Race tightens, but Clinton still the likely winner

With just days to go until the election on Wednesday in Australia, opinion polls indicate Hillary Clinton’s lead in the Electoral College has been reduced following the announcement of an investigation by the FBI into the use of a private email server when she was Secretary of State.

She now leads in states worth 317 Electoral Votes (EVs), while Donald Trump leads in states worth 221 EVs. Since last week, Iowa (6 EVs) and Ohio (18 EVs) have moved from tied to Trump leads, while Nevada (6 EVs) has flipped from a Clinton lead to a Trump lead (see above map from ElectoralVote).

Clinton now leads by five points or more in states worth 260 EVs, down from 273 on Monday (light and dark blue states), so she now has less than a majority (270 EVs) in such states. Trump leads by five points or more in states worth 168 EVs, up sharply from 105 on Monday (light and dark red states).

Owing to his extreme anti-Clinton rhetoric, Trump has won back some Republican base voters who were formerly undecided or third party voters. While his numbers have improved across the board, Trump’s biggest gains have come in states like Texas, Indiana and Missouri. In Utah, Trump has pulled well ahead of both Clinton and conservative Independent Evan McMullin.

The Huffington Post Pollster national aggregate still has Clinton clearly ahead with 45.9%, followed by Trump on 40.4%, Libertarian Gary Johnson on 4.9%, 5.4% undecided and 3.4% for Others including Green Jill Stein. On Monday, Clinton led by 46.4-40.1. While some polls have shown drops for Clinton, other polls are much the same as before the FBI announcement.

Much of the movement from negative headlines about a candidate may be explained by non-response bias. When one candidate is enduring negative headlines, that candidate’s supporters become depressed, and are less likely to respond to polls. However, it is likely that these supporters will still vote, so polls may exaggerate the movement arising from negative headlines.

Pollster charts give Trump a 60% unfavourable, 38% favourable rating (61-36 on Monday) and Clinton a 55% unfavourable, 43% favourable rating (54-43 on Monday). (In comparison, President Barack Obama has a 52% approve, 46% disapprove job performance rating (52-45 on Monday).)

Clinton is clearly still ahead in the Electoral College and the popular vote. Unless there is either another major negative story about her in the closing days, or an across the board polling error in Trump’s favour, Clinton is the likely winner.

Early Voting

In the Republican primaries, Trump generally had a wider margin in early voting than his final margin. His supporters were very enthusiastic, and voted for him early. This may also be happening in the general election, but it remains to be seen whether this enthusiasm will extend to election day.

The early voting shows that Clinton could have a problem with black voters turning out. The black share of the early vote is down on Obama’s share at the same time. Over 90% of black voters go to the Democrats, so a lower turnout would be a blow for Clinton.

While Clinton is struggling to get black voters to the polls, Hispanics are turning out at a higher rate. A poll of Hispanics has Clinton winning that demographic by a crushing 78-19 margin. Hispanic support for Clinton has much more to do with negative attitudes to Trump than positive feelings for Clinton.

Generally, early voting data is suggesting a high turnout, particularly from unaffiliated registered voters – those who do not register with either major party. While polls of self-identified Independents usually show them leaning to Trump, polls of registered unaffiliated voters show them leaning to Clinton. Many Republicans dislike their own party, and say that they are Independents, but support Republican candidates.

In Nevada, early voting suggests a strong advantage for Clinton, in contrast to current polls showing a close race. Polls have often underestimated the Democrats in Nevada, so the early voting data is more credible.

Congressional elections

One-third of the Senate is up for election every two years. Currently the Republicans have a 54-46 majority, but they are defending 24 of the 34 seats up for election this year, while the Democrats are only defending 10.

Including seats not up for election, Republicans lead in 51 seats, and Democrats in 49. Since last week, Missouri has flipped from a Republican to Democrat lead, Indiana from a Democrat to Republican lead and Pennsylvania from tied to a Democrat lead. Here is this week’s Senate map from ElectoralVote.

Electoral College map from Electoral Votes

There are seven contests where the current margin is within four points, three with Democrats ahead and four with Republicans ahead. If one side were to sweep all these contests, that side would have a decisive Senate majority.

In the House, the Pollster Congressional ballot has Democrats leading by 45.9-42.5, with 9.7% undecided and 1.9% for Others. A three point margin is unlikely to be enough for the Democrats to win the House, owing to gerrymandering. The Democrats will need to win over most of the undecided to have a chance.

Author

Dr Adrian Beaumont

Election Watch polls analyst

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