New Polls In Ohio And Florida Offer Worrying Results For Hillary Clinton

Both states look increasingly like battlegrounds.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is trailing Donald Trump in Ohio and Florida in newly released polls.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is trailing Donald Trump in Ohio and Florida in newly released polls.

Ohio and Florida are both looking like close races in this year’s presidential election, according to new polling released Wednesday that gives Donald Trump the edge in both states.

Polls from both Bloomberg Politics and CNN in Ohio give Trump a 5-point lead over Hillary Clinton. Bloomberg’s survey, conducted by Selzer & Co., finds Trump ahead 44 percent to 39 percent among likely voters when third-party candidates are included, and up 48 percent to 43 percent in a head-to-head match with Clinton. CNN/ORC gives Trump 46 percent to Clinton’s 41 percent, among likely voters, with Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson taking 8 percent and Green Party nominee Jill Stein 2 percent. In a two-way matchup, Trump led 50 percent to 46 percent.

A second CNN poll, in Florida, finds Trump up by 3 points, 47 percent to 44 percent, with Johnson taking 6 percent and Stein 1 percent. In a head-to-head, Trump leads by 4 points.

It’s rarely a good idea to look at any surveys in the absence of context ― even good pollsters can differ substantially, and it’s often difficult to predict whose picture of the electorate will be more on the mark. Both CNN’s and Bloomberg’s polls in Ohio, for instance, show an electorate that’s notably more Republican than that of some other recent surveys.

But the results offer increasing evidence that polling has tightened since the days of Clinton’s more commanding leads over the summer.

HuffPost Pollster’s averages have always shown a relatively close race in both Ohio and Florida, especially in comparison with Clinton’s far healthier leads in states like Wisconsin, Virginia and Colorado. But coming off a post-convention bounce, Clinton led in nearly every poll of Ohio and Florida taken during August.

That’s no longer the case. In Florida, polls of head-to-head matchups taken since the beginning of September have all shown fairly narrow margins, ranging between a 2-point lead for Clinton and a 3-point lead for Trump. HuffPost Pollster’s model, reflecting a set of far better results for Clinton during August, puts her over Trump by just under 3 points, although that’s likely to drop if other surveys confirm CNN’s results.

In Ohio, recent polls have shown everything from a 7-point Clinton lead to a 5-point Trump advantage, but four of the five newest surveys give the edge to Trump. HuffPost Pollster’s model shows Trump and Clinton effectively tied at about 43 percent.

It’s not yet clear how much, if any, of the change is due to last weekend’s news cycle, during which Clinton walked back a comment describing half of Trump’s supporters as “deplorables” and then announced she’d been diagnosed with pneumonia.

Another question is to what extent the swings represent genuine shifts in public opinion. One theory, called “differential nonresponse,” argues that shifts in public polling are overstated, and often reflect a change not in what voters think, but in how likely they are to answer a survey at that particular moment.

“Some of the change may involve a small number of Republicans who, for whatever reason, are momentarily more inclined to be interviewed than they were a few weeks ago (or a small number of Democrats who are less inclined),” SurveyMonkey’s Mark Blumenthal wrote Wednesday. “Some involves less politically engaged voters shifting their opinions. The odds are good it’s some combination of the two.”

Clinton still leads in national polls by an average of nearly 4 points, down from 8 points during the summer, but still on par with President Barack Obama’s widest leads over Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential election. A Quinnipiac University survey, also released Wednesday, gave her a 5-point edge over Trump.