tied.

This map, which Heavy created using the RealClearPolitics customizing website for the electoral college, shows how Trump needs to pick up more states even if he does well in states that are virtually tied.

The above map also presumes he holds onto states where he leads slightly or that are virtually tied, like North Carolina. In Nevada, early voting trends have led some experts to predict a Clinton victory. One local reporter who has been analyzing those trends says Clinton would have to way under perform with her base, and Trump would have to dominate independents to win: “Both hold 80 percent of base and Trump wins indies by 20: 49-45, Trump.”

However, there is also good news for Republicans in early voting in some states, like North Carolina and Florida. Democrats are concerned about declining black turnout in some states, although increasing Hispanic turnout is boosting Clinton in others.

Early voting is up across the nation, and millions of people voted before the Comey letter broke.

Turnout will also matter a lot. For example, can Hillary Clinton achieve the turnout levels Barack Obama saw among millennials and black voters? In some states, like North Carolina, the black vote is down. FiveThirtyEight says Clinton’s leads are not as strong as Obama’s were at this point in 2012, causing some additional fretting for those supporting the Democratic nominee.

The momentum in the past week has clearly been in Trump’s favor both nationally and in most battleground states. Will it be enough? That’s the $68,000 question.

Here’s what you need to know:

National Polling Averages

RealClearPolitics polling average for November 4: Clinton +2.3

That’s up from 2 on November 3 and 1.9 on November 2. However, it’s down from 3.9 on October 28. She led an average 7.1 in mid October as Donald Trump was dealing with the Billy Bush tape fallout.

FiveThirtyEight polling average for November 3 (latest available): Clinton +3.2

Recent National Polls

Below are the recent national polls that encompass the period of time after FBI Director James Comey’s letter to Congress. Clinton leads in three of the five and two are a tie. However, the race is close – in the margin of error for at least two of those three and possibly also the third.

Fox News: (November 1-3) Clinton +2
McClatchy/Marist: (November 1-3) Clinton +1
IBD-TIPP: Tie (October 30-November 3)
ABC/Washington Post tracking poll: Clinton +4 (October 31-November 3. This rolling poll recently showed Trump up 1 and was +3 Clinton through November 2)
Rasmussen Reports: Tie (November 1-3)
Economist/YouGov: Clinton +3 (October 30-November 1)
Gravis Clinton: +1 (October 31)
Reuters/IPSOS: (October 30-November 3) Clinton +7
CBS/New York Times: (October 28-November 1) Clinton +3

Battleground State Polls as of November 4

Basically Tied (Polling Averages Under 3.0)


Trump has to win Florida to stand a chance, most likely. Clinton leads there by 1.2% in the RealClearPolitics polling average. The night before, the race was a tie. However, 1.2% is still in the margin of error for most polls. Still, she didn’t lose more.

The last poll in the state by Fox 13/Opinion Savvy showed Clinton up by 4%. It was taken November 1-4. Trump hasn’t led in a Florida poll since October 30. However, the margins are close enough to make turnout critical (and polling error becomes more possible as margins tighten).

Clinton dropped 1.2% in polling averages from RealClearPolitics from October 27 through November 2.


A Pennsylvania pick up would be huge for Trump.

Clinton’s RealClearPolitics polling advantage is 2.6% in Pennsylvania. She was up 4.9% on November 2. Thus, Pennsylvania’s polling has been tightening to the degree that Trump might have a shot at the state. Her average in Pennsylvania dropped again from morning to night on November 4.

A new Republican leaning poll released November 4 found Pennsylvania, which has been hit with some of the highest Obamacare premium increases in the nation, a tie.

From October 27 to November 3, Clinton’s polling average in Pennsylvania dropped -2.

New Hampshire

This was a state that had looked likely Clinton, but her numbers have dropped there sharply since the James Comey letter, and Trump now leads in the RealClearPolitics polling average by 1.6%.

The two most recent polls out of the state show the race a tie and Trump up 5 as independents tell pollsters they are affected by the email investigation.

