A new poll from CNN/ORC finds Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by five points. Two weeks after clinching the Democrat nomination, Clinton has 47 percent support against 42 percent for Trump. At the beginning of May, though, Clinton led Trump by 13 points in CNN’s polling. Her support has dropped from 54 percent then to 47 percent today.
The CNN poll at the beginning of May provided a snapshot of the race as both presumptive nominees were still locked in fights for their party’s nomination. Since that poll, Trump locked up the Republican race in early May, and Clinton wrapped up her fight two weeks ago.
During that time, also, the economy suffered a set-back with a terrible May jobs report and an Islamic jihadist attacked a nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people. Hillary faced a damning Inspector General’s report on her use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State, and Trump embroiled himself in a controversy over pending lawsuits against his eponymous Trump University. Several members of the Republican establishment publicly withheld their endorsements of Trump in the wake of the dust-up.
The end result, after an extraordinarily noisy two months, is that Trump’s support hasn’t changed, while Clinton’s has dropped seven points. It is hard to overstate how aggressive the media has been in attacking Trump since he secured the Republican nomination nor how deferential it has been towards Clinton as she finally dispatched her septagenarian socialist challenger.
Yet, Clinton’s lead has dropped by half and Trump’s support has remained steady. In fact, Clinton’s 47 percent support level is the lowest it has been since CNN began polling the general election in June 2015. The entire media complex is consumed with speculation that Trump is too unlikeable to be President. The bigger question, though, is whether Clinton herself is too unpopular to win the White House.
Clinton’s favorable rating among voters is -15 (42 percent favorable, 57 percent unfavorable). Trump’s favorable rating is -19 (40 fav, 59 unfav). While the press regular repeats Trump’s unfavorable numbers, it is mostly silent on the fact that Clinton’s are roughly the same.
More interesting, perhaps, is that, while Trump’s favorable rating is low, the rating for the Republican party as a whole is far worse. Only 34 percent of voters have a positive view of the GOP, while 60 percent have a negative view. Trump is actually seven points more popular than the Republican party itself.
In the case of Hillary Clinton and the Democrat Party, though, the opposite is true. Only half of voters have a negative view of the Democrat party, while 44 percent have a positive view. Clinton’s -19 favorable rating is more than three times the -six favorable rating of her party.
Clinton’s favorable rating is also on a steep slide. Last year at this time, 46 percent of voters had a positive view of Clinton, while just 50 percent had a negative view. She has experienced an 11 point drop in voters’ perception of her throughout the course of the campaign.
By contrast, Trump’s favorable rating has improved throughout the campaign. In May 2015, Trump’s rating with voters was -33 points (31 fav, 64 unfav). Today is is “just” -19, (40 fav, 59 unfav).
Trump’s standing with voters has improved during the primary, while Clinton’s has fallen. That may be the most important data point coming out of the CNN poll. Trump is becoming a little less unpopular, while Clinton is becoming more unpopular.
There is one other trend that bears watching, though. Trump now has an eight-point lead over Clinton on which candidate can best handle the economy. That is up from past polls. Trump also, though, now leads Clinton on which candidate is best to tackle terrorism. In May, 50 percent of voters tapped Clinton has better able to handle that issue, while 45 percent picked Trump. Today, Trump leads on the issue 48-45. That represents an eight point swing since the beginning of May.
It is possible that both terrorism and the economy become even bigger issues in voters’ minds before November, unfortunately. Trump has a clear edge over Clinton on both these issues.
This, combined with the declining personal ratings for Clinton, suggests that the general election contest is only going to get much closer.