Republican nominee Donald Trump received positive news on Sunday morning with the release of a new major poll showing that he had regained momentum that was lost after nearly two weeks of blistering attacks associating the candidate with racist groups, a Clinton campaign charm offensive led by the nation’s top Hollywood celebrities branding the bombastic billionaire a threat to the country, and fear mongering about the real estate tycoon’s alleged Russian ties.
The new poll shows that among likely voters in a four way race, 46% of voters favor Clinton, 44% prefer Trump while third party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein saw a collapse in their support levels making up only 6% of the vote share while another 4% of voters remain undecided.
Clinton holds an identical two-point margin over Trump, well within the margin of error and called a "virtual tie" or a "dead heat" by leading Western media outlets with a 49% to 47% margin among likely voters. The two candidates are tied among the larger universe of registered voters which accounts for first-time and low-efficacy voters signaling the Republican has support from the downtrodden.
The poll comes with a major caveat which is that it oversamples Democrats at a proportion not yet seen during this election cycle with Republicans making up only 23% of the sample, Independents 36% and Democrats 33%, respectively.
Gallup party affiliation polling shows that 27% of voters are registered Republicans, 31% are registered Democrat, and 38% are registered as Independents.
Independents or unaffiliated voters tend to vote at historically lower rates than supporters registered under one of the major political parties in large part because campaigns are wary of outreach to voters who may choose the opposition candidate.
Republican voters historically vote at a higher rate than Democratic voters with polls showing conservatives tend to be both older and wealthier reducing some of the challenges in getting to the polls although the 2008 and 2012 national election were nearly even in turnout among the two parties owed in large part to the charismatic candidacy of Barack Obama who succeeded in getting young, first-time voters to the polls at previously unseen levels.
The polling norm in this cycle has provided a five to eight point sampling advantage to Democrats over Republicans due in large part to the demographic turnout in 2008 and 2012 whereas the statistical basis for a plus ten-point Democratic voter poll is unfathomable.
Pundits also question whether the turnout in 2016 will look anything like it did in 2008 with turnout expected to be lower than normal based on the high unfavorability ratings of both candidates – 57% of American oppose both Trump and Clinton – or whether the turnout will be more reminiscent of the 2004 election or a midterm election that historically favors Republicans in the event that Hillary is unable to inspire young people to go out to the polls.
It is impossible to know where the race stands based on the Washington Post-ABC News poll alone due to the sampling error, but the three most recent polls before it show a similarly close race with the LA Times USC Tracking Poll giving Trump a 46% to 42% edge over Clinton, the Rasmussen Reports poll shows Trump leading Clinton 44% to 39%, and the Economist-YouGov poll gives Clinton a 45% to 44% edge over Trump. Both the Rasmussen and LA Times Polls have been known to favor Trump in earlier polls due partially to demographic projections made by each pollster.
The results of the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll also captures a concerning trend for Clinton regarding the collapse of support in third party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein with the anti-Hillary vote appearing to stick while the Never Trump movement collapses.
In a September 5-8 Washington Post-ABC Poll Clinton was polling at 46%, Trump at 33%, Gary Johnson at 10%, and Jill Stein at 4%. Whereas Johnson and Stein made up 14% of the vote share in the poll earlier this month, they collectively only make up 6% of the vote share in the latest poll – 5% for Johnson and 1% for Stein. The support which dropped off from the two third party candidates appears to have gone nearly all to Donald Trump while more liberal frustrated voters continue to oppose Hillary.