The latest polls

This race is way tighter.  No doubt about it.  A couple things I find interesting in here:

With less than eight weeks before Election Day, Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton are locked in a tight contest, with both candidates still struggling to win the confidence of their respective bases, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll finds.

Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic nominee, has the support of 46 percent of likely voters nationwide, to 44 percent for Mr. Trump, the Republican, including those who said they were leaning toward a candidate. Looking more broadly at all registered voters, Mrs. Clinton holds a wider edge, 46 to 41 percent.

In a four-way race, Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton are tied at 42 percent each. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, has the support of 8 percent of likely voters, and the Green Party nominee, Jill Stein, takes 4 percent.

The third-party candidates draw their strongest support from younger voters. Twenty-six percent of voters ages 18 to 29 say they plan to vote for Mr. Johnson, and another 10 percent back Ms. Stein…

This is the first Times/CBS News poll of the election cycle to include a measure of likely voters. The nationwide telephone survey reached 1,433 registered voters and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. To achieve a sample that reflected the probable electorate, these voters were weighted by their responses to questions about voting history, attention to the campaign and likelihood of voting.

First, it would seem clear that– at least for now– Johnson is drawing more from Clinton than Trump.  One of the reasons that third party candidates support tends to decline as election day approaches is that the side that stands to lose more attacks that candidate hard to get those votes in the two-way race.  One of the reasons Perot did so well in 1992 is that neither Clinton nor Bush really attacked, because both sides thought Perot hurt the other one more (the idea that Perot prevented Bush’s re-election is a complete myth).  At some point, HRC may go hard after Johnson.  And lets be clear, if you generally support Democratic policies but plan on voting for Johnson, you have no idea what you are doing.  And as for Stein, she won’t even be on the ballot in many states.  No way is she ending up at 4%.

At the moment, the media is giving Clinton a way harder time than Trump.  That may be, in part, a function of them being sure she’s going to win (Seth Masket with a nice piece on this).  If that is no longer the case, the pattern of scrutiny may well change.

It’s also worth noting that Clinton is definitely doing worse with the likely voter screen (and good for the NYT for being nicely transparent on it).  This may very well reflect reality.  But not necessarily.  In 2012, Gallup ended up being led far astray by its likely voter screen.  I’m not at all saying that Democrats should start complaining about “damn likely voter screens” but just that this is something interesting to watch.

As a person who cares about the future of our country am I especially scared now?  Hell, yes.  That said, the Political Science in me thinks that 1) as election day approaches Clinton will reclaim many of the young voters currently supporting Johnson and Stein; 2) if the polls stay quite close, Trump will start getting more tough media coverage; 3) the debates are likely not to do him any favors.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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