New poll shows increasingly tight presidential race in New Mexico

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Republican Donald Trump has gained ground in New Mexico in the final week before the election, as a new poll puts him just 3 points behind Hillary Clinton.

What had been looking like a runaway win for Democrat Clinton has tightened so much that the number separating the two major-party candidates is within the poll’s margin of error, according to the survey by ziapolls.com.

Clinton’s grip on the lead in New Mexico slipped after FBI Director James Comey announced a week ago that he was reopening an investigation into emails potentially related to her work as secretary of state.

“Polls have really been narrowing the last two weeks,” said Brandon Gregoire, a public opinion pollster and co-founder of the Zia Poll.

Clinton’s lead in the survey declined from a 10-point edge over Trump in early October to 5 points a week ago. The latest poll of 1,102 New Mexico voters that showed her lead at 3 points was conducted Nov. 1-2.

Another high-profile race in New Mexico showed no such movement in the poll. Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver has a 10-point lead over Republican Nora Espinoza in the race for secretary of state. That is similar to the findings of last week’s poll.

This is the fourth presidential election poll Zia Poll has conducted this year, all paid for in-house, according to Gregoire. “In all four of the polls that we’ve conducted, we’ve had a little higher Republican participation than historically turns out,” he said.

The Trump campaign’s intense focus on New Mexico, which began two weeks ago with a visit to Albuquerque by vice presidential candidate Mike Pence, caused many to wonder why the Republicans would pay attention to a state many saw as solidly in Clinton’s column. Then Trump himself visited Albuquerque on Nov. 2 and predicted he would win New Mexico’s five electoral votes.

It was during that visit that Trump said polls in New Mexico were starting to lean his way, though he did not refer to any specific poll. Trump said he was tied with Clinton.

After that, Pence returned to the state Nov. 5 and Donald Trump Jr. was in Shiprock Nov. 7.

Overall, the Zia Poll found Clinton at 46 percent and Trump at 43 percent. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, was third at 7 percent.

The poll shows that Clinton’s lead is largely predicated on early voters with whom she enjoys a 56-33 margin over Trump. When looking at people who have yet to vote, Trump led by 2 percentage points. Both figures fall within the poll’s 3-point margin of error.

Among voters who cast early ballots and those who said they will vote, people older than 55 favored Clinton. Those under 54 favored Trump. Among first-time voters, ages 18-24, Trump had a 3-point lead.

Gary Johnson, a former Republican governor of New Mexico, had his largest support among those young voters. Sixteen percent said they would vote for him.

Some voters who had already cast ballots and chose Johnson told Zia pollsters they would switch their vote now if they could.

Trump had more crossover votes in the Zia Poll. That means more Democrats in the state voted for him than Republicans voted for Clinton, Gregoire said. “That’s been a little contrary to what some of the other polls [have been] showing,” he said.

Women voters surveyed in the state favored Clinton by 14 percentage points over Trump.

Brian Sanderoff, president of Research and Polling in Albuquerque, said there has been “more volatility in the closing weeks of this race then we typically see.”

Ultimately, he said, this is what pollsters call a horse race question. “All that matters is what happens at the finish line,” Sanderoff said.

Whether Trump will sprint ahead of Clinton in the homestretch depends on undecided voters, voter turnout and whether she can stop her slide in the polls because of negative publicity, Gregoire and Sanderoff said.

In general election polls for the last 30 years, Research and Polling has called elections correctly about 96 percent of the time, Sanderoff said. “Polling usually works if done properly. But this race is a little different,” Sanderoff said. “Honestly I’m more anxious than normal.”

Nationally, as of Nov. 7, poll aggregates, including fivethirtyeight.comand The New York Times, forecast a 65 percent and 84 percent chance, respectively, of Clinton winning the presidency.

Sanderoff was reluctant to say who he thought would win. Gregoire said, speaking personally and not on behalf of Zia Poll, “If I were to call it and put money on it with $20 and a handshake, I’m going to say Clinton by 5.”

The Santa Fe New Mexican is a sister-paper of The Taos News. Contact Henry M. Lopez at 505-986-3054 or hlopez@sfnewmexican.comContact Staci Matlock at 505-986-3055 or smatlock@sfnewmexican.com. Follow her on Twitter @StaciMatlock.

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