HUFFPOLLSTER: Polls Show Clinton And Trump In A Close Race Ahead Of First Debate

National polls and surveys in key states show Donald Trump edging closer to Hillary Clinton.

Typically the candidate leading before the debates wins the election. The race is getting closer nationally and in critical states. And most Americans aren’t all that concerned about being victims of a terrorist attack. This is HuffPollster for Monday, September 26, 2016.

DEBATES DON’T USUALLY CHANGE THE ELECTION - Dante Chinni - “The presidential debates are generally considered the last big opportunity to move voters before the election. They offer rare moments for Americans to do some head-to-head comparison shopping between two candidates on the same stage discussing the issues. And yet, according to the numbers, the debates have done little to change the fundamental structure of recent presidential races. Looking at pre-debate NBC News/Wall Street Journal presidential polls and the final election results since 1992, there is only one campaign where the debate may have made a serious difference — 2000. In every other case, the candidate that led going into the debates wound up winning on Election Day…. Does that mean debates never matter? No.… But changing an election? The lone debate between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter in 1980 is often cited as an example of one that did, but the evidence for that isn’t completely clear…. Considering the high-stakes moments that the debates create one might expect them to matter more to the bottom line, but remember debates happen late — very late — in the campaign…. Voter’s images of the candidates are usually well-formed.” [NBC

But the race is getting closer headed into this debate - New national polls out over the weekend show a close race. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Sunday has Hillary Clinton up by 2 points, and a YouGov/Economist poll has her up by 3 points. But a newly-released Bloomberg Politics poll, conducted by Selzer & Co., shows Donald Trump leading by 2 points when third party candidates are included. Morning Consult reported Trump leading by 1 point, and a Quinnipiac University poll has Clinton up by 1 point. The HuffPost Pollster models are still crunching these results as of publication time, but before the Bloomberg and Quinnipiac releases on Monday morning, the chart was showing a 4-point Clinton lead. [WashPost, YouGov, Bloomberg, Morning Consult, Quinnipiac]  

Narrower races are emerging in some critical states - Virginia still looks like a solid Clinton state, with CBS/YouGov and Christopher Newport University polls showing the Democrat up by substantial margins. But Colorado and Pennsylvania ― which previously showed solid Clinton leads ― could become more competitive. [Virginia chart, CBS/YouGov, Christopher Newport]

-Colorado: Two new polls of the Centennial State show the race within a single percentage point. CBS/YouGov shows Clinton leading by 1 point, and CNN/ORC shows Trump leading by the same margin. Prior to these polls, Clinton held a 4-5 point lead, according to HuffPost Pollster’s aggregate throughout the summer and early fall. But the evidence for a strong Clinton lead has gotten less convincing in the last few weeks. [Colorado chart, CBS/YouGov, CNN/ORC]

-Pennsylvania: Clinton’s lead was even larger in the Keystone State, averaging 5-7 points over the last few months, but that could be narrowing as well. A Muhlenberg College/Morning Call poll released over the weekend showed Clinton leading Trump by 3 points, and a CNN/ORC poll out Monday morning has Clinton leading by only 1 point. [Pennsylvania chart, Muhlenberg, CNN/ORC]

Why Democrats should worry about Colorado and Pennsylvania - Assuming Clinton wins the usual Democratic strongholds plus New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Michigan, where she has solid leads, these two states would push Clinton to a winning 273 electoral votes without any other battleground states. Without Colorado’s 9 electoral votes, or Pennsylvania’s 20, Clinton needs to win at least one of Ohio, Florida or North Carolina. Those states are essentially tied. [Ohio chart, Florida chart, North Carolina chart]

AMERICANS FRUSTRATED WITH ‘CAT FIGHTING’ IN ELECTION - Laurie Kellman and Emily Swanson: “Carol Jones knows what she wants to hear Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump discuss during their first televised debate: education and jobs. She’s far from sure which candidate will earn her vote on Election Day. ‘All we see is the cat fighting,’ says the Shirley, Arkansas, retired substitute teacher…. A majority of Americans, like Jones, say they’re frustrated, angry — or both — with the 2016 presidential election, according to a new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Most Americans aren’t feeling proud or hopeful about the race, and half feel helpless, the results find. Majorities of Americans want more focus on issues that are important to them... Apathy isn’t the problem, the survey found. Eighty-six percent of Americans are paying at least some attention to the race…. The survey found that nearly two-thirds of Americans say the campaign focuses too little on the issues that matter to them personally. More than 6 in 10 Americans of both parties agree.” [AP]

MOST AMERICANS STILL AREN’T ALL THAT SCARED ABOUT THE WORLD - HuffPollster: “Last weekend’s bombing in New York City set off another wave of discussions about how fears of terrorism could affect the 2016 election ― but it didn’t leave Americans particularly shaken up, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll suggests. Twenty-one percent of Americans say they’re ‘very scared’ about the way things are going in the world today, and 71 percent say they’re at least somewhat scared, little changed from the 22 percent and 70 percent, respectively, who said the same in a HuffPost/YouGov survey taken last December. Also virtually unchanged was the percentage of Americans who say they worry a great deal that they or someone in their family will become a victim of terrorism ― 12 percent in the most recent survey, and 13 percent last winter….Americans who think Trump would make the country safer are, by almost every measure, more concerned about their safety than the rest of the public. They’re more than twice as likely as their fellow countrymen ― 32 percent, as opposed to 15 percent ― to say they’re ‘very scared’ about the way things are going in the world today.” [HuffPost]

VOTING IS ALREADY UNDERWAY IN SOME STATES - Michael McDonald: “Early voting has started in a number of states and we’re getting the first hard data on actual voters. So, it is time to start digging into the data to get a sense of where the 2016 presidential election stands…. Early voting is just a dribble now, with 9,525 people who have voted (in the reporting states and localities). Over 100 million people will vote, and the pace of early voting will naturally increase as we approach Election Day when more people finalize their choices….The Iowa, Maine, and North Carolina early voting statistics appear to confirm the polling averages...Clinton does better where voters appear to be more engaged, as measured by absentee ballot requests, and Trump does better where interest is running lower. This has important implications for polling, as Clinton does better among the universe of registered voters and less so among likely voters…. The varying levels of engagement across states and regions strikes me as different from past elections. Usually, we are all in the same boat when it comes to interest and participation in the election.” [HuffPost]

HUFFPOLLSTER VIA EMAIL! - You can receive this daily update every weekday morning via email! Just click here, enter your email address, and click “sign up.” That’s all there is to it (and you can unsubscribe anytime).

MONDAY’S ‘OUTLIERS’ - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-Peter Aldhous writes that polling failures in Britain provide a cautionary tale about the medium’s “inconvenient truths.” [Buzzfeed]

-Nate Silver writes that Hillary Clinton leads “tenuously” in a race that continues to look highly uncertain. [538]

-Mark Blumenthal shares some data on expectations for Monday night’s debate. [SurveyMonkey]

-John McCormick finds high-income voters backing Hillary Clinton. [Bloomberg]

-Scott Thistle notes that Maine could split its electoral votes for the first time. [Portland Press Herald]

-Emily Swanson and Vivian Salama find that most Americans don’t admire Vladimir Putin’s leadership qualities. [AP]

-Laura Wronski breaks down the electorate by media consumption. [SurveyMonkey]

-Kyle Dropp and Brendan Nyhan find birtherism diminished, but far from dead. [NYT]