The second presidential debate and a string of accusations of sexual misconduct have taken a toll on Donald Trump in Florida, according to a new poll that shows crucial independent voters swinging to Hillary Clinton.
Clinton drew 48 percent, besting Trump, who garnered 44 percent in the Quinnipiac University survey released Monday, with Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein drawing 4 percent and 1 percent, respectively.
The Democrat’s gains have come from independents, Quinnipiac found. They now favor Clinton by 46 percent to Donald Trump’s 38 percent — a clear shift from Quinnipiac’s Oct. 3 poll, when Trump led among independents with 42 percent, and Clinton 39 percent.
“Hillary Clinton is holding a thin lead in Florida because she is winning the battle for independent voters and holding her lead among women, non-white voters and her Democratic base,” the poll’s assistant director, Peter A. Brown, said in a statement. “Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, considered the alternative to Clinton or Trump, is not catching fire in the Sunshine State.”
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Clinton is winning a larger share of Democrats — 91 percent — than Trump is winning Republicans — 85 percent. She also holds a bigger, 15-point lead over Trump among women (54 percent to Trump’s 39 percent) than Trump’s nine-point lead over Clinton among men (49 percent to 40 percent). Fifty-seven percent of white voters prefer Trump and 34 percent prefer Clinton, while non-white voters favor Clinton by 73 percent and Trump by 19 percent.
The poll of 660 likely voters was conducted from Oct. 10-16. It has an error margin of plus-or-minus 3.8 percentage points.
Florida is essentially a must-win for Trump, whose Electoral College path is much narrower than Clinton’s. Trump spent three days in the state last week, underscoring its importance for his campaign.
Trump has denied the allegations of unwanted groping and kissing women have made against him. As he has slipped in polls, he has blamed the news media and made the unsubstantiated claim that the election is “rigged.”
Quinnipiac found Clinton making similar gains in two other battlegrounds, Colorado and Pennsylvania. She has also tied Trump in his best swing state, Ohio, where he was ahead in the university’s Sept. 22 poll.
“Secretary Clinton has held or increased her lead following the second debate” on Oct 9, Brown said. “Obviously the allegations by a number of women about Donald Trump’s behavior have taken a toll among some of those who had been in his column.”
The third and final debate between the presidential contenders will take place Wednesday in Las Vegas.
“Trump’s best hope is a knockout win in the last debate Wednesday evening, his last shot at a national audience,” Brown said. “Once the Wednesday debate is over, the last three weeks of the campaign will be fought by competing turnout machines and TV commercials.”
Clinton has a larger ground operation and more money to carry her through those weeks. Her campaign manager, Robby Mook, told reporters Monday that the Hillary Victory Fund will spend $6 million between now and Election Day on seven swing states — including Florida — to help down-ballot Democrats. President Barack Obama will rally support for Clinton on Thursday at Florida Memorial University.
A Real Clear Politics polling average — updated Monday with the Quinnipiac survey — has Clinton topping Trump by 3.6 percentage points in Florida. In a poll released Friday, the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found Clinton ahead of Trump by 46 percent to 42 percent, which represented a one-point tick up for Clinton from the firm’s last poll two weeks earlier.
Earlier this month, a poll by the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab gave Clinton a 41 percent lead over Trump’s 38 percent. Another survey, by NBC News, The Wall Street Journal and Marist College, found Clinton edging Trump by 45 percent to his 42 percent.