Donald Trump gets a bump in general elections polls, but there's reason to doubt that it will stick. Bill Clinton and Melania Trump might be the most unpopular spouses of presidential candidates in modern history. And Democrats and Republicans have false perceptions of each other. This is HuffPollster for Monday, May 23, 2016.
TRUMP GETS A BOOST IN EARLY GENERAL ELECTION POLLS - Steven Shepard: "Entering the general election trailing by about 7 points, Trump has rapidly erased most of that gap: As of Friday, Clinton’s advantage was down to roughly 2 points, according to the HuffPost Pollster average. And some polls, like a Fox News survey out on Wednesday, show Trump inching ahead of Clinton. The main reason for Trump’s surge over the past few weeks? He is earning increasingly larger shares of the Republican vote — even as some prominent GOP leaders, like House Speaker Paul Ryan, haven’t yet committed to supporting their party’s apparent nominee. But rank-and-file Republican voters are lining up behind Trump in large numbers, closing the gap with Clinton’s support among Democrats, which had been higher during earlier stages of the campaign…. The data point to a close race in the fall, with about a dozen or so states likely to be decisive in the Electoral College — all consistent with recent history." [Politico]
McCain saw a similar bump in 2008 - Philip Bump: “In 2008, the last time the Democrats had a contested nomination contest, Barack Obama led in head-to-head match-ups against John McCain for most of the year. There were two big exceptions: Right after the Republican convention — and right after McCain clinched his party's nomination. That happened in March, three months before the Democratic contest ended. His spike was short-lived. There are big differences between this year and 2008. One is that Post/ABC polling eight years ago consistently showed independent voters preferring Obama to McCain — even shortly after McCain clinched. In our most recent poll, independents prefer Trump by 13 points. There's overlap here with the point above, that Sanders backers haven't come around to Clinton yet….At the end of the day, Sanders supporters will have to pick from the same menu as everyone else. Our very limited history of such contests suggests that most will bite the bullet and pick the candidate they hate less. Once the Democratic contest formally ends, we'll see if that's the case — or if they simply go hungry.” [Washington Post]
TRUMP OVERTAKES CLINTON IN REALCLEARPOLITICS POLLING AVERAGE - Rebecca Savransky: "Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has overtaken Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in an average of head-to-head national polls, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls. Trump leads Clinton by 0.2 percentage points, 43.4 percent to 43.2 percent in the average, overtaking the Democratic front-runner for the first time in the average of polls. Several recent surveys have shown Trump with an advantage over Clinton." [The Hill]
HuffPost Pollster’s average shows Clinton still slightly ahead - The HuffPost Pollster average shows Clinton up by 1.6 percentage points, with 43.6 percent to his 42 percent. There are two big differences between our average and the RealClearPolitics average that cause the discrepancy: which polls are included, and how the average is calculated. HuffPost Pollster includes all publicly available polling that meets our transparency requirements, and includes some polls and pollsters that RCP does not. For the average calculation, RealClearPolitics uses a “rolling average” of the last five polls, meaning that the current average is the arithmetic mean of those five surveys. HuffPost Pollster's chart uses a method called the Kalman filter, which produces an average for each day by looking at all of the polls within a certain range of that date. The Kalman filter accounts for the polls’ sample sizes and is inherently distrustful of polls that differ wildly from most other polls. The method also does simulations of the polling averages to determine the probability that one candidate or the other leads. So even though Clinton is only 1.6 percentage points ahead of Trump, the simulations show that she leads 80 percent of the time, meaning there's an 80 percent probability that polling still has her ahead.
CANDIDATES’ SPOUSES MIGHT ALSO HAVE RECORD UNFAVORABLES THIS YEAR - Brian Frederick and Laurel Elder: "There have been fewer polls asking about Melania Trump than Bill Clinton so far in the 2016 campaign but what indicators are available suggest the public is more negative than positive about her so far. If this trend were to continue over the course of the campaign she would be the only spouse of the past two decades with a net negative favorability rating….While they are certainly viewed as distinct political entities in their own right, and they possess a somewhat unique ability to rise above the political fray, citizens’ feeling toward the candidates’ spouses are colored by their own views of the presidential candidates themselves….Since Melania Trump is not a well known quantity among most Americans much of the reaction to her is mediated by how the public feels toward Donald Trump...For Bill Clinton an opposite trend may develop over the course of the campaign. As he engages in more partisan attacks on Trump and the GOP ticket his negatives should rise even further as Republican voters start to associate him even more strongly with the views of Hillary Clinton." [HuffPost]
A LOT OF BELIEFS ABOUT THE OPPOSITE PARTY ARE WRONG - John Sides: "Our internal pictures of the opposite party are terribly inaccurate. When asked about the groups historically associated with each party, we think these groups make up a vastly larger fraction of each party than they really do….On average, Americans thought that 32 percent of Democrats are gay, lesbian or bisexual. The correct answer is 6 percent. And they thought that 38 percent of Republicans made more than $250,000 a year. The correct answer is 2 percent. It goes on from there. Americans overestimate the percentage of Democrats who are black, union members or atheists. They overestimate the percentage of Republicans who are seniors, evangelicals or Southerners. These misperceptions are even worse when people are evaluating the opposite party….You might think that these misperceptions are concentrated among people who generally ignore politics. It’s the opposite: People who pay attention to political news have worse misperceptions in almost every case." [WashPost]
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:
-Daniel Kreiss thinks Donald Trump's aversion to data will hurt the Republican Party in future elections. [WashPost]
-Joshua Darr explains how Trump's contempt for data could also hurt the GOP this year. 
-Sam Wang says election polls are the most informative in February and August. [Princeton]
-Elizabeth Llorente finds that President Obama is more popular among Latino voters than Hillary Clinton, a reversal from 2008. [Fox News Latino]
-Early battleground polls show a potentially tight presidential race in Ohio and Florida. [CBS]
-Republicans are paying more attention to the presidential race than Democrats. [Gallup]
-Obama's approval rating has improved most among Hispanics, Americans under 30, women, and independents. [WashPost]