You’ll never guess who’s tied with Hillary among independent voters

gary

As the everlasting presidential primaries give way to the possibly even more grueling general election, polls take on a new irrelevance, and coincidentally a new furious pace. Now that pollsters don’t have to ask about two different races with a dozen different candidates in any number of primary states, they can ask about the all-but-certain general election contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump more often.

In the latest of these polls, Morning Consult finds Clinton leading Trump by just 2 points, 42 to 40.

The consensus just a month ago was that Hillary would soundly defeat Trump in November; Trump’s alienating of everyone from women to disabled people was unsustainable. But polls already show the race closing to a statistical tie, just in the last week.

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It’s going to be a long five months.

As I’ve implored, third party candidates should also be included in these general election polls. There are going to be more than two options on everyone’s ballot in November, so it does little good to make people choose between only two options in polls designed to show the state of that election.

Fortunately, the Morning Consult poll does just that and includes likely Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson along with Trump and Clinton. With all three options, they still find a Clinton lead, but by 3 points instead of 2.

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The fascinating thing is how they get there.

It’s big news that Johnson gets 10% here, but not all that surprising if you’re paying attention. The Libertarian candidate has been scoring double digits in almost every poll he’s mentioned.

Another 17% haven’t decided, which is even better news for Johnson. Trump and Clinton are historically well-known candidates (and historically disliked), so about the only candidate with room to move up is a lesser known, like Johnson.

Even more interesting is the party breakdown. Many assume most Libertarian support comes from disaffected Republicans, and that Trump’s split of the party this year is what’s causing Johnson’s rise. The data don’t back that up.

Instead, we see Johnson pulling in just 6% of Republicans and 7% of Democrats. He’s getting support roughly evenly from both parties, just like Ross Perot did in 1992, contra the assumption that Perot siphoned off mostly Bush votes and cost him the election.

Perhaps most fascinating of all is the candidates’ support among independents, who typically fall halfway between Republicans and Democrats on issue questions. Trump gets 37% of them, which is a low number for the Republican nominee. After all, Mitt Romney won 50% of indepedent voters in 2012.

Most devastating for Hillary Clinton is that she only gets 19% of independents, a statistical tie with Gary Johnson’s 18%. Although she leads the poll generally, she can’t hope to win the election with less than a quarter of independent voters, especially if she’s only getting 70% of Democrats too.

Even Trump’s slightly better 73% of the Republican vote is historically low for same-party support. No one is satisfied with their choices this year, and the usual rules, assumptions, and conventional wisdom will not apply.


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