The Race Tightens — or Does It?

By Jim Ellis

July 1, 2016 — New recently released national and specific state polls are providing differing views about the presidential campaign’s current status. Though the conclusions vary among the publicly released surveys in terms of margin, all find Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump nationally and in the key states. It the modern political era the early election cycle has always favored the Democratic presidential candidate so the fact that Clinton has the initial advantage is not unusual or unexpected.

Quinnipiac University (June 21-27; 1,610 US registered voters) just released their latest national survey, and find Clinton’s advantage over Trump and Libertarian Gary Johnson has slipped to just 39-37-8 percent, an indication that the gap is closing even though many establishment Republican leaders continue to make anti-Trump public statements.

The new Fox News poll (June 26-28; 1,017 US registered voters) finds Clinton to be in a bit stronger position than does Quinnipiac, however. Fox forecasts a 41-36-10 percent Clinton edge over Trump and Johnson.

Public Policy Polling (PPP) then released a series of state polls, all taken within the June 22-23 period. The Evolving Strategies (ES) organization, polling for the Ballotpedia website, also performed state testing during a much longer, and significantly earlier, polling period (June 10-22). Across the board, they find Clinton’s numbers to be stronger than PPP’s.

The Pennsylvania PPP survey (980 registered Pennsylvania voters) provides encouraging news for the Trump campaign. If Trump can convert the Keystone State to the Republican column for the first time since George H.W. Bush last won here in 1988, he could claim the national election. Should Trump hold all 23 bedrock Republican states, and then take the mandatory Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina that any Republican needs to win, adding Pennsylvania would give the New York real estate mogul 273 Electoral Votes, which would mean a presidential victory.

According to the PPP results, Clinton has only a four-point Pennsylvania lead over Trump, 46-42 percent. This, added to the Republican primary result that saw Trump winning every Pennsylvania county, suggests that targeting this state makes sense for his campaign. On the other hand, Evolving Strategies (601 registered Pennsylvania voters) finds the Clinton advantage to be a whopping 49-35 percent.

The Ohio PPP version (708 registered Ohio voters) produced a similar conclusion to Pennsylvania’s. That is, Clinton has only a slight lead. Here, as in Pennsylvania, her margin is four points (44-40 percent). Evolving Strategies (617 registered Ohio voters), however, finds the split to be a more robust 46-37 percent.

Ohio is one of three must-win swing states necessary for a Republican victory. Clinton, on the other hand, can still win the national election even if she loses all components of this trio (Florida, Ohio, North Carolina).

The New Hampshire PPP data (578 registered New Hampshire voters) also returns a four-point Clinton spread (43-39 percent). Evolving Strategies did not poll the Granite State. Though possessing only four electoral votes, New Hampshire could be a ripe Trump target because the state’s electorate swings wildly and Clinton performed poorly here in the Democratic primary. Back on Feb. 9, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) scored a 60-38 percent victory. Conversely, Trump won a decisive Republican result.

Iowa, another key swing battleground state, was also surveyed. Here, PPP questioned 897 registered voters during the same June 22-23 period. The Hawkeye State ballot test result is even closer, with Clinton clinging to a 41-39 percent edge, which portends a basic toss-up contest. Again, Evolving Strategies (601 IA registered voters) finds the spread more in Ms. Clinton’s favor, a difference of 45-41%. Iowa last went for a Republican presidential candidate in 2004 when George W. Bush topped then-Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).

Arizona, a state that needs to be part of the 23 GOP bedrock state grouping for a Republican candidate to carry the national election, appears to be performing for Trump. According to the PPP data (691 registered Arizona voters), the presumptive Republican nominee holds a 44-40 percent advantage over Clinton. ES did not poll here. If the Democrats were to venture into a Republican state to attempt to upset the Republican political apple cart, Arizona would be a likely prospect. They probably won’t do so, however, since all Clinton must do to win is carry 80 percent of the states President Obama carried twice.

The latest polling again signals that the volatility factor in this presidential campaign is quite high. Between Public Policy Polling and Evolving Strategies, the PPP sample time is much shorter and their sample sizes larger. Together, both elements suggest that the former organization has the more reliable data.

In any event, this race is a long way from being decided, and we will see a plethora of polls released into the public domain before the voters head to the polling places in November. It is virtually assured that the final determining factors have not yet occurred.

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