TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton heading into their party conventions, polls this week gave conflicting pictures about the presidential race in Florida.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll released Friday showed Clinton leading Trump by a margin of 44 percent to 37 percent in a head-to-head matchup in Florida, one of the most closely watched states in the country. Clinton leads the Republican by a margin of 41 percent to 36 percent when Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are added.
Those results were released two days after a Quinnipiac University poll showing Trump with a three-point edge over Clinton in a head-to-head race in Florida and a five-point lead with Johnson and Stein included.
Polls can be affected by a wide range of variables, such as the demographics, party breakdowns and numbers of voters surveyed.
But the results of the NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll offer a rosier picture for Clinton and Democrats than the Quinnipiac poll suggested. Along with showing Clinton ahead in the presidential race, the Marist poll indicated that Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has a three-point edge over Democrat Patrick Murphy in Florida's U.S. Senate race --- a far-narrower margin than in the Quinnipiac poll, which said Rubio was ahead of Murphy by a margin of 50 percent to 37 percent.
The polls came as Trump prepares to accept the GOP nomination during a national convention next week in Cleveland and Clinton readies to accept the Democratic nomination later in the month in Philadelphia.
Lee M. Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said in comments released with Friday's poll numbers that Trump is "playing catchup" against Clinton in Florida, Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia. The institute, part of New York-based Marist College, also released results Friday showing Clinton ahead in those three other battleground states.
"The driving force behind voters' choices is the negative impressions they have of both Trump and Clinton," Miringoff said. "Clinton's single-digit lead in each of these states is due to her slight advantage in how voters perceive the two candidates."
A key factor in the race likely will be independent voters, with a Marist analysis saying independents in all four of the states have not "coalesced behind either candidate." The poll showed Clinton leading by a margin of 38 percent to 35 percent among Florida independents in a head-to-head matchup with Trump. But Trump holds a three-point lead among independents when the candidates from the Libertarian and Green parties are added to the mix.
The Marist poll included 871 registered Florida voters, who were surveyed from July 5 through Monday. The margin of error is 3.3 percentage points.