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We got another set of mixed results on Monday on whether the election has tightened further as a result of FBI Director James Comey’s letter to Congress about Hillary Clinton’s email server. Overall, however, this is a fairly negative set of data for Clinton. First, we’ll start with polls that were conducted entirely since the news broke on Friday:
- A Morning Consult national poll for Politico, conducted Saturday and Sunday, has Clinton leading Donald Trump by 3 percentage points. That’s down from a 6-point lead in a poll Morning Consult conducted on Oct. 19-20 after the third presidential debate. But Morning Consult also conducted a poll last Thursday and Friday — included with this morning’s release — that had shown the race tightening, with Clinton holding a 3-point lead. So this poll shows Trump closing the gap with Clinton, but not necessarily because of Comey.
- The Times Picayune-Lucid national tracking poll, conducted Friday through Sunday, has Clinton up by just 1 percentage point — as close as Trump has ever been to Clinton in that poll — although there isn’t a huge swing from the pre-Comey version of the poll, which had Clinton ahead by 3 points.
- A set of eight automated polls of swing states conducted on Sunday by Remington Research Group on behalf of the Republican consulting firm Axiom Strategies showed Trump gaining 1 percentage point, on average, as compared with polls they conducted a week earlier.
There are also several polls that straddle the period before and after Comey’s announcement:
- A Monmouth University poll of Indiana, conducted Thursday through Sunday, showed Trump leading Clinton by 11 points, compared with a 4-point lead earlier this month. The Senate portion of the poll also contained bad news for Democrats, with Republican Todd Young pulling into a tie with Democrat Evan Bayh.
- The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times and IBD/TIPP national tracking polls each showed a bit of movement in Trump’s direction. The ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll, meanwhile, has Clinton up 1, which is unchanged from Sunday but nonetheless a bad result for her, and Clinton trailed Trump by 1 point in the portion of the poll conducted since Comey’s announcement.
- Now for some better results for Clinton: The Rasmussen Reports national tracking poll had her pulling into a 3-point lead from a tie previously. SurveyMonkey’s 50-state tracking poll also showed Clinton steady to gaining slightly in many states. And while they don’t show a ballot test, Gallup’s national tracking poll showed no decline in Clinton’s favorable ratings.
While this is not a terrible set of numbers for Clinton — and probably not the “game changer” that the Comey news was billed as on Friday — I’ve also seen analyses that go too far in the other direction and conclude that the news hasn’t really had any impact. Clinton’s popular vote lead is down to 4.7 percentage points in our forecast, as compared with 5.7 percentage points on Friday and 7.1 percentage points two weeks ago. And Trump’s chances of winning are 24 percent in the polls-only model, up from 19 percent on Friday and 12 percent two weeks ago. Trump’s chances are 26 percent in the polls-plus model, which is converging with polls-only.
It’s not easy to tell how much of that shift reflects a reaction to Comey, as compared with a race that had been tightening already. And it remains the case that the margin is closing because Trump is gaining ground from undecided voters and third-party candidates, rather than Clinton losing support. The fact is, though, that the data we’ve gotten during the past few days is consistent with a reasonably competitive race — although one in which Clinton has the advantage — especially given the significant disagreement in the polls and the relatively high uncertainty surrounding the polling this year.
But we also haven’t seen many recent high-quality state polls from states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, which are a key part of Clinton’s electoral firewall. The next set of results from those states will go a long way toward determining just how nervous Democrats wind up being. But at this point, the election is a long way from being in the bag for Clinton. Both FiveThirtyEight’s models and betting markets give Trump about a 1 in 4 chance of winning the election, about the same chance as the Chicago Cubs have of winning the World Series.