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We’re spending a lot of time these days diagnosing whether Donald Trump’s position in the polls is merely bad or still getting worse. Most of the evidence on Wednesday — which included the first dusting of state polls since the second presidential debate, on Sunday night — fell into the “still getting worse” bucket. Trump’s chances are down to 14 percent in our polls-only forecast (against an 86 percent chance for Hillary Clinton) and to 17 percent, a record low for Trump, in our polls-plus forecast.
We’ll start with the three state polls that were conducted entirely after Sunday night’s debate:
- First, a Baldwin Wallace University poll showed Trump trailing Clinton by 9 percentage points in Ohio. That’s obviously an awful result for Trump — his worst poll of Ohio all year — although hard to put into context because Baldwin Wallace University hasn’t done a lot of election polling before. Their previous poll of Ohio, in February, showed Trump up by 2 points.
- Another unsightly number for Trump came from a Y2 Analytics poll of Utah, which you may remember as the state that Mitt Romney won by 48 points. It showed Trump tied with Clinton at just 26 percent of the vote, with the independent candidate Evan McMullin at 22 percent and the Libertarian Gary Johnson at 14 percent. We’re going to be adding McMullin to our model in Utah — give us a day or two on that. But in the meantime, we could also really use another poll or two of Utah to confirm or contradict this result. Although polling there in the spring sometimes showed a tight race, Trump pulled ahead by margins ranging from 7 to 15 points in a series of Utah polls in August and September. If McMullin is really polling in the 20s, however — and taking most of his voters from Trump — he could create an unpredictable finish.
- Finally, an Opinion Savvy poll of Florida put Clinton up by 3 percentage points. This is the least-worst of the post-debate polls for Trump, but still not good — it shows a slight uptick for Clinton from a late September poll, when Opinion Savvy had her ahead by less than a percentage point.
That’s it for the fully post-debate polls. But there was also a Monmouth University poll of Missouri, conducted mostly after the debate, that showed Trump up 5 percentage points there. That’s probably Trump’s best result of the day, given that Monmouth’s previous poll of Missouri, from August, had Trump up just 1 point. To keep things in perspective, however, Mitt Romney won Missouri by 9 points.
Finally, a Marquette University Law School poll of Wisconsin, conducted entirely before the debate, showed Clinton up 7 points — improved from a 3-point lead in Marquette’s mid-September poll. That’s about what we’d have expected to see from a Wisconsin poll, as our forecast has Clinton ahead there by about 8 points. In another scary bit of data for Trump, however, he did significantly worse in the portions of the poll that were conducted on Saturday and Sunday after the release of a 2005 video that showed him condoning unwanted sexual contact toward women.
There are also the national tracking polls, which variously show Trump to be rebounding slightly or Clinton to be continuing to extend her lead. Clinton also regained the lead in the Republican-leaning USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times tracking poll for the first time since Sept. 11, although we’d recommend reading this analysis of the poll from The Upshot’s Nate Cohn before you spend too much time focusing on its fluctuations.
Trump now trails Clinton by 6.5 percentage points in our popular vote forecast — by comparison, he was 4.6 points back of Clinton a week ago, on Oct. 5, before the videotape or the second debate. So he’s moving in the wrong direction as time is running out. While a Trump comeback is still mathematically feasible — Trump’s 17 percent chance in the polls-plus model, as we’ve pointed out before, is the same as your chances of losing a “game” of Russian roulette — it wouldn’t really have any good precedent in recent American presidential elections.
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