These 2016 Swing State Polls Will Scare You

The primary season isn't over yet, but we're in the home stretch. Pollsters have been conducting hypothetical general election match-up polls since early on in the race, but these polls are taking on more weight as we get closer to knowing who the Democratic and Republican nominees will be. National general election polls show both Sec. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders with leads over Donald Trump in one-on-one match-ups, but the results of general election polls from swing states are unsettling.

Swing states are particularly important. Based on a number of factors, including historical voting trends and current demographics, we have a good idea of how many states' voters will lean in November, and NPR provided a handy map projecting whether the Democratic or Republican nominee can expect to win each states' electoral votes in the general election. The swing states are those that could go either way.

A Quinnipiac poll, published Tuesday, showed extremely close results in hypothetical match-ups in three swing states: Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania (Quinnipiac considers Pennsylvania a swing state, unlike NPR). In Florida, Clinton leads Trump by one point, and Sanders leads him by two. Clinton is behind Trump four points in Ohio, and Sanders is ahead of him by two again. In Pennsylvania, Clinton leads Trump by one, and Sanders is ahead by six.

Clinton's numbers here are particularly worrisome for anyone who doesn't want to see a President Trump, because: 1) she's likely to be the Democratic nominee; and 2) she's not performing very impressively against Trump in national match-ups. Real Clear Politics averaged several general election polls and found Clinton up by 6.4 percent against Trump. Sanders has double that lead; he outperforms Trump by 13 percent.

These three swing states have large numbers of electoral votes between them, making them particularly important; only a few states have more than they do. Pennsylvania carries 20 electoral votes, Ohio has 18, and Florida has 29. During the general election, states award their electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis. If Trump managed to best his opponent by even one percent in these states, he'd get a big electoral haul for it.

Of course, the general election is still half a year away. We're not even out of the primaries yet, and these polls could look very different in a few months. As we go forward, swing state polls are worth keeping an eye on, along with national general election polls.