NDN Blog

Looking Ahead to The Fall Elections, Trump Begins to Panic

This piece was originally published on Monday, May 18th and updated on the morning of May 21st with new polling data. 

Donald Trump has long feared Joe Biden.  He hatched a vast conspiracy to extort “dirt” on the Bidens from the Ukrainian government - an illegal plot which got him rightfully impeached and should have ended his Presidency.  Faced with weak poll numbers for himself and incumbent GOP Senators, the President now appears to be panicking - and is not just rolling out ridiculous arguments against the former Vice President, but also has launched a sustained attack against Barack Obama, a political figure far more popular and virtuous than he.  As a longtime political analyst, it doesn’t make any sense to me why he would begin attacking Obama or bring up his illicit relationship with Putin - but little Trump does makes sense to me.  And that’s because despite the bluster he actually isn’t very good at being President or winning over the voters he needs to win. 

This organization has never subscribed to the “Trump has magical powers” school of political analysis.  In 2016, Trump won with just 46% of the vote and only with the help of three extraordinary, hard to replicate events - Russia’s huge intervention on his behalf, Jill Stein’s just good enough candidacy, and the Comey letter which dropped Clinton’s lead from 6 to 2 points in the last days of the election.  When Trump led Republicans into battle in 2017, 2018, and 2019, the Rs had near worst case election results each time.  In 2018, the Democrats won the House by 8.6 points (53.4-44.8), a huge margin; and in 2019, the Dems won the governorships in KY and LA, two deep red Southern states.  As NDN’s Chris Taylor wrote recently, 2020 looks and feels a lot more like 2018 than it does 2016 - which is why Trump has begun to panic.  He’s never actually performed well in an election and he isn’t going to win in 2020 with 45-46% of the vote - his vote share in the 2016 and 2018 elections, and a place where he is struggling to even get to now. 

Perhaps no event captures Trump’s ongoing failures more than his historically inept, reckless response to COVID-19. There is simply no easy way to explain his delay in engaging the virus, his lack of a sustained or understandable response, his repeated undermining of strategies which are working, or his promotion of dangerous, untested remedies.  We are re-opening the country now without most states hitting Trump’s own published criteria for re-opening, and we still don’t have the basic things that we as a nation need - a national testing/tracing regime and strategies for safe domestic travel/business protocols - in place.  We are just re-opening.  Our new infection rate per capita remains among the highest in the world, up there with Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and the UK; and while testing has improved, the US is still only around 40th in the world in per capita testing - a very, very low number given that the virus may have spread further and deeper in the US than in any other country in the world. And of course the nation is looking at Great Depression level unemployment rates and banana republic levels of debt. 

As bad as his day-to-day management of COVID has been, his political management of it has also been an extraordinary failure.  Many polls and analyses have captured this failure, but let’s look at new numbers out this morning from the Navigating Coronavirus project:

- Trump’s handling of coronavirus - 41% approve, 55% disapprove

- Has Trump’s management of the coronavirus been a success or failure - 38% success, 51% failure

- Should stores require masks - 84% yes, 16% no

An excellent new Huffington Post poll on masking has similar numbers. Perhaps the most important is the question about the whether Trump himself and othe elected officials should be wearing a mask - 63% yes, just 7% no.  It's hard to put into words how far outside science, reason, common sense and public opinion the President's crusade against masks is.  It's just breathtaking. 

A new Washington Post analysis finds that Trump's approval of his handling of COVID is lower than EVERY GOVERNOR with the exception of his close ally, Governor Kemp of Georgia.  The data is staring him right in the face - thos governors who've aggressively fought the virus have been rewarded in the polls.  Those who haven't, haven't.  To me his siding with the “Liberate!” protesters has been one of the craziest events of his Presidency - it not only makes the spread of the virus more likely, it's operating at the fringe of our politics and has helped drive his numbers down.  The number of people in this hard core Liberate! camp could be as low as 15% of the public, and is certainly no higher than 30%. What exactly are you doing Mr. President? Why haven't you course corrected, for your sake, and for ours as well?

The President is losing the election.  The Senate is imperiled too.  His ridiculous response to COVID has crashed the economy, let the virus run wild, left us without a serious strategy to defeat the virus, and is deeply unpopular.  A second wave may hit us this fall, just as people go to vote.  From where Trump sits now, things are not looking so good.  Hence the “Obamagate” absurdity and new Biden slanders.  It isn't going to help him win, but apparently it is all this spent, failed leader has got at this point. 

In the midst of this pandemic, we all deserve better, much much better.

NDN Events: Wed, 2pm ET - With Democrats Things Get Better

We are happy to invite you to the following NDN events, all conducted via Zoom. Times are all Eastern Daylight Time.  Thanks to all those who joined us for our recent events with. Reps. Anna Eshoo, Derek Kilmer, Adam Smith, Haley Stevens, Nina Jankowicz and Frank Foer. 

