CONSENSUS? Polls Harmonize into Near Across the Board Hillary Lead

As the campaigns make their final final pitch tonight, FiveThirtyEight has an interesting new piece out that seems to indicate a consensus in the most recent polling: Hillary Clinton has a noticeable, though not quite commanding, lead. Here’s Nate Silver’s analysis:

Seven of the 19 polls have Clinton leading by 4 points; another four have her ahead by 3 points, then we have a smattering of 1’s, 2’s and 6’s — along with two pollsters, IBD/TIPP and Los Angeles/USC Dornsife, who still have Trump ahead. (We admire the L.A. Times poll for not changing its methodology in midstream, even though the poll has its issues.) On average, Clinton leads by 2.9 points in the polls, although the highest-rated pollsters2 have her a bit higher at 3.8 points, on average. As is usually the case, the range of national polls closely matches the FiveThirtyEight popular-vote forecast.

It’s worth raising an eyebrow, though, when the polls (other than the L.A. Times) show a range this tight at the end of an election, especially given that they’d diverged so much earlier in the campaign. That probably reflects some degree of herding — for instance, because pollsters stick surveys that seem to be outliers in a file drawer rather than publishing them. So the tight range of polls shouldn’t be taken to mean that everyone’s figured exactly how to poll this challenging election just in the nick of time. Still, the polls clearly agree that Clinton is the favorite, and perhaps has a slight wind at her back for Election Day.

I think to a degree that Silver is right here, particularly because of how embarrassing 2012 was for a great many pollsters. Last time, they wanted to be the outlier. They wanted to be right. This time, there is no need to take that chance. The data is clearly indicating the most likely outcome (70%, according to Silver) is Hillary Clinton’s victory Tuesday.

Last presidential cycle, a lot of “unskewing” went into a lot of polls, and a great many people ended up with egg on their faces because of it. If the polls are all showing Clinton with a 3-4 point lead, then they certainly would tuck that outlier away in favor of something a little more mainstream.

Still, 3-4 points the night before election day is still incredibly close, and I think Silver giving Trump a 30% chance is actually pretty fair. But, he is also right about this: the near-uniform results are certainly a sight to behold, and you’ve got to wonder if that’s actually how it’s going to play out.