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Donald Trump can't win, pollsters say -

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HAYDEN COOPER, PRESENTER: The role of the political polling analyst is a crucial one in any election and in this year's US presidential vote that's doubly true.

Donald Trump has been written off many times already - wrongly, as it turns out. But now in the final fortnight, it seems his actual demise could be imminent.

The majority of polls have him losing by a margin of at least five points. No candidate in US presidential history has recovered from such a position.

But the Republican contender is hoping against hope that the pollsters are wrong; and he looks to Brexit for inspiration.

North America correspondent Michael Vincent reports.

(Footage of Donald Trump at opening event for hotel)

MICHAEL VINCENT, REPORTER: In Donald Trump's world, his brand is good politics and good business.


MICHAEL VINCENT: But taking time out of his campaign for the official opening of his new Washington hotel, with days left to the election, has been criticised as bad politics. But Donald Trump appears unfazed.

In the fight to the finish line, the Republican presidential nominee is stick to his rallying cry.

(Montage of Donald Trump addressing rallies)

DONALD TRUMP: I think we're going to have 'Beyond Brexit.' I think we will go beyond Brexit. You know about Brexit.

I mean, you can't believe anything you see. I don't even believe the polls. I see these polls and they're not terrible. They're sort of good. Actually, if the people come out and vote - (chuckles) they're very nervous - I feel this is another Brexit.

This is going to be Brexit-plus.

(Crowd whoops. Montage ends)

MICHAEL VINCENT: Meet a polling heavyweight.

MARK BLUMENTHAL, HEAD ELECTION POLLING, SURVEY MONKEY: I think in US presidential elections things are fairly locked in.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Mark Blumenthal's been in the business for 30 years and rejects any comparison between the 2016 race and the surprise Brexit result that Mr Trump was banking on, because it was a one-off vote.

MARK BLUMENTHAL: You know, the one thing about the Brexit example is: the polls there were actually very close and the result was reasonably close. It was just that the polls in the last weekend tended to show the "stay" vote ahead by a point or two and it ended up losing by three or four.

MICHAEL VINCENT: So it's in the statistical margin of error?

MARK BLUMENTHAL: I think it was in the real-world error that polling is subject to. If we were looking at one or two points separating Clinton and Trump, I'd say we'd be well within that historical potential for a polling error.

MICHAEL VINCENT: But there's another reason why American pollsters have confidence in their numbers: there is a massive amount of data collected on who is registered and who votes.

MARK BLUMENTHAL: If the margins separating Clinton and Trump narrow over the last two weeks of the campaign dramatically, then we're in a situation where we're not going to know.

But I think as of today, the snapshot we're looking at as of today, is big enough that most of us are going to be confident. It's really more of a question of how big the margin is.

(Map of the United States of America showing polling trends)

MICHAEL VINCENT: Just look at how the polling has changed the electoral map over time with Trump's slide in the polls.

Of the 11 so-called "battleground" states, some conservative ones like North Carolina have turned from solid Republican red to not-quite Democratic blue: let's say undecided purple.

The biggest, Florida, remains undecided despite Donald Trump's repeated rallies there. Ohio was pro-Trump: now it's a toss-up. And states like Michigan, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin have turned from undecided to a clear blue.

The Trump campaign is now out, trying to defend even places like Utah and Arizona, reliably conservative states for the past 50 years which are now considered battleground. Many of those states have already started early voting and it's clear Donald Trump is being out-spent and out-organised.

Reportedly, he's preferred spending more money on hats than internal polling.

MARK BLUMENTHAL: What professional campaigns are doing is: they're getting data in hourly - daily, at least - to tell them: this is how many people have voted early, this is where they voted, this is the likelihood, therefore, that they're voting for us.

They will know that from the data that they've gathered. And then they can adjust accordingly to find ways to nudge people as much as they can.

But the only way that you know you need to do that is by having that data.

(Footage of Hillary Clinton being introduced in a church)

REVEREND: Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton!

