Traditionally less competitive states feature close races between Democratic, Republican candidates
In a sign that the list of competitive states in the presidential race is expanding, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are locked in tight contests in four states, including two that haven’t been battlegrounds for decades, new Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist polls find.
The polls could be a warning sign for Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic nominee, as they found the races in New Hampshire and Nevada—two states that Democrats have won in recent presidential elections—to be neck-and-neck.
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Mrs. Clinton, in head-to-head matchups against Mr. Trump, leads by a single percentage point among likely voters in both states, 42% to 41% in New Hampshire and 45% to 44% in Nevada.
But the polls also spotted trouble for Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee, in unexpected places. The races are tight in two states that Republicans can usually take for granted: Arizona, where Mr. Trump leads by just 1 percentage point, 42% to 41%, and Georgia, where his lead is 46% to 43%.
The competition between the two remains equally close when the field is widened to include Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
The results come amid other national and state surveys that show a tightening race. Mrs. Clinton’s lead in the Real Clear Politics aggregate of polls stood at less than 3 percentage points this weekend, down from nearly 8 points in early August.
The Journal/NBC News/Marist results illustrate how the traditional electoral map is being scrambled in an unconventional year that could see a realignment of both parties’ coalitions.
Mr. Trump is making deep inroads among working-class, white men but alienating many Hispanic voters with his harsh rhetoric about Mexico and illegal immigration. Mrs. Clinton is scoring gains among college-educated white voters, a bloc that Republicans have carried handily in the past.
“As we enter the final lap of this very unconventional election, it would not be surprising if the electoral map, in the end, has new contours,” said Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Any of these four states could awaken a fault line in what is looking more and more like a shake-up election, with more states being up for grabs.”
These four states have historically been less fiercely competitive than vote-rich battlegrounds such as Ohio and Florida. President Barack Obama won New Hampshire and Nevada by more than 5 percentage points in 2012, while GOP nominee Mitt Romney won Georgia by nearly 8 points and Arizona by 9.
Now, the states look more competitive. Sensing opportunities in traditionally Republican territory, Mrs. Clinton is airing advertising in Georgia and Arizona.
The polls found that voting patterns in these four states are similar to trends in other places, with Mrs. Clinton leading among women and Mr. Trump winning among men.
Mr. Trump leads among white voters without a four-year college degree; Mrs. Clinton tends to do better among college-educated whites than those without a degree. She wins among those voters in New Hampshire and is competitive in Nevada and Arizona.
The exception is Georgia, where Mrs. Clinton trails among white voters regardless of education level: Mr. Trump leads by 25 percentage points among college-educated white voters, 57% to 32%, and by 54 percentage points, 72% to 18%, among whites without a college degree.
Still, the race is tighter than usual in Georgia, which hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992. Mr. Trump’s lead is far short of the 53%-to-45% victory Mitt Romney scored there in 2012.
Arizona has voted Republican for president in 15 of the last 16 elections, with Democrats scoring their lone win in 1996. Mr. Trump faces a challenge there because of the state’s large Hispanic population. The poll found that Hispanics favored Mrs. Clinton, 55% to 30%.
She enjoys a stronger advantage among Hispanics in Nevada, 65% to 30%, while Mr. Trump leads among white voters there, 51% to 38%. Another strong suit for Mr. Trump in Nevada: He leads among independent voters, 42% to 37%.
In New Hampshire, Mrs. Clinton has been running far ahead of Mr. Trump in many other recent polls. But the new Journal/NBC News/Marist poll finds the two candidates essentially tied.
In these four states, as elsewhere around the country, the poll found that both candidates were viewed negatively by a large share of the electorate, including many who dislike both candidates. The share of voters who have a negative view of both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton is 24% in Arizona, 23% in New Hampshire, 18% in Georgia and 16% in Nevada.
Independent voters may be a particularly unpredictable force in these states: More than one in 10 independents in each state—19% in New Hampshire, 17% in Georgia, 17% in Arizona and 11% in Nevada—report that they plan not to support either of the major-party candidates.
When the poll tested a ballot that included third-party candidates, the result benefited neither Mr. Trump nor Mrs. Clinton by any significant margin. Mr. Johnson did best in New Hampshire, where he drew 15% support.
In Senate contests in the four states, Republicans are outperforming Mr. Trump, and the results bode poorly for Democrats’ goal of capturing a Senate majority, the polls found.
One key race is in New Hampshire, where Democrats hope to knock off incumbent GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte. But the Journal/NBC News/Marist poll found her leading her Democratic rival, Gov. Maggie Hassan, 52% to 44%.
In Nevada, where Democrats hope to hold on to the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, the poll found Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto trailing Republican Joe Heck among likely voters, 45% to 47%.
In Arizona, the poll shows GOP Sen. John McCain far ahead of his Democratic opponent, Ann Kirkpatrick, 57% to 38%.
In Georgia, GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson leads Democrat Jim Barksdale, 53% to 38%.
The Journal/NBC News/Marist surveys were conducted Sept. 6-8 and included 737 likely voters in New Hampshire, 627 likely voters in Nevada, 649 likely voters in Arizona and 625 in Georgia. The margins of error were plus or minus 3.6 percentage points in New Hampshire, 3.8 points in Arizona and 3.9 points in Nevada and Georgia.