Any way you look at it, polls offer terrible news for Trump

REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Obama’s relatively good ratings connect to the assumption that if Clinton represents a sort-of third Obama term and Trump represents change, it will help Clinton if voters are feeling good about Obama.

As I have done previously, I advise cool-headed, patient skepticism toward the dramatic – and it really is dramatic — recent improvements in Hillary Clinton’s standing in almost all polls against Donald Trump. 

But it’s impossible not to be impressed by the breadth and depth of the movement, so I’m going to break down and provide a summary for your weekend reading. 

Using the aggregation of polls by Real Clear Politics, here’s an overview: 

Polling organization IBD/TPP has fresh numbers for Friday on the race nationally. They show Clinton ahead of Trump 46-39 nationally in a two-way race. When the third and fourth party candidacies of Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein are included, Clinton still leads Trump but only by 39-35, with Johnson receiving the support of 12 percent and Stein five. 

(You probably already noticed this, but while the Libertarian ticket used to draw support mostly from the far right and therefore away from the Republican ticket, something about Johnson’s goofy likability and the fact that some of his less-government instincts apply to marijuana seem to have enabled him to also draw support from lefties who are unenthusiastic about Clinton. Based on past history, it’s best to assume that the third- and fourth-party tickets will slip toward the end because of the “wasted vote” argument, but you never know.) 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has fresh numbers on the race in Georgia. You need to know that Georgia, which is now the eighth most populous state and carries 16 electoral votes, has not been considered a serious swing state over recent cycles, but fairly solidly red. Politico, for example, follows 11 battleground states, but not Georgia. But the AJC, the state’s biggest paper, has Clinton leading Trump by 44-40 in a two-way race or 38-35 if Johnson (12 percent) and Stein (five percent) are included. 

The day’s new Real Clear polls also have fresh approval ratings for President Obama by Gallup, Rasmussen and IBD/TPP.  Gallup has approval/disapproval at 50-45. IBD has 52-40. Rasmussen (which is often the outlier in a direction that causes many Democrats to suspect bias) has Obama’s approval under water at 48-51. 

To put this into context, you should know that Gallup – which takes a presidential approval rating poll every week, showed Obama below 50 for 147 straight weeks starting in May of 2013. At the bottom of his range in 2014 he touched 40 percent several times, but never fell into the 30s. In March of this year, he scored above 50 percent approval for the first time in three years and has fluctuated between 48 and 53 for the last five months. (During that period, even when he has fallen slightly below 50, the approvers always outnumbered the disapprovers (because of the don’t-knowers). 

Obama’s relatively good ratings connect to the assumption that if Clinton represents a sort-of third Obama term and Trump represents change, it will help Clinton if voters are feeling good about Obama. And Obama himself, who has made clear that he is prepared to do what he can to recommend Clinton to the electorate, is obviously a much better ally if the electorate views him more positively than negatively. 

On Thursday, RCP aggregated 13 different polls matching Clinton against Trump, either national or in such swing states as Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Hampshire. Clinton led in every one, by margins ranging from a statistically insignificant one percentage point up to 15 points. 

One site, Race 4 2016, seems to pick up many polls that Real Clear Politics doesn’t, and led me to this one, by Fox News, which I thought was particularly worth mentioning because Republicans are less likely to discredit the source and because it’s so incredibly bad for Trump. 

Fox has shown Clinton ahead nationally in seven straight polls since February but the latest one found her ahead by double digits (49-39). Clinton supporters said, by a 50-44 margin, that their vote would be more “for” Clinton than “against Trump.” Trump supporters, by a 52-44 margin, said their vote would more “against” Clinton. 

Democrats, when asked (this was after Bernie Sanders had conceded) whether they would rather have Clinton or Sanders as their nominee said Clinton, 56-41, which is still an impressive measure of the power of Sanders’ insurgency. 

But Republicans, when asked whether they would like their nominee to be Trump or “someone else,” chose Trump by just 50-49. (Of course, perhaps that allows them to imagine the perfect Mr. or Ms. Someone Else, but it is nonetheless a strong indication that a lot of Republicans are not on the Trump bandwagon —or might be persuaded to get off.) 

Fox asked this question: 

“Regardless of how you might vote, who do you trust to do a better job on each of the following if they were elected president — Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?” 

On 11 issues, the Fox Poll sample had more confidence — and in many cases a lot more — in Clinton than they did in Trump: 

Climate change: Clinton 59; Trump 28

Race relations: Clinton 60; Trump 32

Education: Clinton 58; Trump 35

Drug addiction: Clinton 54; Trump 35

Foreign policy: Clinton 55; Trump 39

Health care: Clinton 53; Trump 42

Immigration: Clinton: 51; Trump 44

Making decisions about using nuclear weapons: Clinton 56; Trump 34

Looking out for you and your family during tough economic times: Clinton: 51; Trump 40

Nominating the next Supreme Court justice: Clinton: 51; Trump: 43 

Preserving and protecting the U.S. Constitution: Clinton: 49; Trump: 42 

There were two issues on which the candidates came out tied:

Restoring trust in government: Clinton: 43; Trump 43

Terrorism and National Security: Clinton 47; Trump 47

And there were three issues on which the poll sample felt Trump would do a better job: 

The federal deficit: Trump 49; Clinton 44.

