Poll: Clinton leads Trump in key swing states, would likely win election

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Hillary Clinton Holds Key Swing States

NEW YORK, Aug 24 (Reuters) - If the U.S. presidential election were held today, Democrat Hillary Clinton would win the key swing states of Florida, Ohio and Virginia and have a 95 percent chance of beating Republican Donald Trump to become America's first female president, according to the Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project.

The project, which combines opinion polls with an analysis of voting patterns under different election scenarios, shows Clinton currently beating Trump in the popular vote by six percentage points and ahead in 19 states, including most of the larger-population ones that heavily influence the outcome of the election.

At the moment, Clinton would win at least 268 votes in the Electoral College, the body that ultimately chooses the next president, just two shy of what she needs to win the White House. On average, the former secretary of state would win by 108 electoral college votes.

Trump would win at least 21 states, many of them with smaller populations, giving him a minimum of 179 electoral votes.

RELATED: Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine on the campaign trail

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Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine on the trail since the DNC
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Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine on the trail since the DNC
NEW YORK, NY- Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to journalists after meeting national security experts for a National Security Working Session at the New York Historical Society Library in Manhattan, New York on Friday September 9, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 09: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) greets actress Laverne Cox during he LGBT for Hillary Gala at Cipriani Club on September 9, 2016 in New York City. Hillary Clinton is attending fundraisers and in New York City. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WHITE PLAINS, NY - Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to the Press Corp on the airport tarmac in front of her campaign plane before flying off on a day of campaigning in White Plains, New York on Thursday September 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016, at the Baptist National Convention at Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Mo. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
New York, NY - Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participates in a NBC/MSNBC/Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Commander in Chief Forum in midtown Manhattan in New York, New York on Wednesday September 7, 2016. Hosted by Today show co-anchor Matt Lauer. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has her picture taken with a supporter during a voter registration rally at the University of South Florida on September 6, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. Hillary Clinton is campaigning in Florida. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 05: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign rally at Luke Easter Park on September 5, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Clinton is on a Labor Day campaign swing to Ohio and Iowa on a new campaign plane large enough to accommodate her traveling press corp. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 05: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets a supporter during a campaign rally at Luke Easter Park on September 5, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Clinton is kicking off a Labor Day campaign swing to Ohio and Iowa on a new campaign plane large enough to accommodate her traveling press corp. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Hillary Clinton, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, speaks at a campaign event during The American Legion National Convention at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. Clinton told a veterans group that U.S. leadership is vital to the world and, drawing a contrast with Republican Donald Trump, said that means the White House is no place for a leader who insults allies or threatens to shrink from that role. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 30: Democratic nominee for Vice President Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., holds a campaign rally at the Boys & Girls Club in Lancaster, Pa., on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE - 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' airs every weeknight at 11:35 p.m. EDT and features a diverse lineup of guests that includes celebrities, athletes, musical acts, comedians and human interest subjects, along with comedy bits and a house band. The guests for Monday, August 22 included Presidential Nominee and former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and John Krasinski ('The Hollars'). (Photo by Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images) HILLARY CLINTON, JIMMY KIMMEL
MANHATTAN, NY - AUGUST 18: U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton meets with law enforcement experts at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, NY, on August 18, 2016. (Photo by Yana Paskova/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 17: Democratic candidate for President Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters during a Hillary for America rally at John Marshall High School on August 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH-August 17: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tours John Marshall High School August 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Clinton was scheduled to speak at a rally at the school. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH-August 17: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton arrives at Cleveland Hopkins Airport August 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Clinton was scheduled to speak at a rally at John Marshall High School. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 15: Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden conduct a campaign rally at Riverfront Sports in Scranton, Pa., August 15, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Scranton, PA - AUGUST 15: Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton greets supporters after holding a rally with Vice President Joe Biden at Riverfront Sports athletic facility on August 15, 2016 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tours Futuramic Tool & Engineering, before delivering an economic speech and job creation, in Detroit, Michigan on Thursday August 11, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
KISSIMMEE, FL - AUGUST 08: Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton stands with Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) as she attends a campaign rally at the Exhibition Hall in Kissimmee, Florida on August 8, 2016. Clinton continues to campaign to become the President of the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tours a small business, Mojave Electric, in Las Vegas, Nevada on Thursday August 4, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 01: Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) poses for photos with supporters during a campaign event August 1, 2016 in Richmond, Virginia. Kaine returns to campaign in a homecoming rally after he was picked to be the running mate of Hillary Clinton. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - On the third day of a bus tour through Pennsylvania and Ohio, Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton along with running mate Senator Tim Kaine, and Anne Holton, aboard the campaign bus in Cleveland, Ohio on Sunday July 31, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - On the second day of a bus tour through Pennsylvania and Ohio, Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton along with running mate Senator Tim Kaine, Anne Holton, and President Bill Clinton, speak to and meet Pennsylvania voters during a rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Saturday, July 30, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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The election is still 10 weeks away, and a great deal could change prior to Nov 8. The candidates are running about even in eight states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina, and the polling sample is too small to determine the winner in Alaska, Wyoming and Washington D.C. But Trump would need to win the 21 states currently in his column and sweep all of the remaining "toss-up" states to win the presidency.

