With 11 days to go before the US presidential election, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton leads Republican Donald Trump by 15 percentage points among early voters surveyed in the past two weeks, according to the Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project.
Though data is not available for all early voting states, Clinton enjoys an edge in swing states such as Ohio and Arizona and in Republican Party strongholds such as Georgia and Texas.
An estimated 19 million Americans have voted so far in the election, according to the University of Florida's United States Election Project, accounting for as much as 20 percent of the electorate.
Overall, Clinton remained on track to win a majority of votes in the Electoral College, the Reuters/Ipsos survey showed.
Having so many ballots locked down before the Nov. 8 election is good news for the Clinton campaign. On Friday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it is examining newly discovered emails belonging to Clinton's close aide, Huma Abedin. Those emails were found on a computer belonging to Anthony Weiner, Abedin's estranged husband, during an unrelated investigation into illicit messages he is alleged to have sent to a teenage girl. The Reuters/Ipsos survey was conducted before the news emerged Friday afternoon.
It remains unclear whether the FBI inquiry will upset the balance in the race. The bureau disclosed nothing about the Abedin emails, including whether any of the messages were sent by or to Clinton. Over the summer, the FBI said it was closing its investigation into Clinton's use of a private email system while secretary of state. Until Friday, her campaign seemed to have weathered the initial FBI email probe.
Clinton has held a lead averaging four to seven percentage points in polls in recent weeks as the Trump campaign wrestled with accusations by women of groping and other sexual advances. Trump has said none of the accusations are true. He also struggled in the recent presidential debates and faced questions about his taxes.
Clinton's 47%-45% edge in the new Washington Post/ABC tracking poll released Saturday is within the poll's 3-point margin of error. As recently as Sunday, Clinton led Trump 50% to 38% in the poll.
Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson is winning 4% while Green Party candidate Jill Stein is at 2%.The tracking poll improves Trump's standing by 1 percentage point in CNN's Poll of Polls, which averages the five most recent publicly released national polls that meet CNN's standards for publication. Clinton is leading 47% to Trump's 42% in polls taken from October 17 to 26.
As of Thursday, Clinton's odds of receiving the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency remained at greater than 95 percent, according to State of the Nation polling results released Saturday. The project estimated she would win by 320 votes to 218, with 278 votes solidly for the Democrat.
Clinton's lead among early voters is similar to the lead enjoyed by President Barack Obama over Republican Mitt Romney at this point of the 2012 race, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken at the time. Obama won the election by 332 electoral votes to Romney's 206.
But even before the latest email news, it had been a difficult week for Clinton. News coverage of Trump's accusers had diminished, while Clinton confronted the almost daily release by WikiLeaks of emails purportedly hacked from her campaign manager's account. This week's leaked messages raised questions about former President Bill Clinton's finances.
And her lead in the States of the Nation project fell slightly from last week. Though the projected Electoral College votes hardly moved, the number of states solidly for Clinton slid from 25 to 20 this week. Trump didn't see any additional states tilt solidly to him, but he did see some gains: The swing states of Pennsylvania, Colorado, Iowa and Nevada all moved from leaning to Clinton to being too close to call.
Still, Trump's path to a victory is narrow, and any realistic chance rests on his winning Ohio, North Carolina and Florida. As of Thursday, Ohio remained a toss-up. Florida and North Carolina were still tilting toward Clinton, according to the States of the Nation results.
By Friday morning, slightly more Republicans than Democrats had voted early – both in person and by mail – out of nearly 3 million votes cast so far in Florida, The Christian Science Monitor reported.
Those votes haven’t been tallied yet; all that’s known is their likely partisan cast, based on campaign analytics. A truer picture of the early-vote race in Florida will begin to emerge on Monday, after the first weekend of in-person early voting. That includes “Souls to the Polls,” the practice in African-American churches of busing congregants to vote after church.
“The poll numbers are very close here, and there’s nothing in the early-vote numbers to contradict that,” says Michael McDonald, an expert on voter turnout at the University of Florida, Gainesville.
Early voting data for Florida and North Carolina was not yet available this week. In Ohio, Clinton led Trump by double digits among early voters. The project's broader polling suggests the state is deadlocked between the two candidates.
In Arizona, Clinton also was solidly ahead among early voters. In the past month, Arizona has gradually moved from a solid Trump state to a marginal Clinton state, although it is still too close to call, according to the project results.
In Georgia, she enjoyed a similar lead among early voters. Overall, Georgia leans to Trump, but his lead narrowed to five percentage points this week, down from eights points last week and 13 points a month ago.
Even in Texas, where Trump enjoys a sizable lead, Clinton has a double-digit edge among early voters, according to project results.
The States of the Nation project is a survey of about 15,000 people every week in all 50 states plus Washington D.C.
(Editing by James Dalgleish)