Donald Trump is sliding in the initial polls conducted after his poor performance this week in the first presidential debate, falling behind Hillary Clinton nationally and in key battleground states after he had closed the gap over the past six weeks.
Clinton has expanded her national lead in the first spate of post-debate polls conducted in the days following Monday’s debate on Long Island. And a series of swing-state polls released over the past 24 hours also shows Clinton ahead, with Trump’s numbers slipping in some of the states.
Clinton’s post-debate bounce — or Trump’s slump — appears to have staked the Democratic nominee to a low-to-mid-single-digit advantage nationally. Most prominently, a Fox News poll released Friday night showed Clinton three points ahead of Trump.
The battleground state polls are also mostly in line with that conclusion, though many come from pollsters who haven’t been in the field in more than a month, making it more difficult to attribute movement to the debate and its fallout.
The evidence suggests Clinton has stunted Trump’s momentum — if not improved her position slightly — at least temporarily. Both national poll averages and more complex Electoral College models show Clinton’s standing on a sustained upswing for the first time since the days after the Democratic convention in late July.
The RealClearPolitics average, as of late Friday, shows Clinton 3.1 points ahead of Trump on a head-to-head ballot — up from a low of 0.9 points on September 19. Clinton’s odds of winning in FiveThirtyEight’s “polls-only” model has ticked up to just over 67 percent — her highest odds since September 13.
Those measures reflect the public polls, which are generally more volatile and sensitive to campaign events than the candidates’ private data sources. But even with that instability, the public surveys have been remarkably congruent since the debate.
In six national polls, Clinton’s lead has ranged from a low of 1 percentage point to a high of 5 points. In three of the five polls, that represented a net change in Clinton’s favor from immediately preceding the debate. In one of the polls, Clinton’s lead ticked down slightly — and in two of the other polls, there was no other survey conducted earlier in September to which to compare the new result.
The Fox News poll released Friday was the only one of the six surveys to be conducted by live-telephone interviewers calling both landlines and cell phones. It gives Clinton a 3-point lead, 43 percent to 40 percent — only a slight uptick from the previous poll in mid-September, which Clinton led, 41 percent to 40 percent.
The Fox result confirmed a number of polls conducted over the internet or automated telephone. A Reuters-Ipsos poll, conducted over the internet, showed Clinton with a 4-point lead over Trump, 42 percent to 38 percent — down slightly from a pre-debate lead of 6 points, 44 percent to 38 percent.
A Morning Consult survey, also conducted over the web immediately following the debate, gave Clinton a similar, 4-point lead over Trump, 45 percent to 41 percent. That’s an increase from Clinton’s 2-point advantage immediately prior to the debate, 44 percent to 42 percent. (The post-debate Morning Consult poll was conducted in conjunction with POLITICO Playbook.)
The fourth survey for which a trend is available was from the automated-phone pollster Rasmussen Reports. Clinton had only a 1-point lead in the newest, post-debate Rasmussen survey, 43 percent to 42 percent. But going into the debate, Trump led by 5 points, 44 percent to 39 percent. (Rasmussen has had a demonstrated Republican lean in recent elections — and automated-phone polls, even those with a web supplement, oversample people with landline phones, who tend to be older and less racially diverse.)
The two other post-debate national surveys come without pre-debate trends. Echelon Insights, a GOP analytics firm, conducted a post-debate web survey and found Clinton ahead by 5 percentage points. And Democratic robopollster Public Policy Polling has Clinton up by 4 points.
The new state polls — which are conducted by live-telephone interviewers calling both landlines and cell phones — tell a similar story. Clinton is ahead 7 points in Michigan in a Detroit News/WDIV-TV poll conducted Tuesday and Wednesday, 46 percent to 39 percent. (In their previous poll, conducted in late July and early August, Clinton led by a similar margin: 43 percent to 37 percent.)
In New Hampshire, a MassINC Polling Group/WBUR-FM poll showed Clinton also up by 7 points — leading Trump, 42 percent to 37 percent, in a four-way matchup that includes Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein. That’s down from Clinton’s 15-point lead in the previous MassINC/WBUR poll — but that survey was also conducted immediately following the conventions at the peak of Clinton’s surge.
The other two state polls released on Friday represent upticks for Clinton. A Mason-Dixon poll in Florida gives Clinton a 4-point lead over Trump, 46 percent to 42 percent. That’s up from a 2-point lead in mid-August.
And a Suffolk University poll in Nevada shows Clinton ahead by 6 points, 44 percent to 38 percent. Suffolk’s previous Nevada poll, also in mid-August, gave Clinton only a 2-point lead, 44 percent to 42 percent.
The new national and state polls are the first measures of how the first debate this week may have shifted the race, at least temporarily.
A series of national, live-caller surveys conducted leading up to the debate showed divergent results. Some — surveys from Bloomberg Politics, Quinnipiac University and ABC News/Washington Post — indicated the contest had tightened considerably, and the candidates were running neck-and-neck. But Clinton maintained a mid-single-digit edge in three other major national polls: McClatchy-Marist, Monmouth University and NBC News/Wall Street Journal.
It’s more likely the debate would help Clinton more than Trump. All the scientifically conducted surveys that asked about the debate — the six national polls cited in this story, plus others from NBC News/SurveyMonkey, Gallup, CNN/ORC International and YouGov — all indicated debate-watchers thought Clinton performed better than Trump, in some cases by overwhelming margins. (Trump and his campaign claim polls show that the Republican won the debate, but those are unscientific reader polls that violate most tenets of public-opinion research.)
Four days removed from the debate, it’s likely more data will be released soon that could confirm the extent to which the debate — and a week of negative news coverage since — may have damaged Trump and boosted Clinton.
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