A new GW Battleground Poll has Donald Trump within three points of Hillary Clinton. Her support is at 46 percent; his is at 43 percent.
The poll is a bipartisan effort — a collaboration between Ed Goeas’s Tarrance Group (Republican) and Celinda Lake’s Lake Research Partners (Democrat). They surveyed 1,000 “registered likely voters.” The margin of error is plus/minus 3.1 percent.
Other surveys show Trump considerably further behind Clinton. In the four reported polls taken in April, other than this one, her lead ranges from 7 to 11 points.
So perhaps the GW Battleground Poll should be dismissed as an outlier. On the other hand, it’s possible that Trump has gained popularity in the past week or so, thanks to the lower profile he’s maintaining and/or the big stamp of approval he received in the New York primary.
Here’s another reason to take the GW poll seriously: it found that President Obama’s job approval rating has risen to 51 percent, with 46 percent of respondents disapproving, This is the first time since December 2012 that Obama has been above water in this survey. The GW result is a bit more favorable for Obama than the current RCP average. Thus, it’s unlikely that the GW Battleground Poll of a Clinton-Trump matchup was tilted against the Democrat.
It’s also unlikely that the poll failed to pick up on voter disgust with Trump. 65 percent of respondents disapprove of the tycoon (compared to 56 percent in the case of Clinton and 55 percent in the case of Cruz).
If Trump is, in fact, within three points of Clinton even though Obama is above water and Trump is viewed unfavorably by nearly two-thirds of respondents, then his prospects in November (assuming he gets that far) are not as dire as many, including me, have supposed.
Can a candidate with a 65 percent disapproval rate really be elected president? Perhaps he can, at least in theory, if his opponent’s disapproval rate is 56 percent, and the 9 point disparity is the result of disapproval by members of the candidate’s own political party who, despite their disapproval, might hold their nose and vote for him.
In practice, it still seems to me that Trump’s prospects in the general election aren’t good.