(Congregation cheers and applauds)

MICHAEL VINCENT: What that means is: when there are reports that African Americans are not turning out in North Carolina, the Democratic nominee heads to church.

HILLARY CLINTON, US DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice.

(Congregation cheers)

(Footage of Donald Trump addressing rally. The crowd is cheering)

DONALD TRUMP: This is a big crowd.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Donald Trump often hails the size of his rallies as a sign of his success. But political insiders say it just doesn't equate to votes, when getting people to the ballot box is half the battle.

MARK BLUMENTHAL: You see Trump go and give rallies in places that are oftentimes not even battleground states, much less in places where, you know, there's likely to be a lot of Trump voters that need a nudge. And that just again reflects that they're not doing the same kinds of traditional calculations that a campaign would do.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Sensing a potential wave, where they not just win the presidency but the Congress, Democrats are also spending twice as much money on ads.

(Excerpt from advertisement)

BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT (ad): Reach for what we know is possible. Support Brad Schneider and the Democrats.

MICHAEL VINCENT: President Obama recorded two for Florida Senator Patrick Murphy...

(Excerpt from advertisement)

BARACK OBAMA (ad): Patrick's a strong progressive.

MICHAEL VINCENT: ...the second in Spanish.

(Excerpt from advertisement. Barack Obama speaks in Spanish)

BARACK OBAMA (ad; translation): Get out and vote for Patrick. Your vote is very important. Thank you, friends.

MICHAEL VINCENT: It's not just the paid ads the President commands free air time to.

(Excerpt from segment 'Mean Tweets' on the TV program Jimmy Kimmel Live!, American Broadcasting Company)

BARACK OBAMA (reads tweet): "President Obama will go down as perhaps the worst president in the history of the United States," exclamation point: @RealDonaldTrump!

(Audience laughs)

BARACK OBAMA: Well, @RealDonaldTrump, at least I will go down as a president.

(Audience cheers. Barack Obama drops mobile phone. Excerpt ends)

MICHAEL VINCENT: The Republican party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, has been brought to its knees by the candidacy of Donald Trump.

His attacks on party leaders and desire not to recognise the outcome of the election, have shaken them to their core and a bitter civil war is under way to determine the future control of the party.

That's running in parallel with the desire amongst Americans to simply put this election - this bitter and ugly election - behind them.

FRANK LUNTZ, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: By the time we get to election day, this democracy will be limping to the finish line and everybody will be throwing up their hands saying, "Enough is enough."

And by the way, the reason why the public reacted so badly to Donald Trump saying that he might not recognise the election results is that they don't want 2000 all over again. They don't want the election to go on the second week, third week, fourth week of November.

When it's done, the American people want it done. And they're hoping that they never have another election like this one.

(Footage of Frank Luntz and Michael Vincent in the back of a car as it drives around Washington)

FRANK LUNTZ: The three debates were the chance for the public to take a different perspective.

MICHAEL VINCENT (voiceover): For an inside view, we grabbed a rare interview with polling royalty. Frank Luntz has worked for Republicans for decades and this normally happy warrior is now simply despondent.

FRANK LUNTZ: We did a survey several months ago. Over 70 per cent of Americans have lost a friend because of politics. More than half say that they cannot discuss it at Thanksgiving and Christmas, because it will be too toxic at the dinner table.

That is getting worse. And if you say that the election is rigged or that you won't accept the results, you're actually playing into it. That's the equivalent of pouring gasoline on the fire.

I hope that no country ever becomes as... poisonous in its communication as America's become.

I've never seen a level of internal resentment and the unwillingness to compromise that I see in the Republican Party. And I'm afraid that, only days from now, it will be all about recrimination and blame, rather than understanding and rebuilding.

DONALD TRUMP: We will make America great again.

MICHAEL VINCENT: The Republican party is bleeding. And the hardest part for them to deal with: the wound was self-inflicted.

HAYDEN COOPER: North America correspondent Michael Vincent there.