US election polls: Is there a way Donald Trump can win?

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won Wednesday night’s debate against her rival Donald Trump, according to a post-debate poll by YouGov.

Seven in ten said Clinton showed “good” or “excellent” knowledge of policies, compared to just four in ten for Trump.

In a CNN/ORC poll, the former US secretary of state won 52 per cent to the Republican’s 39 per cent. The majority thought she had a better understanding of the important issues and was better prepared to handle the presidency.

That gives Clinton a television debate hat-trick, says CNN/ORC, although her lead has fallen from 35 points in the first debate to 23 in the second and 13 points in last night’s debate.

In the national poll of polls by RealClearPolitics, Clinton is 6.3 points ahead of Trump, overall.

The results make it harder to imagine a Republican win at the US election in three weeks’ time. David Byler, an elections analyst for RealClearPolitics, says “a Trump comeback is improbable” after his middling-to-bad debate performances and the release of a video showing him making lewd comments about women.

“Trump is missing his benchmarks and his ability to shift the polls may quickly start to wane,” he says, adding polls normally don’t move more than 3.4 points toward either candidate within three weeks of the election.

However, such benchmarks are “not ironclad laws” and “something unexpected could happen”, he says.

Nate Silver, editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight, doesn’t think the Brexit comparison works, as the final EU referendum polls showed a toss-up between Leave and Remain before Leave won by four points. If the US polls were wrong by that much, Trump would still lose.

Silver thinks “Clinton may have finished him off” in the final debate, pointing out that there are now no more guaranteed opportunities for either candidate to command a huge public audience, as they did at the conventions and the debates.

“It’s perhaps significant that almost no matter what news has occurred, and there’s been a lot of it – terrorist attacks, mass shootings, foreign crises, her email scandal, the WikiLeaks dump, her September 11 health scare – Clinton has almost always led Trump in the polls, although there have certainly been times when the election was close,” says Silver.

It’s possible there will be an October surprise, or November surprise, he says, but this could equally work against Trump, and while a polling miss is also possible, it could just as easily show that Clinton has been underestimated.

Daryl Jones at Fortune suggests three unlikely ways in which Trump could win: the polls could be wrong; Wikileaks could drop a “bomb” that damages Clinton; or there could be an “October surprise”, such as a revelation about the Democrat’s health or her husband, former president Bill.

The odds of Trump winning seem “increasingly unlikely” as Clinton widens her lead and the undecided proportion of voters reduces, continues Jones.

However, on the day before the UK’s EU referendum, the polls had the Remain camp at 48 per cent versus 46 per cent for Leave, Jones says, and “we all know how that played out”.

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