WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has pulled into an effective tie with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, erasing a substantial deficit as he consolidated support among his party's likely voters in recent weeks, according to the latest Reuters/Ipsos national tracking poll released on Friday (Sept 2) .
The poll showed 40 per cent of likely voters supporting Mr Trump and 39 per cent backing Mrs Clinton for the week of Aug 26 to Sept 1. Mrs Clinton's support has dropped steadily in the weekly tracking poll since Aug 25, eliminating what had been a eight-point lead for her.
Mr Trump's gains came as Republican support for their party's candidate jumped by six percentage points over the past two weeks, to about 78 per cent. That is still below the 85 per cent support Republican nominee Mitt Romney enjoyed in the summer of 2012, but the improvement helps explain Mr Trump's rise in the poll.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll is conducted online in English in all 50 states. The latest poll surveyed 1,804 likely voters over the course of the week; it had a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 3 per cent.
Different polls have produced widely different results over the course of the campaign. In part that is because some, like Reuters/Ipsos, have attempted to measure the preferences of who is likely to vote, while others have surveyed the larger pool of all registered voters.
And even those that survey likely voters have different ways of estimating who is likely to cast a ballot.
Polling aggregators, which calculate averages of major polls, have shown that Mrs Clinton's lead has been shrinking for the past few weeks. Those averages put her advantage over Mr Trump at between three and six percentage points. Some of the more recent individual polls, however, have the race even tighter.
Voters do not elect the American president directly, of course, but through the Electoral College, an assembly representing each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on the number of legislators they have in Congress.
As of last Friday, the separate Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation polling project estimated Mrs Clinton was on track to win the Electoral College, by about 332 votes to 206. Those numbers were scheduled to be updated later on Friday.
In recent weeks, Mrs Clinton has come under renewed criticism over her handling of classified information while serving as US secretary of state, and her family's charitable foundation has come under fresh scrutiny for the donations it accepted while Mrs Clinton served in the Obama administration. Meanwhile, Mrs Clinton has not been campaigning as actively as Mr Trump.
Mr Trump, meanwhile, has reshuffled his campaign leadership and sought to broaden his appeal to moderate Republicans and minorities. He recently suggested that he would be a better president than Mrs Clinton for African-Americans, and has taken steps, including a meeting this week with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, to reach out to immigrants. It remains to be seen whether those efforts will click.
Mrs Clinton has led Mr Trump through most of the campaign for the November election, though neither candidate appears to have inspired America.
In the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, more than 20 per cent of likely voters opted for a choice other than the two major nominees, whether an alternative candidate, "would not vote" or "unsure".
That figure is significantly higher than the 10 pe rcent to 14 per cent of respondents who answered similarly at this point in the 2012 campaign. Both President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney enjoyed substantially stronger support at this point in the summer of 2012 than either Mr Trump or Mrs Clinton does now.
And while Mr Trump has consolidated his support among Republicans, likely voters are expressing an increasingly sour view of Mrs Clinton: The share of likely voters with an unfavorable view of the former secretary of state has grown to 57 per cent, compared with Mr Trump's 54 per cent, her worst showing on that metric in a month.
Mr Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said he remains convinced Mrs Clinton is ahead, somewhere in the range seen among the polling aggregators.
"There has been a closing that's completely natural," Mr Sabato said. "Every four years, you have two national party conventions that produce a bounce of varying sizes. Clinton got a substantial bounce this year that lasted for a full month. It's usually gone around Labor Day, and by then we'll be where we should be, which is right around four to five points" for Mrs Clinton.
In a separate question in the Reuters/Ipsos poll that included alternative-party candidates, Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump were tied at 39 per cent. Seven percent supported Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, and 2 per cent supported Ms Jill Stein of the Green Party.