US Election: 85 days to go

It’s now a little over twelve weeks until American voters pick their next President. In the last article, I explained how the electoral system in the US works and how Hillary Clinton had moved to a significant lead over Donald Trump since both parties held their nominating conventions. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your point of view), very little has changed in the last week. Clinton continues to hold a commanding lead. In this article, I’ll look at some of the more recent polls and at one of the most important states for both candidates in November: the state of Pennsylvania.

The National Overview on 15 August

We’re now nearly three weeks from the end of the Democrat convention and Hillary Clinton continues to hold a national lead of around 7–8 percentage points.

Source: Huffington Post Poll Tracker

Last week, Hillary Clinton held a lead of 7.9% in the Huffington Post average of national opinion polls. Now it stands at 7.1%, but this is little more than random variation in polls. The key fact is that there is little or no change since this time last week.

This is very good news for Clinton. In a normal election cycle, you would expect her lead to narrow significantly at this point as the bounce from the Democrat convention fades. The fact that Clinton’s gains in the polls are still persisting two or three weeks later suggests that this bounce is more durable than many of the others we’ve seen in recent election cycles. If Clinton retains this sort of lead throughout the next couple of weeks, it will begin to look very grim indeed for Donald Trump.

In the all-important electoral college (remember that it’s the result in individual states which determines who wins the election!) there has also been little change since last week.

Hillary Clinton is still clearly ahead in enough states to win the election without any of the tossup states, but the changes from last week are as follows:

  • Wisconsin has moved from lean Clinton to solid Clinton.
  • Ohio has moved from tossup to lean Clinton.
  • Florida has moved from lean Clinton to tossup.
  • Indiana and South Carolina have moved from lean Trump to tossup.

Perhaps the most interesting poll to come out in the last week was the NBC/Marist poll that had Clinton up 9 in North Carolina (15 EV), a state which Mitt Romney won narrowly in 2012. If that result is confirmed in a second poll, it will move North Carolina to lean Clinton, which would be a very significant development.

Battleground Watch — Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes):

Pennsylvania is the second biggest battle ground state (behind Florida). Both campaigns are counting on winning here if they are going to win the election overall.

Pennsylvania Voting History: Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1992. However, it has often been close. Al Gore won it by 5 in 2000, and John Kerry won it by only 3 in 2004. Republicans have often argued that they have a chance in this state in the industrial heart of the country, but they have come up in short in all recent elections.

Pennsylvania Demographics: Republicans believe they have a chance in Pennsylvania because of the large number of working white class whites who live there. There is a significant African American population around the big cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh but the Hispanic population (although growing) is very much below the national average at 3% in 2010.

Polling: Before the Democrat convention, Pennsylvania was looking like a very close race between Clinton and Trump. However, Clinton’s polling has significantly improved in the last couple of weeks and she now leads Trump by over 9 percentage points. There has been quite a lot of polling in Pennsylvania recently which gives us a greater degree of certainty about the current situation there. All the polls taken since the conventions have shown Clinton’s lead at either 10 or 11 percentage points.

Source: Real Clear Politics Polling Average

Rating: It looked for a long time that Trump would be able to compete in Pennsylvania given his strong numbers among working class white voters. However, the state seems to be reverting to type and Clinton has opened up a big lead there. Unless some drastic happens, Hillary Clinton will win Pennsylvania in November.

Next week we’ll get a clearer indication of whether there’s any sign that Clinton’s poll bounce is fading, and we’ll look at the state of IOWA.

*Tuesday update: It’s worth noting that in the last day, Hillary Clinton’s lead in the Huffington Post poll tracker has grown to 8.5%, which rather reinforces what I was saying about some random fluctuations day-to-day not being particularly meaningful.