HUFFPOLLSTER: Fox News Poll Finds Donald Trump Leading Hillary Clinton

Keep calm and look at the polling averages.

Donald Trump has gained ground on Hillary Clinton in the polls, but keep in mind that there could be a lot of movement in the polls over the next few months. Polls showing strong support for an independent candidate don’t necessarily mean people would vote for one. And Americans are divided over transgender bathroom choice. This is HuffPollster for Thursday, May 19, 2016.

EXPECT TRUMP TO BRAG ABOUT THIS POLL A LOT - Dana Blanton: "Donald Trump tops Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, according to a new Fox News Poll that also finds majorities of voters feel both frontrunners lack strong moral values and will say anything to get elected. Trump has a 45-42 percent edge over Clinton, if the presidential election were held today. That’s within the poll’s margin of sampling error. Clinton is ahead by 14 points among women (50-36 percent). Yet Trump leads by a larger 22 points among men (55-33 percent). He also tops Clinton by 37 points (61-24 percent) among whites without a college degree (working-class whites). Overall, Trump is preferred by 24 points among whites (55-31 percent).  He’s even ahead by nine among white women (47-38 percent)." [Fox]

Clinton viewed more negatively than Trump - More from Blanton: "A record 61 percent have a negative view of the likely Democratic nominee...That’s up from 58 percent in March. Fifty-six percent have an unfavorable view of Trump -- though that’s actually good news for Donald.  Because it was 65 percent two months ago (that was a record high). Thirty-seven percent have a favorable opinion of Clinton, down two points from 39 percent in March, establishing a new low.  The likely Republican nominee’s favorable jumped over the same time period: 41 percent view Trump positively, up from 31 percent in March. Trump’s net -30 rating among women is better than Clinton’s net -44 rating among men (27 favorable vs. 71 unfavorable).  She even has a net negative rating among women:  46 favorable vs. 53 unfavorable."  [Fox]  

Trump has definitely gained ground since securing the nomination - Fox is the only poll to show Trump leading against Clinton since he secured the Republican nomination in early May, but national polls since then have shown him closing in on Clinton, as well as in a hypothetical matchup against Sen. Bernie Sanders. Last week’s Quinnipiac polls in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania showed the same trend at the state level. That’s to be expected when the field clears and the party can begin to rally around its nominee. HuffPost Pollster's model, which includes all publicly available polling, gives Clinton an average lead of just under 3 points, but expect that to shift during the summer as both parties hold their conventions and move toward the general election.

Don't focus too much on one poll - Andrew Gelman: "Preelection polls jump all over the place. Sometimes Hillary Clinton’s ahead by 20 points, other times she and Donald Trump are nearly tied. Jumping polls can make for frenzied reporting, but much of this is just noise. Polls fluctuate... We should care about this because it’s all too easy to launch into a new story for each poll: Hillary’s up because she did this, she’s down because she did that, and so forth. But if we try to explain each roll of the dice, we’re overexplaining — and, ultimately, explaining nothing…. Remember the big story from a few months ago — Trump’s lead in the polls, and then every blip, every time he dropped by a few points in some survey, was taken as evidence that he’d finally peaked and was doomed? But it didn’t happen. Those blips were just blips. So I’m saying now what I could’ve said then: Don’t take these blips so seriously." [WashPost]

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ANOTHER HYPED POLL SHOWS STRONG SUPPORT FOR AN INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE - Sarah Rumpf (R): "Americans are so dissatisfied with the presidential candidates from the two major parties that a third party independent effort is truly viable for the first time since Abraham Lincoln’s election helped the Republicans replace the Whigs. That’s the shocking result of a new national poll, released to Heat Street this morning….According to the poll, 58% of respondents are dissatisfied with the current Republican and Democratic candidates for President. Fifty-five percent favor having a third party independent candidate for president, including a stunning 91% of voters under the age of 29. A total of 65% of voters are at least somewhat, pretty or very willing to support a candidate for President who is not Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton...When the survey respondents were given a ballot test between Trump, Clinton, and a third party independent candidate, Trump received 34%, Clinton 31%, the independent 21%, and 13% unsure." [Heat Street]

But the reality is that these candidates rarely get enough votes to matter - HuffPollster: "For voters, professing openness to a third-party candidate may be appealing for the same reason that people are increasingly likely to describe themselves as independents — it registers as a statement of dissatisfaction with the existing options, and allows them to paint themselves as being above the partisan fray. Plenty of other polls this year have found even higher support for a third-party candidate. But there’s reason to doubt that many of those voters will end up backing someone else in November. Back in April 2012, 40 percent of voters said they’d 'definitely consider' or “probably consider” supporting an alternative to Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Such an insurrection never materialized….And, just as there’s a difference between wanting a Republican to win and supporting Donald Trump, there’s a dramatic gap between the ideal of Someone Who Isn’t Trump Or Clinton and the reality of whoever would actually choose to run….Until a viable third-party candidate actually declares for office, polls about one can’t reliably predict how likely voters are to defect. But they do serve as a measure of dissatisfaction across the ideological spectrum." [HuffPost]

AMERICANS DIVIDED ON TRANSGENDER BATHROOM ISSUE - Megan Thee-Brenan: "The public is sharply divided along age, party and education lines over whether transgender people should be allowed to use public bathrooms that match their gender identity rather than their gender at birth, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. While less than a majority, 46 percent of Americans say they think that transgender people should be allowed to use only public restrooms corresponding to their gender at birth. A smaller number, 41 percent, think transgender people should be allowed to use the restroom that matches the gender they identify with. Democrats, college graduates and those under the age of 45 are more supportive of allowing for gender identity in bathroom choice...Nearly six in 10 Americans say they think decisions about which bathroom transgender students can use in public schools should be left to individual state or local governments to decide." [NYT]

THURSDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-Danielle Paquette explains how Bill Clinton could help Hillary Clinton win votes among Republican men. [WashPost]

-Neil King Jr. and Aaron Zitner think it will be difficult for Clinton and Donald Trump to overcome their negatives. [WSJ]

-Toni Monkovic looks at a 2011 poll that may have foreshadowed Trump's success as a candidate. [NYT}  

-Frank Newport analyzes public opinion on policy proposals Trump has suggested. [Gallup]

-Americans are more upbeat about their personal finances than the economy as a whole. [AP]

-An increasing majority of voters supports legalization of medical marijuana. [HuffPost]