Over the last week or so the polls have narrowed: where Clinton had an 8-point lead over Trump, they are now in a near dead heat.
The question, of course, is why? The reasons, in my mind, are diverse yet interrelated.
- First, part of this narrowing is the natural regression to the mean which we would expect in an US presidential election. Unlike races in other counties, US presidential elections are typically close—a 5-point lead is considered a landslide. Narrowing, in this context, doesn’t happen magically; it requires a more disciplined, efficient Trump and a correspondingly less effective Clinton. This is what we are seeing now.
- Second, while Clinton has shown a strong 8-point lead over the last month, her support has been soft. Indeed, when looking at match-ups on the top three issues, Clinton and Trump have been in a virtual dead heat (Ipsos). Again, soft support for Clinton does not necessarily translate into gains for Trump. It requires that he is effectively executing his message without distractions. That said, it also shows that the polls probably have been overstating Clinton.
- Third, during the primaries Trump proved to be an earned media superstar—“owning the airwaves” through his antics and showmanship (FiveThirtyEight). This last week should only serve as a reminder of his talents—indeed, for five days Trump dominated the media with his trip to Mexico and subsequent immigration speech. Such “media effects” are often short-lived. But the ability for Trump to string together multiple “media effects” is not beyond his grasp.
I should note that “building a wall” and “revoking the executive order not to deport children born to illegal immigrants” are the only two measures that garner less than majority support among the general population and likely voters. That said, both policy items still show strong plurality support (building a wall 43%, revoking executive order 47%).
Our key finding when testing these concepts was that, among Republicans and Independents, there is strong support across all policy items. While we can’t be certain about how well it holds, for the time being Trump seems to have energized a heretofore uncertain base.