That is a steep challenge for Trump, whose bare-knuckled, anti-establishment campaign helped him win the Republican Party's nomination but has so far failed to build broad support with voters.

If Trump cannot draw in far greater numbers of women, moderate Republican voters and minorities, he will almost surely lose the White House race, according to the polling project.

Consider, for example, what would be an ideal scenario for Trump: white men with below-average incomes showing up in record numbers on Election Day. This group strongly favors the real-estate mogul, yet even if all of them vote it wouldn't hand Trump any of the states currently slated for Clinton or any of the toss-up states. Clinton would still win the election.

The Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project is driven by an online survey that gathers responses from about 16,000 people per week. Respondents answer questions about their demographic background, their party affiliation and their choice for president. Their responses are weighted according to the latest population estimates, and each respondent is ranked according to their likelihood to vote.

Once the poll is complete, the project tallies the levels of support and estimated error for both candidates, and then runs multiple election simulations given their respective support. A separate set of simulations is run for each state and Washington D.C. The project runs more than 25 million simulations to determine the chances that one candidate would win.

(Click here: http://www.reuters.com/statesofthenation for the project's interactive tool that allows users to set turnout targets for various voter groups.)

Representatives from the Clinton and Trump campaigns did not respond to requests for comment on the project.

OCTOBER SURPRISE?

A polarizing candidate, Trump has called for a more extensive border wall with Mexico, a ban on Muslim immigrants and a rejection of international trade agreements. His personal attacks, including his criticism of the parents of a Muslim-American soldier killed in action, have undermined his support within the Republican establishment.

Still, Clinton is far from guaranteed a victory in November.

A majority of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of both Trump and Clinton, and nearly one out of four likely voters says they do not support either of them for president, according to a separate Reuters/Ipsos poll.

The candidates are scheduled to square off in a series of televised debates, and a poor showing by either could quickly change the dynamic of the race. A strong showing by a third party candidate could also influence the outcome.

Democratic Party operatives also fear there may be more revelations about ties between wealthy foreign donors to the Clinton family charity, the Clinton Foundation, and the State Department under her stewardship. Clinton has denied any impropriety but Trump has seized on the disclosures as a new line of attack against his rival.

"There's always a chance of an October surprise - something definitive and striking about Clinton - that could change the race," said Tom Smith, who directs the Center for the Study of Politics and Society at the University of Chicago. "But, short of any scandals by the Clintons, I just don't see any way that Trump catches up."

If Trump were to rely heavily on support from white voters, he would face an extremely narrow path to victory. Even if all male and female white voters showed up at the polls, and turnout among blacks and Hispanics was half of what it was in 2012, respectively, the project shows Clinton would still be favored to win.

It appears that Trump's best chance is to turn out Republican voters in huge numbers and hope that a lot of Democrats stay home.

There's only one problem with this: Republicans appear to have turned out as strongly as Democrats only once in presidential elections since at least 1976. That was in 2004, when the electorate was made up of 37 percent of Republicans, 37 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of Independents, according to exit poll data collected by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Cornell University.

"There's still a lot of this demolition derby of an election to go," said Donald Green, a political scientist at Columbia University. "A lot of people who support Trump don't have a very good record of voter turnout, and who knows if they show up this time.

(Editing by Paul Thomasch, Ross Colvin and Stuart Grudgings)

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