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Ten key polling questions as the election enters the fall home stretch

The State

I, for one, welcome the unofficial end of summer. I’ll miss the Olympics and fancy tomato salads. But it’s an election year, and Labor Day is usually accompanied by a return to more substantive news cycles — along with a significant increase in the amount of polling.

That was certainly true Tuesday morning, which brought a bevy of new data, including about a half-dozen new national polls and a 50-state poll from SurveyMonkey (conducted in conjunction with The Washington Post). People are focusing on the flashier results among these polls: that CNN’s poll shows Donald Trump narrowly ahead among likely voters, for instance, while SurveyMonkey has Hillary Clinton tied with Trump in Texas. At times like these, though, it’s especially useful to zoom out and take a more holistic approach.

The clearest pattern is simply that Trump has regained ground since Clinton’s post-convention peak. He now has a 31 percent chance of winning the election according to our polls-only model, and a 33 percent chance according to polls-plus. For a deeper look, let’s run through our set of 10 framing questions about the election1 in light of the most recent polling:

1. Who’s ahead in the polls right now?

Clinton’s ahead, by a margin of about 3 percentage points in an average of national polls, or 4 points in our popular vote composite, which is based on both national polls and state polls. While the race has tightened, be wary of claims that the election is too close to call — that isn’t where the preponderance of the evidence lies, at least for the moment. If one candidate is ahead by 3 or 4 percentage points, there will be occasional polls showing a tied race or her opponent narrowly ahead, along with others showing the candidate with a mid- to high single-digit lead. We’ve seen multiple examples of both of those recently.

In swing states, the race ranges from showing Trump up by 1 point in Iowa to a Clinton lead of about 6 points in her best states, such as Virginia. That’s a reasonably good position for Clinton, but it isn’t quite as safe as it might sound. That’s because the swing states tend to rise and fall together. A further shift of a few points in Trump’s favor, or a polling error of that magnitude, would make the Electoral College highly competitive.

This article continues at [Five Thirty Eight] Election Update: Clinton’s Lead Keeps Shrinking

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