Clinton dropped 5.7% in RealClearPolitics polling averages from October 27-November 3, the highest drop among the battleground states in that period.

North Carolina

Trump’s margin in North Carolina continues to improve. He now leads that state by an average 0.8%.

He led by 7 percentage points in the most recent poll out of that state. Most experts consider North Carolina a must win state for Trump. Clinton led by an average of 3 on October 31. She’s never had a huge edge in North Carolina, but she had a steady one until recent days.

Clinton dropped 2.4% in the RealClearPolitics polling average from October 27-November 2.


Trump leads by 2.4% in Iowa. There hadn’t been polling out of the state since October 26, which is before James Comey’s letter to Congress.

However, on November 4, the first post Comey letter poll was released, by Emerson, and it shows Trump up 3 points, a gain from before the letter.


Trump leads Nevada by 2% in RealClearPolitics’ polling average.

However, some analysis of early voting data out of Nevada has predicted a Clinton victory based on a Democratic edge there.

The two most recent polls out of Nevada show a tie and Trump up 6. Clinton was ahead by 4.8 on October 23 in polling averages out of Nevada.

Clinton dropped 4% in RealClearPolitics polling averages for Nevada from October 27 through November 3.

Trump Leads


Trump leads by 3.3% in the RealClearPolitics Average for Ohio. That’s up from the day before. The most recent polls have shown him up 5. Ohio has become a safer state for him in the last week, but it’s still tight. Ohio’s demographics of white working class voters works for Trump.

Trump gained 2.2 from October 27 through November 2 in polling averages.


Trump is up 4.6% in polling averages in Georgia, although that’s down from the day before.

The large black vote in that state is still giving Clinton hope as the most recent polls showed Trump ahead by just 1, 2 and 4 (but he was ahead by 9 and 7 in the polls before that).

Trump gained 2.8 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics polling average from October 27-November 3. However, Trump has stopped gaining in Georgia in the last day.


Trump leads Arizona by an average of 4.0% in RealClearPolitics polling averages. Arizona is a traditionally red state, but Clinton has been competing strongly there in polls, largely due to the large number of Latino voters.

Clinton is behind 4-5% in each of three recent polls there, though.

Trump gained by 5.5% in RealClearPolitics polling averages from October 27-November 3.

Clinton Leads


Clinton leads an average of 3% in Colorado. That’s a sharp drop, though, in recent days (She led by 8 on October 17).

One recent poll showed the race a tie, and the other had Clinton up by 6 percentage points. Two new polls came out November 4, one Democratic leaning and one Republican. The former showed Clinton up 5, and the latter showed her up 1.

Clinton dropped 3.6% in Colorado RealClearPolitics polling averages from October 27-November 3.


Clinton leads Wisconsin by an average of 5.5%, but there hasn’t been a lot of polling out of the state.

However, a credible poll that just came out showed Clinton leading 6 percentage points in a state that went for Obama last time.

Clinton dropped 1.4% in the polling averages from October 27-November 3.


Clinton leads Michigan an average 4.8% in RealClearPolitics polling averages. However, in contrast to Wisconsin, recent polling averages out of Michigan has shown a tightening race. Clinton’s lead dropped almost a percentage point from November 3 through November 4.

Clinton dropped 0.5% in RealClearPolitics polling averages from October 27-November 3. Two recent polls did find her up 4 and 5, though.


Clinton is up an average 4.5% in Maine. But there’s a caveat. Maine is a rare state that gives out electors based on Congressional districts, and Trump is doing better in one of Maine’s Congressional districts, the second.

Clinton is ahead by 4 in the most recent poll, but there is not a lot of recent polling in Maine.

Still, this was the only battleground where Clinton gained in polling averages in the last week. She’s up an average 1.4% from October 27-November 1.


Clinton is up 5.2 percentage points in Virginia, which was a long time red state until Obama flipped it but is the home state of her running mate Tim Kaine.

Clinton’s margin in Virginia has grown slightly in recent days in Virginia, and a recent poll showed her up 7.

Clinton’s polling average dropped 5 percentage points from October 27-November 2.

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