*Video surfaces of Donald Trump killing and eating a guy* Trump surrogate on CNN: UM SILENCE OF THE LAMBS WON BEST PICTURE IN 1992
— Aaron Chewning (@AaronChewning) October 12, 2016
Polarization is so strong that other than Debate #1, which moved opinion by about four percentage points, it is looking like no existing story line can alter the trajectory of the Clinton-versus-Trump race. The primary exhibit is national polls, which have not yet shown any measurable aftermath from the Access Hollywood video or Debate #2:
(Methods: each day, take the median of all national polls that sampled on that day. Then apply a median filter. The gray zone indicates +/- 1 standard deviation.)
Beyond the four-point swing from Debate #1, there has been no further movement. It is as if the race has reached some ceiling that will be hard for Hillary Clinton to get past.
Obviously, the Access Hollywood event is not without consequence. It rocked Republican officialdom, highlighting divisions within the party and pitting Trump and noTrump factions against one another. That internal division, and any decline in GOP voter morale, may affect downticket races. Such effects might show up in Senate/House polls, though it hasn’t become apparent yet.
However, note that we don’t know the effect of get-out-the-vote activities. This year, those effects may be asymmetric, considering the relative absence of such efforts on the Trump side. We won’t really have an idea until after the election.
Also related to polarization, this year’s race has been unusually stable all year. Some commenters are still focused on the possibility that this year’s Presidential race is somehow volatile. As I said here the other day, the answer is no. Also see my American Prospect piece, which points out that the last few Presidential races are more stable than they’ve been since 1952.
To add to the picture a little bit, let us take one more look at the statistics. First, see the national-horserace graphs for 2008, 2012, and 2016 (links to RealClearPolitics). It is possible to extract a few simple measures: standard deviation (as I have reported before), total peak-to-trough variation throughout the election year*, and the largest single change in a one-week period:
|Year||SD||Total swing||Largest change|
By these measures, 2016 is a year of middling stability – by recent standards. But again, keep in mind that such high stability is a post-mid-1990s phenomenon.
High stability of opinion fits well with the extreme emotional nature of this year’s campaign. After what everyone has been through this year, not many voters seem likely to change their minds every few days. Other than some Johnson and Stein voters straggling in, minds are made up. This is polarization at work.
*Leaving out the primary season, the total swing in 2016 has been 7%.