Hillary, Trump "In Dead Heat" WaPo Finds, As Latest Poll Gives Trump 1 Point Lead Ahead Of Debate

According to the strongly anti-Trump WaPo, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are set to meet Monday night for their first debate "in a virtual dead heat in the race for the White House, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, with the Democratic nominee's August advantage erased after recent difficulties and the GOP nominee still facing doubts about his qualifications and temperament."

The latest poll, conducted Sept. 19-22 among a random sample of 1,001 adults reached on cellular and landline phones, finds that likely voters are split 46% for Clinton vs. 44% for Trump, with Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson at 5 percent and Green Party nominee Jill Stein at 1 percent.

Among registered voters, Clinton and Trump are tied at 41 percent, with Johnson at 7 percent and Stein at 2 percent.

In a two-way matchup between the major-party nominees, Clinton tops Trump by 49 percent to 47 percent among likely voters, and the two are again tied at 46 percent among all registered voters. Clinton's two-point edge among likely voters, in both the four-way and two-way ballot tests, is within the survey's 4.5 percentage-point margin of sampling error. The margin of sampling error for overall results is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points;

The findings underscore how much the presidential contest has tightened in recent weeks, after Clinton emerged from the two national conventions with a clear lead and with Trump on the defensive. In early September, Clinton led Trump by five points among likely voters. In early August, she led by eight points.

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Some other national polls currently show Clinton with a slightly larger lead, but on balance, the pre-debate survey averages show the margin in the race in low single digits. The tightened race is a reminder of how much will be at stake Monday night at Hofstra University when the two meet at 9 p.m. before what could be one of the largest television audiences ever for a presidential debate.

Eight in 10 voters say they plan to watch Monday's debate, and 44 percent expect Clinton to win vs. 34 percent expecting Trump to come out ahead. Expectations for Clinton are lower than they were for President Barack Obama against Mitt Romney ahead of the 2012 debates, when 56 percent thought Obama would prevail vs. 29 percent for Romney. Although 17 percent of registered voters say the debate could change their minds, only 6 percent say there is a good chance of that occurring.

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As broken down below, the latest poll by WaPo/ABC provides a glimpse into which demographic groups Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are attracting and how that support has changed over time. Certain groups have wavered in their support since we started polling between the candidates, but others have been more stable.

Most notable is that the race is now close to tied among likely voters: as observed previously, Clinton has a two-point edge over Trump among likely voters - statistically noise due to the poll's sampling error -  down from a five-point lead earlier this month. Several groups tracked here moved in Trump’s direction in the latest poll

Among the most notable shifts in the last poll, Clinton received a larger post-convention bump than Trump, but that’s eroded since then. In July, she had a six-point edge over Trump among likely voters, and in August, after the convention, she had an eight-point lead, and as mentioned, she had a five-point lead earlier this month that’s now at two points. While many groups remained safely in either Clinton’s or Trump’s voting blocs, some groups are torn. The include independents, who were split in June, shifted toward Trump in July and August, and leaned toward Clinton in early September, and now Trump again leads among independent registered voters – by nine points. Among independent likely voters, Trump has a five-point lead.

The biggest changes between June and the end of September among registered voters were all in Trump’s favor. White Catholics, suburbanites and voters with a high school education or less, conservatives, men, seniors and white women without college degrees have moved toward Trump by at least 15 points since June.

Some other key takeaways:

  • Party support solidifying: Democrats and Republicans have aligned behind their candidates. Democratic voters support Clinton by a 73-point margin; Democrats who are likely voters support her by an 80-point margin. Republican voters support Trump by a slightly larger 76-point margin; that rises to 85 points among Republicans who are likely voters.
  • A consistently large gender gap:  Clinton has consistently led by double digits among female voters, while men have fluctuated from a 42 percent tie between the candidates in June to a current 16-point edge for Trump. Among likely voters, Clinton has a 19-point lead among women, and Trump has an identical lead among men.
  • A sharp racial divide between Clinton and Trump: Clinton leads big with black and Hispanic voters. Trump’s campaign has been making a push to attract minority voters, but Clinton leads by 80 points among African American voters in combined September polls. That is similar to earlier polling, but smaller than Obama’s 86-point margin among this group in 2012. Clinton leads among Hispanic voters by 43 points in combined September polls – a group Obama won by a similar 44 points in 2012.
  • Whites also divided by race and education: No Republican in the past nine presidential cycles has lost among whites with college degrees. Romney won the group by 14 points in 2012. Trump, however, has lost the advantage with them, at least for now, according to the late September Post-ABC poll. Clinton has a four-point edge over Trump among voting whites with degrees (and a nine-point lead among likely voters). That’s bad news for Trump when viewed alongside his performance among minorities.
  • A divide among white voters by education and sex: The divide among whites is even larger when looking at education and sex together, with Clinton receiving the most support from white, college-graduate women and Trump faring best among white men without college degrees. Trump has regained his advantage among registered-voter white men with college degrees, at least for now, leading the group by 12 points (and by 11 points among likely voters). But Trump did not make inroads among white women, college degree or not, in the latest poll.

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The latest poll results are visualized below:

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And while WaPo has Hillary either tied (among registered voters), or just fractionally ahead among likely voters, the latest, just released poll by Morning Consult, shows Trump leading Hillary Clinton by 1 point among likely voters.

Trump is favored by 39 percent of likely voters and Clinton is backed by 38 percent, according to the poll. Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson is supported by 9 percent and Green Party nominee Jill Stein is backed by 4 percent.

More troubling for Hillary, In a head-to-head matchup, Clinton leads Trump by 2 points among likely voters, 44 to 42 percent.

The poll again confirms the trend observed by WaPo, whereby Trump support has picked up in the recent past: a Morning Consult poll taken earlier this month, Sept. 15-16, Clinton had a 2-point lead over her Republican rival in a four-way matchup.

Not surprisingly, among white likely voters in the Morning Consult poll, Trump leads Clinton, 44 to 33 percent.  But Clinton has a large advantage over her Republican rival among Hispanic likely voters, 54 to 20 percent and among African-American voters, 75 to 7 percent.

Respondents were split on who they expect to win the first presidential debate, with 29 percent of registered voters predicting a victory for Trump and 36 percent predicting Clinton will win. Another 35 percent say they don't know or have no opinion about what will happen Monday night. Half of voters say the debates will be at least somewhat important in deciding which candidate they vote for. Another 23 percent say the debates won't be important at all.

Still, in the most recent RealClearPolitics average of polls, Clinton maintains a 2.5 point lead, so it will be all up to tomorrow's historic showdown between the two candidates.