By Nate Silver
Every new poll seems to provide support for one of two impressions of the race: one in which Hillary Clinton is pulling away toward a historic landslide, and another in which Clinton holds a lead but Donald Trump remains on the fringes of contention.
On the whole, the data released over the past several days suggests that the race may have tightened just the slightest bit. But this seems to be the result of Trump having seen his image rebound some among Republican voters, rather than having taken any votes away from Clinton. In fact, Clinton’s standing in our national polling average — 46 percent — is the highest it’s been all year, including when she was in the midst of her convention bounce. But Trump’s at 40 percent, about 1 percentage point better than a week ago, and — believe it or not — also not far from his high on the year (Trump peaked at 41 percent in late September).
Both candidates, in other words, are slowly gaining votes from undecided voters and from third-party candidates. Emphasis on “slowly,” because there are still a lot of these voters up for grabs. About 15 percent of the electorate isn’t yet committed to Clinton or Trump, as compared to just 5 percent who weren’t committed to President Obama or Mitt Romney at this point in 2012. That’s one of the reasons why our models still give Trump an outside chance at victory. In theory, with Clinton at “only” 46 percent of the vote, he could beat her by winning almost all of the undecided and third-party voters. (In practice, there’s no particular indication that these voters have Trump as their second choice.)