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Polls Show Trump’s Momentum Has Stalled — For Now

About a dozen national and state polls were released on Sunday and early today. The data was noisy, with some surveys showing that Hillary Clinton had gained ground and others finding that Donald Trump had. But the overall race remains basically unchanged. Clinton has a 71 percent chance of winning according to our polls-only model and a 69 percent chance according to polls-plus. Both those numbers are up about 1 percentage point from Saturday.

Unchanged is good news for Clinton, whose lead had been shrinking for a couple of weeks. Over the past several days, Trump’s momentum has stalled. We don’t yet know whether Clinton has stopped Trump’s gains for good or if this is simply a brief respite. So let’s take this moment to zoom out and look at the broad trajectory of the race.

First, here’s Clinton’s chance of winning the election over the past four weeks:


Clinton’s chances peaked in early and mid-August, at 89 percent in polls-only and 80 percent in polls-plus (her polls-plus peak came on Aug. 8). From there, her odds steadily fell, bottoming out at 67 percent and 66 percent a couple of days after Labor Day. Since then, her chances have rebounded slightly.

Second, here’s Clinton’s projected margin in the national popular vote:


Clinton has seen less of a rebound by this measure. Her lead over Trump dropped throughout the second half of August in the polls-only model, falling from a high of 8.6 percentage points to below 4 points. Today, it’s 3.7 points. The polls-plus model factors in the economy — which has been average or slightly above average — and so always expected the race to tighten. It also accounts for post-convention bounces, so was more skeptical of Clinton’s big leads a month ago. Clinton’s advantage fell from a high of 4.5 percentage points to below 3 points last week. Right now, it’s at 2.8 percentage points.

Finally, in the Electoral College count, Clinton’s advantage has stabilized as well:


Clinton was projected to win 369 electoral votes in mid-August in the polls-only model. That number fell to a low of 303 after Labor Day. She’s currently projected to win 311. The polls-plus model has Clinton’s electoral votes at 301 after they dipped to 295 last week.

Is this a momentary pause in Clinton’s sinking, or has she plugged the leak? I don’t know. A fundamentals only projection — based on the historical relationship between economic performance and presidential elections — would show a razor-thin Clinton advantage, so Trump still has room to improve without even having to outperform the fundamentals. Of course, Trump is a historically disliked candidate, so all else being equal, we’d expect him to underperform the fundamentals — it’s just a question of by how much.

And remember that these numbers don’t reflect the latest campaign developments — Clinton saying that half of Trump’s supporters fall in a “basket of deplorables” of racists, sexists, homophobes and xenophobes, for instance. Or the announcement that Clinton had previously been diagnosed with pneumonia after she became “overheated” at an event Sunday.

For now, Trump has eliminated Clinton’s post-convention bounce. The race stands just about where it was the day before the Republican convention in mid-July.

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