What Does the Latest FBI Probe Mean for the Polls?
FBI Director James Comey’s recent public announcement to congress that the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email scandal is being re-opened has set political imaginations running wild.
A week ago, the election looked to be over. Many polls had Clinton with a 12 point lead over her rival Donald Trump. Now the national average stands closer to just 3 points. This is a dramatic turn in the wake of this new scandal.
Federal investigators have obtained a warrant to begin searching a large number of emails belonging to one of her top aides. FBI agents are scrambling under intense public pressure to assess their significance ahead of Election Day on November 8.
The Clinton campaign has been quick to tackle the issue:
Yesterday, FBI Director Comey bowed to partisan pressure and released a vague and inappropriate letter to Congress. What you need to know: pic.twitter.com/E5Q8Mgp0h0
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 30, 2016
While the shock intervention might not be enough to change that outcome on its own, certainly it is not welcome news for the Democratic Party’s candidate.
Trump’s momentum had resurfaced after it was made clear why Hillary sought to retain so much control over her emails in the first place. WikiLeaks released scores of emails to and from campaign chairman John Podesta with embarrassing content.
With that, there came the release of a new report that showed just how much the lines are blurred for the Clinton family between politics and their foundation. While most of the information pertained to Bill, rather than Hillary, it still gave Trump the fresh ammunition he desperately needed.
Given this election race is unusual in that it’s more about who is less unpopular, it doesn’t take much to swing the mood of independent voters.
Still, Hillary’s average lead of 3.4% in national polls this weekend should be a healthy safety margin. But very few polls have been published since the new information broke over the emails.
- On Sunday, a reputable survey – ABC / Washington Post – shows Hillary with just a one point overall lead.
- “About a third of likely voters say they are less likely to support Clinton given FBI director James Comey’s disclosure,” said pollster Gary Langer. “Given other considerations, 63% say it makes no difference.”
“The potential for a pullback in motivation of Clinton supporters, or further resurgence among Trump’s, may cause concern in the Clinton camp – especially because this dynamic already was under way,” Langer added. “Intention to vote has grown in Trump support groups in the past week as the intensity of criticisms about him has ebbed.”
One possibility is that the FBI will not change any minds, but will strengthen existing opinion. A CBS poll showed just 5% of Democrats said the issue might make them less likely to support Clinton, compared with more than a quarter of registered Republicans.
The democrats are ferociously calling for the FBI to urgently exonerate Clinton, with loyalists convinced that the latest batch of emails found on equipment shared by aide Huma Abedin and her estranged husband Anthony Weiner, are irrelevant.
None of the emails were sent by Clinton. FBI Dir. did not use the words “re-opening the investigation.” Stop making this more than it is.
— Adam Smith (@AdamSmith_usa) October 28, 2016
However this lingering bad taste might leave some people to think the FBI suspects foul play, and not everyone is prepared to give Clinton the benefit of the doubt.
It’s not clear whether the electorate will truly understand the complexities and gravity of the investigation, or whether it will matter. But the image of a corrupt and crooked politician is an image that Hillary is finding harder and harder to shed.
We are now leading in many polls, and many of these were taken before the criminal investigation announcement on Friday – great in states!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2016