HUFFPOLLSTER: Majorities Say Trump Or Clinton Would Threaten The Country’s Well-Being

One in five Americans say both would pose a threat.

The next president is unlikely to have much luck as a unifier. Military voters support Donald Trump, but are a little wary about giving him nukes. And we have a guide for not losing your mind over election polls. This is HuffPollster for Wednesday, September 7, 2016.

AMERICANS DON’T THINK EITHER CANDIDATE COULD UNITE THE COUNTRY - Dan Balz and Emily Guskin: “The presidential campaign has intensified long-standing political divisions, but there is one area of broad agreement among voters in both red states and blue states — a pervasive pessimism that no matter the outcome, the election will do little to unify the country, according to a Washington Post-SurveyMonkey survey of all 50 states….The Post-SurveyMonkey poll sought to assess the mood of the voters from several different angles in an effort to understand how worried voters are about the impact of a Clinton or Trump presidency on the country’s well-being ‘a great deal’ or ‘a good amount.’… Nationwide, 55 percent of registered voters say that a Clinton presidency would threaten the nation’s well-being, while 61 percent say a Trump presidency would threaten the country’s well-being. Only 4 percent nationally say neither would threaten the country’s well-being. For some voters, the prospect of either Trump or Clinton provides a similar sense of alarm. Nationally, 21 percent say both candidates represent a threat to the nation’s well-being. That number peaks in Utah, where 38 percent cite both candidates as a threat.” [WashPost]

They also think Clinton and Trump are the worst nominees in recent history - HuffPollster: “A 45 percent plurality of Americans consider Trump the worst Republican nominee from the past 40 years, while just 10 percent consider him the best. Clinton fares similarly: A 31 percent plurality say she’s the worst Democratic nominee in 40 years, with only 3 percent considering her the best. Overall, 37 percent of Americans say Trump is the worst recent nominee from either party during that time period, while 22 percent say the same of Clinton…. Part of the reason Clinton and Trump fare so poorly on this metric is simply because they’re the candidates who are currently running, which makes them the freshest in Americans’ minds. Many people, if they ever held strong opinions on Walter Mondale or Bob Dole, probably no longer do….And neither Democrats and Republicans are particularly negative about their own candidates.” [HuffPost]

ANOTHER NATIONAL POLL FINDS A CLOSE RACE - A new George Washington Battleground survey released Wednesday morning joins CNN in finding Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in a relatively tight race ― at 42 percent and 40 percent, respectively, in a four-way matchup. The group’s most recent previous survey, in April, had Clinton up by 3. The survey also found 20 percent of voters saying they were very likely to split their ticket, choosing one party’s candidate for president and another party’s candidates for other offices. Ten percent said they were likely to vote in downballot races, but to skip the presidential vote altogether. [Toplines here]

TRUMP LEADING AMONG MILITARY VOTERS - Hannah Hartig, John Lapinski and Stephanie Psyllos: “Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton by 19 points ― 55 percent to 36 percent ― among voters who are currently serving or have previously served in the U.S. military, according to the latest NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll….Despite several controversial statements regarding war veteran Sen. John McCain and Trump’s criticism of the Khan family, the GOP nominee has worked hard to secure the support of veterans and U.S. military members….Though Trump comfortably earns the support of military-affiliated voters overall, Clinton is perceived more favorably on the use of nuclear weapons. A sizable number of military and veteran voters say they would not be confident in Clinton or Trump’s ability to be an effective commander-in-chief of the nation’s military—but a slight majority would be confident in Trump (53 percent).” [NBC]

HOW TO READ POLLS UNTIL NOVEMBER WITHOUT GOING CRAZY - HuffPollster: “Right on cue, the post-Labor Day polling bonanza has begun…. This is when we start getting tons of poll releases every day, many of which will show different numbers. Those different numbers will be confusing…. So how do you navigate this crazy world of numbers?... Looking at the poll’s methodology can be a bit daunting if you’re not familiar with polling practices, but... you should simply look for basic information about how the poll was conducted. If pollsters don’t tell how they did the poll, you shouldn’t give it your attention at all. Some very basic elements polls should tell you are the dates the poll was conducted, who sponsored and actually collected the data, how they contacted the people they polled and what steps were taken to make the poll representative of all voters. The polling averages are your best friend for the next 9 weeks. HuffPost Pollster combines publicly-available polls that meet our criteria (which are mostly based on disclosing methodological information) into a single estimate of the polling trends. We do this for every major election contest in which there are five or more polls that meet our criteria.” [HuffPost]  

It’s too soon to panic over close polls - Greg Sargent: “[H]ere are a few simple ways to keep yourself from losing your mind in the race’s home stretch, which we have officially entered, now that Labor Day is behind us: Stick to the polling averages. Surprising poll results can either be outliers, or can reflect statistical noise or short term fluctuations. Fortunately, we have a remedy for this: The polling averages, which have massive samples that cover longer periods of time and help screen out the noise….Also watch the state polls... As Nate Silver has noted, the state polls have shown Clinton a bit stronger than the national ones have. We don’t really know for sure why that is or which are closer to right, the state polls or the national polls. But you should take both into account, just like the major models do — and they all show Clinton with better odds. Remember that Dems have always thought a close race is very possible. No matter how many times you hear otherwise, Democrats who are actually running this year’s presidential campaign and the outside pro-Clinton efforts have long prepared for a close finish.” [WashPost]   

Jonathan Bernstein and Rob Garver offer more advice on reading polls and averages. [Bloomberg, The Fiscal Times]

So what do the polling averages show? - The polls are indeed tightening, but Clinton still leads by 5 points in a two-way race with Trump, and a similar margin when one or both third party candidates are included in the question.

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

-MSNBC’s Chuck Todd for some reason attempts to “unskew” CNN’s poll showing Donald Trump ahead. [Mediate]

-Charles Franklin shares some thoughts on likely voter modeling. [Medium]

-Steve Shepard considers whether Trump has hit a ceiling in the polls. [Politico]

-Philip Bump examines how third party candidates could perform in states where they’re on the ballot. [WashPost]

-Maxwell Strachan looks at the racial divide in opinions of Colin Kaepernick. [HuffPost]

-Molly Ball sees the furor over “taco trucks on every corner” as emblematic of America’s attitudes toward diversity. [Atlantic]