Signs of Tightening

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 9, 2016 — The latest presidential polls are providing new sweeping numbers that again suggest the race is becoming more fluid. Four polls were released with sampling periods ending Aug. 2-6, producing very different results.

Conducted over several days in early August, the six polls reported last week projected average Hillary Clinton leads of approximately 8.5 percent. Now, additional data finds the Clinton advantage dropping to five percentage points, including the Los Angeles Times/USC poll that suggests the two are tied.

The LA Times/USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research in partnership with the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics poll is interesting from the perspective that it continually surveys a universe of over 3,200 people that persistently grows. The surveyors hope to reach a respondent pool of 6,000 individuals. One-seventh of the aggregate polling respondents are asked daily whether they will vote in the 2016 presidential election, about their presidential preference, and who they believe will win the contest.

During the four-day swing from Aug. 3-6, the LA Times/USC daily margin between Clinton and Donald Trump fluctuated only between four-tenths of one percent and seven-tenths of one percent. The conclusions are quite different from the other field studies conducted during this time segment but are not necessarily inaccurate.

Rasmussen Reports (Aug. 1-2; 1,000 likely US voters) has typically found a tighter race than most pollsters and does so again in their most recent survey. In this particular poll, Trump closes to within a 44-40 percent margin of Clinton.

The other two most recent surveys continue to show larger Clinton leads. The new ABC News/Washington Post study (Aug. 1-4; 1,002 US adults, 815 registered voters) finds a 51-44 percent spread between Clinton and Trump, yielding a larger seven-point margin.

Finally, the Morning Consult survey, which is methodologically similar to the LA Times/USC poll in that it conducts continual rolling surveys (current version: Aug. 4-5; 2,001 registered US voters), finds the Clinton-Trump ballot test at 46-37 percent.

The nine-point spread is particularly significant coming from this group because they typically see a much tighter race. For example, in the five released Morning Consult July polls, their spread found Clinton leading by one point, one point, two points, Trump by four, and back to Clinton up three before recording their latest jump to nine points in the first MC August survey.

The fact that we have a new polling series conducted during the same recent sampling period with all results falling inside a large nine-point range tells us the electorate is likely returning to a volatile state. This is true at least in comparison to last week’s more definitive survey segment. You will remember that Clinton, taking advantage of several Trump missteps, developed a consistent lead in the upper single-digits as last week drew to a close. The new data provides us early clues that her newfound advantage may already be dissipating.

Trump will need to quickly make some significant gains in order to return to competitive status with Clinton. The LA Times/USC and Rasmussen Reports data suggests that such momentum may be already developing.

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