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Election Update: Reports Of A Clinton Rebound Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

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Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the White House are still near an all-time low in the FiveThirtyEight forecasts, although they’re up a smidge from earlier in the week. Our polls-only forecast gives her a 59 percent chance of beating Donald Trump, while our polls-plus model shows her with a 58 percent chance. Some interested parties are pointing to individual polls as evidence of a Clinton rebound, but a closer look at all the data released over the past three days suggests that those people are stretching.

Yes, Clinton has gotten some good polls. A new Monmouth University survey showing her ahead by 9 percentage points in New Hampshire is a strong result. A SurveyMonkey poll finding her leading Trump by 5 points nationally is good. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll putting her up 6 points among likely voters will also warm the hearts of Clinton fans.

But the trend lines are more mixed. Here are the polls released over the past three days and finished within the last week compared to the most recent poll in the same contest from the same pollster.1

Maine People’s Resource Center Maine +9 -9
Roanoke College Virginia +16 +7 -9
Saint Leo University Florida +14 +6 -8
Ipsos National +5 -2 -7
NBC News/Wall Street Journal National +9 +5 -4
Rasmussen Reports Nevada +1 -3 -4
Siena College New York +25 +21 -4
Monmouth University Florida +9 +5 -4
Public Policy Polling North Carolina +1 -2 -3
Rasmussen Reports National -2 -5 -3
Google Consumer Surveys National +1 +1
Marquette University Wisconsin +3 +3
YouGov National +2 +2
SurveyMonkey National +2 +5 +3
CVOTER International National -3 +1 +4
USC Dornsife/LA Times National -6 -2 +4
Average -2.8
Clinton’s position isn’t improving, on average

*Finished after Sept. 15 and released Sept. 20-22

In only three of the 16 polls has the race shifted in Clinton’s direction. It’s moved toward Trump in 10. Indeed, the average poll has moved 2.8 percentage points toward Trump.

Some previous versions of these polls were taken during the height of Clinton’s post-convention bounce, so while they show her lead shrinking, she’s still out in front. Clinton still holds an advantage in the Florida surveys from Monmouth University and Saint Leo University, but she was up by much more in their previous polls, taken in mid-August. The same is true for the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal national survey compared to early August. Meanwhile, Marquette University found her advantage in Wisconsin is the same as it was in late August.

That said, there’s also solid evidence that Clinton is still in decline. The Maine People’s Resource Center survey was Clinton’s worst of any telephone poll in the state this entire cycle, and she has lost ground in North Carolina since the end of August, according to Public Policy Polling. Clinton was also well down in the Fox News surveys of Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio released late Wednesday, though we don’t have previous Fox News polls from those states to compare these results to.

There was better news for Clinton in the daily and weekly tracking polls. She picked up some ground in the CVOTER International, SurveyMonkey and USC/Los Angeles Times surveys. Yet other trackers show no trend or movement away from the Democratic nominee. Clinton is in worse shape in the Ipsos tracking poll and the Rasmussen Reports weekly survey, and the Google Consumer Surveys and YouGov polls show her steady.

Take a step back and look at all the polling released in the past few days: There were some good results for Clinton, but plenty of bad, too. This is why we build a model, of course — to look at all this data in a systematic way. And, according to both the polls-only and polls-plus models, Trump is still doing better than he was last week. That doesn’t mean he’ll be doing better still next week, but there isn’t yet clear evidence of a Clinton rebound. If the bulk of the polling data begins to show Clinton doing better than she was previously, her odds of winning the election will go up.

FiveThirtyEight: Election Update – Sept. 21, 2016


  1. We’re looking only at polls conducted since the conventions. For tracking polls, we’re looking at polls taken a week ago or the closest poll to a week ago. For the Maine’s People’s Resource Center survey, I have averaged the result over the two congressional districts and statewide. For the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which included likely voter results for the first time, I’m using the registered voter sample to keep the comparison apples to apples.

Harry Enten was a senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight.