2016 Battlegrounds: Trump keeps it close in Southwest, faces steep climb in Virginia

2016 Battlegrounds: Trump keeps it close in Southwest, faces steep climb in Virginia
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The latest wave of the YouGov/CBS News 2016 Battleground Tracker polled likely voters in Arizona, Nevada and Virginia

Tight races in two Southwestern states and wide margin in Virginia show how 2016 could continue to be an election of surprises.

Hillary Clinton holds a narrow two-point edge over Donald Trump in Nevada, earning 43% against Trump’s 41% among likely voters in a swing state George W. Bush and Barack Obama both won twice.

In Arizona, which has only voted Democratic once since 1948, it’s Donald Trump with the slim lead, topping Clinton 44% to 42%.

But Clinton could be headed for a relative blow-out in Virginia, where she leads Trump 49% to 37%. In 2008 Obama turned Virginia blue for the first time since 1964 and repeated the feat in 2012, when his victory margin in the Old Dominion mirrored his 3.9 point national lead almost exactly.

Virginia is also Gary Johnson’s best state, with 7% showing interest in the Libertarian Party candidate. Notably, it was also the only state polled in this wave of the YouGov/CBS News 2016 Battleground Tracker where Jill Stein was not a named option alongside Johnson for voters who opted for “someone else” besides Clinton and Trump. Stein has not yet filed her petition to appear on the ballot in Virginia. Johnson receives 5% in Arizona and 4% in Nevada, while Stein receives 2% and 3%.

What Arizona, Nevada and Virginia have in common are increasingly diverse electorates, and so far these trends are working to Clinton’s advantage. Clinton trails Trump among white voters in all three states: she’s down 19 points in Arizona, 15 in Nevada and 8 in Virginia. But she maintains huge advantages among non-white voters. In Nevada and Arizona, states with large and growing Hispanic populations, Clinton leads among Latinos by 54 and 36 points, respectively. In Virginia, Donald Trump receives only 1% of the Black vote; Clinton receives 92%. Clinton’s narrower margin among Virginia whites is fueled by a 5-point lead (43% to 38%) among the state’s sizeable population of whites with a college degree – a traditionally Republican-leaning group where Clinton has seen success.

Some of these same dynamics are likely driving down overall support for Trump among Republicans. In Arizona, Clinton boasts the support of 89% of Democrats, while only 78% of Republicans back Trump. The gap is similar in Virginia (95% versus 79%). This could also suggest Trump is in a good position to bounce back if he can convince some of these Republicans to come back into the fold.

The poll was also conducted during what has arguably been one of the darkest periods for the Trump campaign. Following what was largely seen as a successful Democratic convention, Trump found himself embroiled in a series of controversies, most notably a days-long feud with the Khan family, whose son was a soldier killed in Iraq. 59% of likely voters in Virginia, a state with an especially large veteran population, say his response to the Khans has been inappropriate, along with 53% in Arizona and 57% in Nevada.

Nevada Senate

In Nevada, Republican Congressman Joe Heck and Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, a former state Attorney General, are competing for the US Senate seat currently held by retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. There remain a large number of undecideds in the race, but Heck edges Cortez Masto slightly, 38% to 35%.

Interviews were conducted August 2-5, 2016 for the CBS News 2016 Battleground Tracker. A detailed description of the methodology used to carry out the surveys can be found here

See additional questions and demographic breakdowns for Arizona, Nevada and Virginia.