With less than two months to go until the election former Vice President Joe Biden’s once considerable lead over Donald J. Trump appears to be vanishing. Polls are showing the Democrat still ahead nationally and in several crucial swing states. Many equally reliable surveys however show the president closing.
Whether this is due to a change in voter attitudes or a change in polling methodology and the way pollsters look at their numbers is anyone’s guess. Public opinion surveys are highly objective analyses of electoral sentiment that can be influenced by both those crunching the numbers and those participating.
Any good survey seeks to replicate the partisan and ideological breakdown of the electorate that will be participating in the next election based largely on what happened in the last. That’s not always a reliable measure as it requires those conducting surveys to manipulate the numbers to account for ideology, partisanship, race, religion, and gender among the respondents that may not resemble who shows up on Election Day.
Environment influences optics. People in solidly Democratic areas are likely to feel comfortable putting Biden/Harris signs in their yards while Trump/Pence supporters in the same neighborhoods might be reluctant to bring attention to their intentions. Demonstrating support for the president, an admittedly divisive figure, can have adverse consequences. In one notorious incident, two 21-year-old women stole a “Make America Great Again” hat off the head of a seven-year-old boy at August’s Delaware Democratic state convention.
They’re now charged with hate crimes as well as robbery, conspiracy, and endangering the welfare of a child – and what they did what was inarguably cruel – but it hardly scratches the surface of what’s going on around the country. The social sanction shown toward Trump supporters is severe and encouraged by Democratic leaders. Congresswomen Maxine Waters, chairman of the House Banking Committee, famously told participants in a California rally that, as far as administration officials were concerned, “If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd, and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
Rhetoric and behavior like that can be intimidating. Few people want to open themselves up to the social sanction and shunning that attaches to being a supporter of the president. This may be why, as a recent Rasmussen Reports poll indicated, 17 percent of likely voters who give Trump’s job approval high marks say they are reluctant to let others know how they intend to vote in the fall. “A similar but narrower gap is evident between the two parties,” the polling firm said, with 16 percent of Republicans being less likely to tell others how they intend to vote, compared to 12 percent of Democrats.
This phenomenon was likely present in 2016 as well. Most pre-election polls showed former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton winning the White House easily. Instead, Trump won by the narrowest of margins by pulling together enough narrow victories in the 50 separate state elections that constitute a presidential contest to win a clear if not necessarily convincing victory in the Electoral College. If it is again present, as Rasmussen Report’s latest survey suggests, then most national and state surveys are undercounting the president’s level of support.
If that’s true, then the race is a lot tighter than people are being led to believe by most of the reporting on the race. Other surveys have shown GOP satisfaction with Trump to be much higher than the Democrat’s happiness with Biden. Republicans who say they are likely to vote are also showing much more enthusiasm as regards their participation in the upcoming election than their counterparts. These numbers too suggest support for the president’s re-election is being under-estimated rather than reported accurately even if the numbers in the national surveys say what they say.
Why nothing sticks to Donald Trump or Joe Biden
It was congresswoman Pat Schroeder, Democrat from Colorado, who labeled Ronald Reagan the “Teflon” president in a fit of exasperation in August 1983. What frustrated Schroeder was that nothing “stuck” to Reagan—not the recession, not his misadventures in Lebanon, not his seeming detachment from his own administration. Reagan’s job approval had plunged to a low of 35 percent at the beginning of that year, but his numbers were rising and his personal favorability remained high. “He is just the master of ceremonies at someone else’s dinner,” she said.
Ironically, the one thing that did stick to Reagan was Schroeder’s nickname. The phrase was so catchy that writers applied it to mobsters (“Teflon Don” John Gotti) and to Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. Teflon presidents, gangsters, candidates—we have had them all. What we have not experienced until now is a Teflon campaign.
Between March 11, when the coronavirus prompted the NBA to suspend its season, and May 14, some 84,000 Americans died of coronavirus, more than 36 million lost their jobs, and Congress appropriated $3.6 trillion in new spending. It is not foolish to suppose that these world-shaking events would affect the presidential election. On the contrary: One would expect a dramatic swing toward either the incumbent or the challenger. But look at the polls. Not only has there been no big shift. There has been no shift.
