Hillary Clinton has regained the lead–barely–she relinquished last month to Donald Trump in Florida, turning a three-point deficit into a one-point advantage (46-45) in the latest Quinnipiac University poll of three battleground states. That’s within the margin of error. When Libertarian and Green Party candidates are included, Clinton and Trump are tied.
Clinton has taken a 49-45 advantage in Ohio, where she was tied in the mid-July Quinnipiac poll, and is surging to a double-digit lead (52-42) in Pennsylvania, where she had been losing by two points. The turn-around is consistent with almost every national and battleground state poll since the end of the Democratic National Convention as the Trump campaign has been mired in relentless controversies of its own making–attacking the parents of a decorated Muslim-American soldier killed in Iraq, calling on Russia to hack into Clinton’s emails, hesitating to endorse Republican leaders who’d endorsed him, and on Tuesday in North Carolina, quipping that “Second Amendment people” could take matters into their own hands if Clinton were to appoint to the Supreme Court judges favoring gun control. He was, in other words, calling for her assassination. Some national polls, including an NBC News/SM poll released Tuesday, show Clinton with a double-digit lead.
But in Florida, Clinton still faces obstacles, according to the Quinnipiac poll. Only 39 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of her, with 55 percent unfavorable, one point worse than Trump’s 54 percent unfavorable rating. That goes against the national trend, where Clinton, though more reviled than beloved, has at least benefited from less dislike than Trump. Both are at record-breaking levels in dislike going back to every presidential candidate since the 1970s: George W. Bush comes closest, but even then with dislikability at just over 30 percent: nowhere near the distaste for Trump-Clinton.
On the other hand, Clinton in Florida at least enjoys stronger likability for who she is, rather than as a lesser-evil choice than Trump: among her supporters, 42 percent are choosing her because they like her, while 41 percent are doing so because they dislike Trump. When it comes to Trump, only 29 percent are voting for him because they like him, while 54 percent are doing so because they dislike Clinton. That’s been the refrain among mainstream Republicans who have a hard time stomaching Trump–a refrain reflected in numerous elections with Flagler County Republican leaders: they’re embarrassed and frustrated by Trump, but not enough to overcome their antipathy for Clinton. So Trump gets their vote by default, though they would much rather have had a different choice.
“In fact, among Clinton voters in all three states more than four in 10 say their opposition to Trump, rather than their liking of her, is the main reason for their vote,” Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said. “Among Trump voters, dislike of Secretary Clinton is even a larger factor in their choice. Among Trump voters, well over half say they back him because they dislike her.”
When Ohio and Pennsylvania are factored into the latest poll, the advantage more clearly tips to Clinton. Trump has a very narrow path to victory. That path requires that he sweeps Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Losing any one of the three would more than likely doom his chances. At this point, he’s not winning any of the three, and some previously reliably red states such as Arizona and Georgia are becoming battleground states, with some polls showing Clinton edging ahead even there.
“This Swing State Poll shows a mixed result for the presidential candidates, although certainly with an overall edge for Secretary Hillary Clinton,” Brown said. “When voters are asked about a four-way ballot that includes Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein, Trump picks up a point or two against Secretary Clinton in each of the three states.”
Florida women back Clinton 53 – 40 percent, while men back Trump 51 – 39 percent. Republicans back Trump 91 – 5 percent, while Clinton leads 89 – 8 percent among Democrats. Independent voters are divided with 42 percent for Clinton and 41 percent for Trump, an overall improvement for Clinton, who had been losing the Independent vote. White voters back Trump 57 – 36 percent, as non-white voters go to Clinton 68 – 21 percent.
The Florida poll was conducted from July 30 to Aug. 7 through cell phones and landlines, with 1,056 Florida likely voters. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.