Hillary Clinton was asked Wednesday morning whether she thought she would win the 2016 election if it was held today.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Clinton replied to “Today” anchor Matt Lauer. “I think there’s at least a 50-50 chance I would.”
So, is there?
Obviously, that’s a difficult question to answer. Elections are a unique moment in time and re-creating the circumstances surrounding them is impossible. (It’s like trying to create the exact circumstances of any single day — even the most mundane one.)
But, there is some data that helps us test Clinton’s theory — and it suggests Trump might actually win slightly easier than he did on November 8, 2016.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in late April — right around Trump’s 100-day mark in office — showed that 96% of Trump voters said supporting him was the “right thing to do” while 2% said they regretted backing him. More than six in 10 (62%) said Trump was doing better than they expected while just 2% said he was doing worse than they thought he would. A Pew poll in the field at around that same time showed that just 7% of Trump voters said he had done worse than they expected while almost four in 10 (38%) said he had exceeded their expectations.
Back to that Post poll. Asked if they would support another candidate if they had the chance, just 4% of Trump voters said they would while 15%(!) of Clinton voters said they would have voted for someone else. (That 15% was split between Trump, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and people saying they would vote for some other candidate or not vote at all.)
Asked straight up who they would vote for if the election were held today (with “today” being mid-April), 43% said Trump while 40% said Clinton — a reversal of her nearly three-point popular vote margin in the actual election.
It’s important to note that this poling was conducted before Trump’s disastrous summer — low-lighted by his botched handling of the white supremacist protests in Charlottesville. It’s uniquely possible that Trump’s supporters have had more second thoughts since then. But, there has been no polling on this issue — making it impossible to quantify how many Trump backers might be having second (or third) thoughts about their support for the president.
There is some counter-factual evidence for the idea that Trump would have won if the election was held today. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted in August showed that 49% of respondents said the country would have been better off if Clinton had won the election rather than Trump while 40% said the country would be worse off. (This feels like a a pure party ID question; more people identify as Democrats at the moment and those people believe Clinton would be a better president than Trump.)
The broader point here — aside from the impossibility of re-running elections — is that there is little evidence of a massive groundswell for Clinton in the wake of the election. Trump is deeply unpopular but so, too, is Clinton. In a Bloomberg poll released in mid-July, just 39% had a favorable opinion of her as compared to 41% who viewed Trump favorably. Not only was that the 2nd-lowest favorable rating for Clinton since the poll started asking the question in 2009 but it also showed that 1 in 5 people who voted for Clinton in 2016 said they viewed her unfavorably — double the number who said that in Bloomberg poll conducted just before the election.
The 2016 election could well still be a 50-50 affair if the vote were held today. But there’s at least as much evidence to suggest Trump might win slightly more easily than there is that suggests Clinton would win at all.