The Economy: Trump 50; Clinton 45.

Destroying terrorist groups like ISIS: Trump 51; Clinton 42. 

Then came the questions of qualifications, knowledge, character and experience, some of which were less than flattering to Clinton but all of which were devastating for Trump, including: 

“Regardless of how you might vote, how qualified do you think Hillary Clinton is to be president of the United States?”

Very: 40; Somewhat: 32; Not very: 9; Not at all: 26

“Regardless of how you might vote, how qualified do you think Donald Trump is to be president of the United States?” 

Very: 15; Somewhat: 28; Not Very: 13; Not at all: 45

“Do you think Hillary Clinton is honest and trustworthy, or not?”

Yes: 36; No: 61; Don’t Know: 3

“Do you think Donald Trump is honest and trustworthy, or not?”

Yes: 36; No: 62; Don’t Know: 3

“Do you think Hillary Clinton has the temperament to serve effectively as president?”

Yes: 64; No: 34; Don’t Know: 2;

“Do you think Donald Trump has the temperament to serve effectively as president?”

Yes: 37; No: 61; Don’t know: 2

“Do you think Hillary Clinton has the knowledge to serve effectively as president?”

Yes: 72; No: 26; Don’t Know:  1

“Do you think Donald Trump has the knowledge to serve effectively as president?”

Yes: 40; No: 59; Don’t Know: 1 

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Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by Jim Million on 08/06/2016 - 01:47 pm.

    So, Current Clarity

    This is a place to note that Fox polling tends to be pretty straight, as your detail demonstrates.
    Proper polling takes no editorial view. Perhaps that’s one reason FNC viewers represent a far more diverse philosophical demographic than detractors know or admit, as far as its “news” audience goes.
    As with all cable news outlets, commentary programming is not “news,” and gathers a crowd of particular persuasion.

    I check in with all three outfits. What RNC convention coverage I watched was on MSNBC—very straight true news reporting from the floor during the day, naturally slightly shaped later by their “commentators.” The DNC stuff I watched on FNC and some on MSNBC, finding similar relationships of news to commentary. I don’t spend much time with CNN any longer, simply because they seem to have truly declined in terms of on-air sophistication. They must retain ratings partly due to being the cable news channel included in lower tier packages. Not sure.

    I know its very difficult for some, including Eric, to acknowledge anything positive about FNC. If you boycott it, you really cannot comment…something about a closed mind being a good thing to lose. If you do want some straight data, then do follow their polls, in addition to others.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/06/2016 - 07:35 pm.

    The problem is

    that all of these questions do not carry equal weight in determining how people vote.
    The last three items are scare questions, particularly the one on dealing with terrorism, and could potentially outweigh all of the rest.

  3. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/07/2016 - 09:53 am.


    I think polls consistently and rather dangerously underestimate Trump’s strength because people polled are afraid or at least unwilling to express their real views to pollsters.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/08/2016 - 09:12 am.


      When has that ever happened? The so-called “Bradley Effect” was actually a candidate getting overconfident and easing up on his campaign. It was supposed to have happened in 2008 and 2012, when survey respondents were afraid to admit to an anonymous voice on the telephone that they would not be voting for Obama.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/09/2016 - 09:42 am.

      Cuts both ways

      It’s also more likely that the supports of extreme candidates will get cold feet at the last minute and vote for someone else.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 08/09/2016 - 12:27 pm.

      Very true…

      Even with Trump at 40% or so, trying to find defenders or even someone with a bumper sticker or goofy hat is rare at best. Trump voters are out there and they are just too ashamed to say so until they get to the privacy of the voting booth.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/09/2016 - 01:57 pm.

        I Don’t Get It

        They are too ashamed to admit they will vote for Trump, but will do it anyway?

        Talk about your cognitive dissonance.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 08/19/2016 - 04:57 am.


      Today I heard a talking head note that follow-up data dissection of late 2012 polls show the true margin of projected spread should have been 3%, not the 1% we were told at the time. The question was: Does narrower spread stimulate or deter turnout? Perhaps some of those polled intended to vote for Obama but chose to not reveal that to the pollsters, as in the Trump example. Then, of course, the best poll has a statistical error projection of +/- 3%, so everyone’s covered.

      According to some current State polling and extrapolation, HRC already has the electors to seal her deal. Maybe all True Blues should relax. Hey, football has started!! That’s where I’ll be until February.

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/15/2016 - 02:46 pm.


    Now we are learning why it doesn’t make sense to pay attention to polls.

  5. Submitted by Joseph Ryan on 12/09/2016 - 07:30 pm.


    well they were wrong were they not we should not pay too much attention to polls

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