Yesterday, a lot of Democrats were upset about Quinnipiac battleground-state polls that showed Trump even with or leading Hillary Clinton in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. But there were mitigating factors: The Q-polls had been giving bad news to Hillary Clinton all year, and there were other recent polls showing her still holding a robust lead. Still, those thinking she was in the process of building a landslide were disabused of the idea. Moreover, the polls have been showing that the FBI’s announcement of its findings in the email case were hurting rather than helping her.
Today you can expect an even stronger reaction to a CBS/New York Times national poll showing a 40/40 dead heat between Clinton and Trump. The tie isn’t broken when Gary Johnson is added to the mix; it’s then 36/36 with 12 for the Libertarian. The last couple of polls from this outlet showed Clinton with a comfortable if not overwhelming lead.
The timing of this poll probably had a lot to do with the results: It was taken beginning the very day the FBI findings on Clinton’s email usage were revealed, subsequently dominating the news the whole time these pollsters were in the field. So it probably represents a peak reaction to that event. Unsurprisingly, Clinton’s ratings for being “honest and trustworthy” took a dive, to a dismal 28/67, as did her favorability ratio (28/54), shown as basically equal to Trump’s (30/54).
If there’s any silver lining for Democrats in these numbers, it’s that a poll taken at the worst possible time still showed her even with Trump. He’s not rising in the polls, either; she’s dropping. The subsequent endorsement she received from Bernie Sanders has probably improved her standing among both Democrats (where this poll gave her a 58/19 favorability ratio) and independents (19/62). And at present, it’s a fair guess her convention will be better managed and more positive than Trump’s. Even with this latest poll, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver’s polls-only projection gives Clinton a 66 percent probability of winning, though Trump’s odds have risen from 20 percent to 34 percent in pretty short order. And she got some good news, ironically, from Fox’s state polling, which showed her up ten points in Colorado and seven in Virginia, reinforcing the theory that she’ll do well in battleground states with a concentration of college-educated white voters and Latinos.
But as I observed yesterday, it’s really time for people expecting a runaway Clinton landslide to get a grip. It could still happen, particularly if the focus on the emails fades and Trump’s divisive character and dubious “ideas” get more attention, but a close race remains likely. And in a close race, adverse polls are going to happen.