A new poll this week showed the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton apparently tightening — in fact, Trump shaved the lead held by Clinton to a single percentage point in the Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday, May 11. So, is the country headed for a razor-close presidential election in November?
According to media reports after the poll came out, the race looks close indeed. Reuters itself said that the poll represented "a dramatic turnaround" for Donald Trump, which could "signal a close fight between" the newly minted presumptive Republican nominee and Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State and New York Senator who, barring a truly stunning turn of unforeseen events, will become the Democratic nominee.
But political experts say that looking at any individual poll does not give an accurate picture of the race as a whole.
There is no plausible explanation for the wild gyrations of the Reuters Ipsos tracking poll: https://t.co/rCkh9g1KZXWhile the experts say that at this point in the race — in mid-May, more than two months before either party has even held its national convention — polls showing the state of an election that won't take place for almost six more months can be highly deceptive, the clearest picture of the race so far still shows a solid, if not spectacular, Clinton advantage.
— Alan Abramowitz (@AlanIAbramowitz) May 13, 2016
"The election will go through a lot of twists and turns, and polls are noisy. Don't sweat individual polls or short-term fluctuations," wrote statistician Nate Silver, founder of the election-projection site FiveThirtyEight, on his Twitter account this week. "It's usually not worth it to diagnose why an individual poll deviates from the consensus. Think 'macro' not micro — look for robust trends.""No single poll should ever be looked at in isolation," agreed Anthony Reed, founder of Benchmark Politics — a site that analyzes both demographic and polling data to make election predictions. "No election forecaster would ever try to make a prediction with a single data point and neither should you."
Watch political experts from Bloomberg Politics analyze the latest Trump vs. Clinton polls, in the video report below.
Instead of drawing conclusions from single polls, both Silver and Reed agree, aggregate polling averages paint a more accurate portrait of how any race — including Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton — is shaping up.
While at this early stage even poll averages may not yet be meaningful when it comes to predicting the outcome of the election on November 8, the two major polling averages paint a much more optimistic picture for Hillary Clinton than the neck-and-neck battle seen in the Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Despite recent talk about the race closing, the Trump-Clinton race is actually wider right now than many past times. pic.twitter.com/pZwKnjFADrThe polling average compiled by Real Clear Politics shows Hillary Clinton with an aggregate lead of 5.7 percentage points nationally over Donald Trump as of May 12.
— Benchmark Politics (@benchmarkpol) May 13, 2016
For comparison, in the 2012 election cycle, the Real Clear Politics average on May 12 of that year showed Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama with a lead of just two percentage points over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Obama ended up winning that general election by 3.9 percentage points. In other words, the Real Clear Politics average shows Hillary Clinton in a significantly better position in her race with Donald Trump than Obama held at the same time four years ago.
The Huffington Post Pollster.com average shows Clinton performing fractionally better, with a lead of 5.8 percentage points over Donald Trump.
Democratic operatives shared the polling experts' lack of concern over the recent individual polls showing a surprisingly close contest between Trump and Clinton.
"Folks shouldn't read too much into these polls," said Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Minority Leader and Nevada Democrat Harry Reid. "There is a long way between now and November, and I continue to believe that Donald Trump is highly radioactive when it comes to the general election."
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- HuffPost Says It's Time For Hillary Clinton To Concede To Bernie Sanders
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Even the Reuters/Ipsos poll itself casts doubt on the apparent closeness of the election race shown its May 11 poll. Just one day later, the same pollster issued another poll showing Hillary Clinton bouncing back, leading Donald Trump by a more comfortable 3.7 points.
[Photos By Jessica Kourkounis and Spencer Platt/Getty Images]