A group of Hofstra University students stand in front of a CNN trailer with images of Hillary Clinton, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, and Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, ahead of the first U.S. presidential debate at Hofstra University, Sept.25, 2016, in Hempstead, N.Y.
Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty

Latest polls offer mixed results for Clinton, Trump

With only 12 days remaining ahead of Election Day, there’s plenty of new presidential polling available, all of which paints a picture that’s looking a little murky.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 10/26/16, 9:32 PM ET

Divergent polls raise questions about tightening race

Harry Enten, senior political writer for FiveThirtyEight.com, talks with Rachel Maddow about what to make of polls that seem to be in distant disagreement.
Harry Enten, senior political writer for FiveThirtyEight.com, talks with Rachel Maddow about what to make of polls that seem to be in distant disagreement.
Let’s start with the latest national polls, where Hillary Clinton is leading Donald Trump by a little or a lot, depending on the survey. The latest USA Today/Suffolk poll offers the Democratic ticket good news:

Hillary Clinton: 47%
Donald Trump: 38%
Gary Johnson: 4%
Jill Stein: 2%

The latest Fox News poll offers the Republican ticket better news, at least insofar as Clinton’s advantage is considerably smaller:

Hillary Clinton: 44%
Donald Trump: 41%
Gary Johnson: 7%
Jill Stein: 3%

In case the differences between these two surveys weren’t notable enough, the picture gets even murkier still. The latest Associated Press poll, for example, shows Clinton with a dominant, double-digit lead, while the latest tracking poll from ABC News shows Trump cutting his 12-point deficit in half, to just 6 points, over the last week.

The takeaway from all of these competing figures is simple: keep looking at the averages. Right now, all things considered, Clinton’s advantage is about six percentage points, which is down just a little over the last week or so.

Of course, there’s also plenty of state-based polls to consider as well:

* Pennsylvania: The latest New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll in Pennsylvania shows Clinton ahead, 46% to 39%.

* Nevada: The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll shows Clinton and Trump tied in Nevada at 43% each.

* Florida: While the latest Bloomberg Politics poll found Trump ahead by two in Florida, a new poll from the University of North Florida points to Clinton having a four-point lead in the state.

* New Hampshire: While the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll shows Clinton ahead by nine in the Granite State, polls from Monmouth University and WBZ/UMass Amherst both found Clinton up by only four in New Hampshire.

* Texas: As hard to believe as this may seem, the latest Texas Tribune/University of Texas poll shows Trump’s lead in the Lone Star State at just three points, 45% to 42%, one of several recent statewide surveys pointing to a Republican lead in the low single digits. A new poll from the Austin American Statesman, however, points to a seven-point advantage for Trump.

Taken together, what we see is an electoral landscape in which Clinton is still favored to win the election, but her odds have slipped a bit as GOP partisans start to gravitate anew towards their party’s slate.

For Clinton and her team, that’s not great news – as the campaigns approach the finish line, they want to be gaining strength, not starting to slip – but there’s a silver lining to the clouds. One of the biggest challenges facing the Democratic ticket is complacency: if progressive and center-left voters assume Clinton has the race wrapped up, they may stay home or support an uncompetitive third-party candidate, assuming the Democratic nominee is going to win anyway.

As the race tightens a bit, those voters should realize that a Clinton victory is not a foregone conclusion, and while Trump is an underdog, it’s plausible to imagine a scenario in which he continues to close the gap in the race’s final days.

In other words, the more race “tightens,” the more it reminds the American electorate that this thing isn’t over, and the possibility of a Trump presidency remains real.