The polls for the upcoming presidential election, now only a week away, were already starting to tighten even before the shocking revelations that FBI Director James Comey reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s illegal email server hidden in her Chappaqua home when she was Obama’s Secretary of State. If they were tightening before the renewed criminal investigation into her actions, one shudders to think what they will show early this week once polls taken after the announcement begin to be reflected in their results.
During the middle two weeks of October between the 10th and 21st (the FBI announcement came late on the 28th) many of the presidential polls across the nation had already begun to show movement in favor of GOP nominee Donald Trump. By the end of that period many of the polls had become statistical ties as time and again Trump had closed to within the margin of error (MOE) or close to it both in national as well as state-based surveys.
For instance, the most recent RealClearPolitics.com average of polls taken ending no later than October 27 saw Clinton leading with only a plus 3.4. But in most cases these polls had an MOE of 2 and one half to 3 and one half points meaning that the polls were nearly a statistical tie.
Further the trajectory lines showed Trump gaining throughout October.
The outlier in that batch was the CNBC poll taken during October 21 and 24 (MOE 3.5 points), but this one was taken of a relatively small 804 respondents and of registered voters instead of likely voters. Most of the time pollsters say polls of likely voters is more accurate.
So, aside from one at Clinton plus six and another at Clinton plus five, most showed Clinton only a plus one or two. Even a plus three is not much of a lead when the margin of error is nearly three points!
Elsewhere, a piece at HotAir.com posted on Sunday revealed that Trump’s average in a four-way race with the Libertarian and Green Party candidates is the best it’s been all year. By Sunday Trump was measuring in at 41.6 percent and, again, these are all from polls taken before the impact of the new FBI investigation is measured by pollsters.
As to Hillary, she was at 45 percent meaning Trump had closed to within about three points nation wide.
We can also take a look at the ABC News/Washington Post poll which shows Trump rising seven points From October 23 to the 28. The ABC poll found the race sitting at 46 Clinton to 45 Trump.
And the ABC poll is one of the first to ask voters about the new FBI investigation.
About a third of likely voters say they’re less likely to support Clinton given FBI Director James Comey’s disclosure Friday that the bureau is investigating more emails related to its probe of Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state. Given other considerations, 63 percent say it makes no difference.
That measured in at about 34 percent of voters who said the new allegations could change their vote. If even only half of that 34 percent changed their vote it could be catastrophic for Hillary.
But numbers guru Sean Trende of the RCP average of polls is quick to note that the margin of error is one thing, but the big thing that worries many pollsters is the turnout models they are using to predict the final vote.
You see, pollsters don’t just ask equal numbers of Republicans, Democrats, and independents who they may support, they try to guess what percentage of each group will actually vote and then they shape their polls according to those percentages.
But the problem is, many pollsters are worried that there is a large segment of voters that have not voted in years but who just might come out for Donald Trump. The real estate mogul has made this “hidden electorate” a major talking point but he isn’t just blowing smoke because pollsters really are worried about this shadowy group. They are worried because it is impossible to calculate. Will these “hidden voters” be a huge wave coming out of the woodwork for Trump or a trickle that won’t much matter.
But even if it is a trickle, that may be just enough to topple Hillary from her plus three lead.
Here is how Trende explained this predicament at HotAir.com:
Even with a two-point race, sampling errors (MOE) should cancel each other out, leaving the true value as the average. The odds of dozens of polls being off in one direction even by two points by random chance is perishingly small.
What we’re concerned about is modeling error, where subjective choices made by pollsters move them off the true value. So, for example, if they think the African-American share of the electorate should be 13%, but it is 11%, that’s not MOE stuff or statistical stuff. It’s just the pollster being flat-out wrong about how to weight the raw data. Again, there’s no good way to assign a probability to that.
PJMedia’s Michael Walsh also notes that there a a list of “intangibles” this election that have impeded pollsters. There isn’t just the “hidden voter” issue, but others. Walsh says:
There’s little question that the Trump-Pence ticket has generated far more visible enthusiasm among its supporters than the dour Washington death march of Clinton and Tim Kaine.
Less remarked is Trump’s overwhelming superiority on social media, including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, where Trump’s page has double the “likes” of Clinton’s (10 million to 5 million). Further, Trump is said to average 30,000 viewers on live-streamed YouTube events, compared to Clinton’s mere 500.
Clinton has big money on her side, but Trump has big motivation. Both the “intangibles” and AI models showing a Trump victory take these factors into account.
Then there are the huge crowds showing up for Trump rallies. Clinton has been lucky to turn out a thousand supporters at any particular rally — even in her best states — while Trump routinely speaks before 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 and even more. These are unprecedented numbers for a Republican. Heck, they are high even for the average Democrat presidential candidate. Only Obama rivaled those numbers during his two campaigns for the White House.
Again, I can’t stress enough that all this was happening before the FBI’s announcement and before polls were able to fully reflect how potential voters will feel about that new FBI investigation into Hillary’s email scandal.
We do have a few indications of how voters might come to feel about Hillary’s latest criminal charges. Aside from the ABC poll mentioned above, a CBS poll also found respondents worried over Clinton’s new scandal.
The CBS poll found that fully 48 percent of voters think the new investigation will reveal “damaging information” about Clinton. Naturally 71 percent of Democrats say it won’t affect their feeling for Hillary, but whether it will serve to suppress Democrat turnout is another question. And, again, with the race so close in so many states, even a small loss of Democrat support will hurt Clinton.
Finally, I want to make one final point that could end up hurting Hillary even more as the news about the FBI investigation filters throughout the country.
Clinton is revving up her response to Director Comey’s announcement and it appears that her initial response is going to be to savage Comey and to try and besmirch his reputation. This is the same top G-man who the Clinton machine was praising only months ago when he had torpedoed the earlier investigation into her illegal email server.
As far as Clinton and her surrogates were concerned, Comey was the best of the bet back then. Now they are ready to say he’s “destroying American democracy” with his new investigation.
The perfect example of this line of attack was exhibited by Democrat National Committee Chair and Clinton apologist Donna Brazile.
Back in July, Brazile tweeted out that Republicans attacking Comey’s decision to end the earlier investigation were destroying our democracy by questioning the FBI director. But this weekend it was she who was questioning the FBI director that only months ago she claimed was beyond reproach. Now Barzile is out there claiming that Comey is the one destroying our democracy.
This hypocritical effort to have it both ways won’t be lost on many independent voters who may have been leaning toward Clinton.
All of this could have a major impact on the election and turnout. So, it is all anybody’s guess.