Presidential Campaign

Trump’s poll numbers show his ceiling is made of steel, not glass

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After being around politics for 40 years, very little surprises me, except when it comes to polls. Every time I think that political analysts and writers will finally recognize that most of them don’t understand much about political polls, they prove me wrong. They don’t know how to read them, they don’t understand the importance of cross tabs within a given poll and they don’t know how to analyze them. 

This wouldn’t be a bad thing if they were just trying to show their political props to friends, but some of these “political pros” go on TV, or write columns interpreting polls for millions of voters who are just now beginning to focus on the presidential race. Most voters assume because these political “pros” are on TV or write for national papers they know politics. Sadly, most don’t have a clue.

{mosads}A few examples from the past two weeks, “Polls indicate race for White House tightens as Trump closes in on Clinton”. And, “Trump’s pivot to a more disciplined candidate has moved him within striking distance of Clinton in swing states polls indicate.” As I will illustrate, Trump has not closed on Clinton at all;

An analysis of the data from several reliable polls indicates Trump has not moved up in the polls for the last six weeks, despite showing some signs of discipline; “New Trump team repositions Trump as ‘presidential’ and the strategy, according to polls, is paying off”. A review of polls from two weeks before Paul Manafort (Trump’s former campaign chairman) resigned last month indicates no positive movement for Trump since his new team was named. 

A review of dozens of polls taken from early August thru September 11th in four swing states indicates Trump has gained no ground, rather Clinton has lost ground. Clinton’s post convention bump lasted longer than most, but that can be attributed to Trump’s mistakes in August. Clinton’s current poll standings are what would be expected of any candidate with unfavorable ratings in the mid fifties.

The polls used for this analysis are drawn from the archives of The poll dates range from 8/9/16 to 9/12/16 and include Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Pennsylvania: Trump’s average support from 8/9 to 9/8 is 38.5% which is exactly where he was in the first PA poll on 8/9. During the same period, Clinton went from a high of 48% on 8/9 to a low of 44% on 9/8, a loss of 4 points.

North Carolina: Trump’s average support from 8/9 to 9/8 was 40.1%, exactly where he started in the first NC poll on 9/8. During the same month, Clinton went from 43% on 8/9 to 42% on 9/8, a loss of 1 point.  

Ohio: Trump’s average support from 8/9 to 9/11 was 39.5% exactly where he stands on 9/11, but that is down 3 points from where he started in the first Ohio poll on 8/9, 42%. During the same month, Clinton went from 44% on 8/9 to 46% on 9/11 a gain of 2 points.

Florida: Trump’s average support from 8/11 to 9/12 was 42%. The latest Florida poll had Trump at 44%, a slight gain of 2 points. During the same month, Clinton went from 45% on 8/11 to 42% on 9/12, a loss of 3 points.

Trump has gained no new support in these crucial swing states in the past 4 weeks. In 3 of the 4 swing states, Trump gained nothing. Only in Florida did Trump show any marginal gains. What these polls indicate is that Trump has a ceiling of voter support that he has not been able to crack. 

Moreover, polling data among key demographic groups show Trump making NO progress among African Americans, Hispanics, or white suburban women (single or married). McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012 both got trounced by blacks and Hispanics. By all indications, Trump will do much worse among minorities than either McCain or Romney.

For Trump to have any chance of winning, he will need 65% or more of the white vote. Both McCain and Romney won white women by approximately 15% over President Obama, most of whom were suburban voters. 

Drawing from extensive data from the Washington Post’s massive survey of over 79,000 voters coupled with Senate and U.S. House polls of suburbs in swing states, Hillary Clinton is currently carrying white suburban women by 15 points over Trump. Which means Trump would need a swing of 30% among suburban women to attain the normal support for GOP presidential candidates. 

Trump has not closed any ground against Clinton in the last 30 days. Clinton, though, has lost support. Polls indicated that millions of voters would chosen Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump after a very successful Democratic Convention. Many since have backed off. What I have learned over hundreds of campaigns is if you have lost voters who have supported you in the past, you can get them back. If you never had them, it is very difficult sell.

The lesson here is that Hillary Clinton’s ceiling is still glass, and she can still crack it. Donald Trump has a ceiling as well and it’s in the low 40s. 

The difference is Trump’s ceiling is not glass, but is made of hardened steel.

Bob Beckel is a political analyst for CNN, and a Contributor for The Hill.


The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill

Tags 2016 presidential election Democratic Party Donald Trump Florida Gary Johnson glass ceiling Hillary Clinton North Carolina Ohio Pennsylvania Poll numbers Republican Party United States
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