On March 11, Joe Biden led Donald Trump by 7 points in the RealClearPolitics average. On May 14, he led Trump by 5 points. “Biden’s advantage,” says Harry Enten of CNN, “is the steadiest in a race with an incumbent running since at least 1944.” He has never been behind. His share of the vote has been impervious to external events.
Neither good nor bad news has an effect. Bernie Sanders ended his campaign on April 8 and endorsed Biden on April 13. Biden received no bump from this display of party unity. Tara Reade accused Biden of sexual assault on March 25, and Biden did not respond directly to the allegation until May 1. His margin over Trump did not shrink. It remained the same.
Why? The incidents of this election cycle are not the reason. Epidemics, depressions, and sex scandals have happened before. What is distinct are the candidates. One in particular.
If this race has been the steadiest in memory, it is because public opinion of the incumbent has been the most consistent in memory. “Trump’s approval rating has the least variation of any post-World War II president,” notes Geoffrey Skelley of FiveThirtyEight. Whatever is in the headlines matters less than one’s view of the president. And he is a subject on which most people’s views are ironclad.
When the crisis began, Trump’s approval rating was 44 percent in the RealClearPoliticsaverage. On May 14, it is 46 percent. A social and economic calamity befell the country, and Trump’s approval ticked up. Not enough for him to win, necessarily. But enough to keep him in contention.
Americans feel more strongly about Trump, either for or against, than about any other candidate since polling began. His supporters give his approval ratings a floor, and his detractors give his ratings a ceiling. There is not a lot of room in between.
For years, Trump voters have said that they are willing to overlook his faults because they believe the stakes in his victory and success are so high. Heard from less often have been Trump’s opponents, who are so desperate to see him gone that they dismiss the failings and vulnerabilities of whoever happens to be challenging him at the moment.
Recently the feminist author Linda Hirshman wrote in the New York Times that she believes Tara Reade’s story but will vote for Joe Biden anyway. “Better to just own up to what you are doing,” she wrote. “Sacrificing Ms. Reade for the good of the many.” Hirshman is the mirror-image of the Trump supporter who, as the president once said, would not be bothered if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue. Intensifying tribalism makes this election a nonstick surface.
What gives Biden the upper hand is that there are more people who feel negatively than positively about Donald Trump. What gives Trump a chance is the uneven distribution of these people across the country. That was the case before coronavirus. It is still the case today.
Watching the numbers hardly budge over these past months, I have sometimes wondered what could move them. War? Spiritual revival? Space aliens?
Don’t think so. Throw anything at it. Nothing adheres to this Teflon campaign.
By Andy Puzder • The Morning Call
Anyone listening to President Donald Trump and to Democratic presidential hopefuls hears an almost Dickensian tale of two very different Americas.
The president takes “the best of times” view and spoke during his State of the Union address about “an unprecedented economic boom” in which “our economy is thriving like never before.”
Democratic presidential hopefuls take the “the worst of times” view and speak of an America that works only for the rich, while working-class paychecks fail even to keep up with the cost of living and people are struggling to get by.
Is either side right?
The American public appears to increasingly share Trump’s sunny view. A Gallup poll released on Monday, under the headline “Americans’ Confidence in Their Finances Keeps Growing,” found that more than two-thirds — 69 percent — of Americans expect to be better off in the coming year. That’s “only two percentage points below the all-time high of 71%” recorded 20 years ago. The poll was based on telephone interviews with 1,017 adults conducted between Jan. 2 and Jan. 10. Continue reading
by Paul Bedard • Washington Examiner
Despite the heavy media and political pressure to make global warming and climate change the top issue in the nation, it is more of a concern to citizens in 36 of 40 other industrialized nations than in the United States, according to Pew Research Center.
Polls famously cannot measure the intangible called intensity.
by Mona Charen
November 06, 2012
“I don’t know,” a very wise and skeptical Washington political analyst confided to me on Sunday as I limned the Romney victory I foresee. “I’d like to believe it,” she said, “but I have to overlook a lot. If you’re right, then a whole lotta state polls have to be wrong.”
Very true. But I’ll climb all the way out onto a limb and assert that the state polls are wrong — or at least misleading. Continue reading