With only about three weeks to go before our long national nightmare is over, Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by an average of about 5 points in the major national polls. The last five polls that have been published have something for everyone to hang on to: NBC/Wall Street Journal shows Clinton with an 11 point lead, Fox News has her ahead by 7, and the Washington Post has a 4 point lead, while both the LA Times/USC and Rasmussen actually have Trump with a small lead. I will go with the average and say that Clinton is leading and that that is a very good sign for her with just a short time remaining. But here are a bunch of observations after 32 years of professional polling:
- Women – from what had been a competitive race among women, Clinton has now taken a 15-20 point lead among women, compared to only a very small lead that Trump has among men. This is, of course, no surprise because Trump has touted his own life of demeaning and insulting women and there are plenty of video and audio tapes to prove it. But, interestingly, he has made this more of a campaign about gender than Clinton has. He is the candidate of an old, white, macho America and we will see how far that takes him.
- Non-Whites – Clinton appears to be consolidating her leads among Hispanics, African Americans and Asians where altogether she now shows support among at least three in four. While she always led handsomely among all three groups, the only real issue has been whether or not they are energized enough to show up in sufficient numbers to counter Trump’s white supporters. It turns out that she has been helped dramatically by Trump’s own words again. Latinos appear energized, Asian Americans are very strong, and Clinton leads with 86% of African Americans over Trump’s 9%. In the last case, the findings at NBC and Washington Post that only about 5% of African Americans are undecided is good news for her. It means they will vote in solid numbers.
- Millennials – this is critical for a convincing Clinton victory and this group of youngest voters is still not there enough for Clinton. She is leading with about a 40% share, though the Washington Post does show her with 54%, but Millennials are the difference between a smaller lead and a larger lead. Other polls reveal that third party candidates and a high level of undecided voters among 18-34 year olds prevent her from sewing up a majority victory.
- The Old White Vote – Trump does particularly well among white voters over 50 and those especially who do not have a college degree. This is the group that has dominated the two most recent off-year elections (2010 and 2014) because younger and non-white voters did not show up to vote as they had in 2008 and 2012. Trump’s post-second debate strategy of slash and burn has been implemented (I can’t say designed) to shore up his numbers among his primary base – stated simply, those whites who simply hate everything about the Clintons. At least for now, most polls show that he has regained lost ground and is polling where he was before the serial scandals went public. He has little opportunity to grow his base and no polls have ever shown him above 43%, so his only option is to raise enough of a stink about the Clintons to prevent some would-be Clinton supporters from bothering to turn out.
Resorting to his current campaign of throwing mud against the wall to see what will stick is a very risky one for Trump. First, it demeans our political discourse in ways we have never seen before. Second, it can easily backfire and continue to raise questions about his personality and fitness to be President. And third, it can turn a dislikable and distrusted Clinton into a victim.
But at least for now, despite Trump’s own bragging and the steady release of testimonials from his alleged victims, his numbers appear to have stabilized and gotten back to where they were. Clinton continues to lead – for the most part – but a combination of Trump’s harsh words, new Wikileaks evidence about Clinton and her team, and sufficient voter antipathy to Clinton to keep those who dislike both candidates home, could still work. In short, there is not anything Trump can do to grow, but he could enable her to shrink in support.
It is very very hard to see a Trump victory scenario. But don’t make any bets against him just yet.