Donald Trump has significantly improved his position in our general election forecasts as a result of state and national polls that show declining numbers for Hillary Clinton. Trump now has a 36 percent chance of winning the election, according to our polls-only forecast, and a 37 percent chance according to polls-plus, which also considers economic conditions.
With the conventions upon us — the Republicans’ starts Monday in Cleveland — let’s step back and ask some big-picture questions about where the race stands.
Despite a relatively poor run of polls, Clinton is very probably still ahead of Trump right now. That doesn’t mean she’d be assured of winning an election held today, let alone one in November — there’s a lot of uncertainty (see the next question for more about this). But polls-only has her ahead of Trump by 3.4 percentage points nationally, similar to the margin by which Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney in 2012.
If Clinton has a 3.4-percentage-point lead, as our model surmises, that means we’ll sometimes see national or swing state polls that show her ahead by margins in the high single digits, such as the set of swing state polls that Marist College released this morning. We’ll also see some polls showing Trump with narrow leads, like the polls Quinnipiac University released earlier this week. All of this is pretty normal.
It’s not quite correct to characterize the race as a tossup, however. A relatively emphatic majority of recent swing state and national polls still have Clinton ahead, but often by narrower margins than before.
High, or perhaps very high, for a variety of reasons. As I noted above, the race isn’t that close — Clinton is matching Obama’s 2012 margin.1 But it’s early, so the outcome …