We've got more good ones in the process of being scheduled - so check back frequently!

Wednesdays at NDN rotate between two presentations:

The 2020 Poll Roundup – A live look at recent national polling, this Wednesday presentation dives into the most current data the way political analysts do.  Along the way you will not only get up to speed on all this important election, but you will learn how to analyze public opinion data the way the pros do.   The presentation is live over Zoom, takes about 25 minutes and we will leave 30 minutes for discussion.  Our next Poll Roundups are on October 21st and October 28th.  Feel free to invite friends and colleagues - all are welcome. 

With Democrats Things Get Better – This is our signature 2020 presentation, and a deep dive into the performance of the two political parties over the past generation of American politics.  This too is about a 25 minute presentation, with 30 minutes of discussion which follows.  You can learn more about this presentation and the broader project behind it here and read Mike Tomasky’s glowing review of “With Dems” in the Daily Beast.

Due to interest in current polling we are suspending our regular presentations of "With Dems" until after the election. 

Analysis: The Public Doesn't Trust Or Support Trump's Coronavirus Response

This is the fourth piece in NDN's weekly Thursday polling round-up. You can find the previous three weeks' pieces herehere, and here.

In recent weeks, we've discussed how the Presidential race continues to solidly lean towards the Democrats while the race for the Senate majority has become far more competitive to the point where it likely slightly favors the Dems. An important rationale for these developments (as well as a key factor for how the campaign will change going forward) is that the public, after a short "rally around the flag" moment, has begun to strongly disapprove of the President's response to the coronavirus crisis.

According to FiveThirtyEight's polling aggregate, the public's approval of Trump's handling of the coronavirus outbreak peaked at net +3.5 (49.7/46.2) on March 25th. Since then, Trump's approval on this metric has steadily declined, and today it stands at net -9.2 (43.3/52.5) - its lowest level since this metric was created in mid-February. Importantly, this decline has taken place while governors' approval ratings continue to surge. In a new Washington Post poll released earlier this week, voters' approval of Trump's handling of coronavirus was -13 (43/56) while voters' approval of their governor's handling of the crisis was +41 (71/27). In particular, governors who Trump has openly attacked over the past month - Cuomo in NY, Whitmer in MI, and Pritzker in Illinois - have very strong approval ratings on their handling of coronavirus. Cuomo has net approval of +63 (81/18), Whitmer +47 (72/25), and Pritzker +41 (71/27).

Not only do voters not support what the President has done to respond to this crisis, they also don't trust the information that he is telling them regarding coronavirus. In a recent CNN poll, voters didn't trust the information that Trump was providing by a 26 point margin (36% trust, 62% didn't trust). By contrast, voters trusted Dr. Fauci by a 47 point margin (67/20), the CDC by a 52 point margin (74/22), and CNN by a 15 point margin (55/40).

Furthermore, the new narrative that Trump has latched onto - that "the cure is worse than the cause" and the country now needs to open up to support the economy ("Liberate!") - remains exceedingly unpopular among voters. According to new Navigator Research polling, when asked which concerned them more, 63% of voters said "ending social distancing too soon and prolonging the pandemic" while only 27% said "social distancing going on for too long and harming the economy". Similarly, 80% of voters said either that the current level of social distancing is right (40%) or that we need more aggressive social distancing (36%), while only 16% said that we need to relax current social distancing restrictions. 

Taken together, it is clear that the public doesn't support Trump's response to this crisis, doesn't trust him to tell the truth about it, and overwhelmingly opposes his new re-opening strategy. As always, below you can find a detailed aggregate of the most important polling data (in our view) for understanding where the 2020 election currently stands. 

Links: 1234567, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

Finally, something very odd has happened in Trump favorability polling over the past month. While older voters have long been a core constituency for the President (he won voters over age 65 by 8 points in 2016 while losing the overall vote by 2, and won them by 2 points in 2016 while losing the overall vote by 9), his support among voters over age 75 fell significantly in April. According to polling from PRRI, the percentage of people who viewed Trump favorably in 2019 was 46% among those 65-74 and 47% among those 75+. Similarly, in March 2020 his favorability was 54% among those 65-74 and 56% among those 75+. In April, however, his favorability collapsed to just 34% among those 75+, while it still held up at 45% among those 65-74. We will of course need more time and much more polling to see if this significant change among elderly voters holds up, but it is something to keep an eye on. Perhaps the high mortality rates that elderly people face from coronavirus has made them particularly opposed to the President's attempts to downplay the virus. If so, the President's chances of winning in 2020 would be all but zero.

Invite: Today, May 15th 2pm ET - Simon Rosenberg & Rob Shapiro Discuss COVID

Please join us this Friday at 2pm for our semi-weekly webinar featuring Simon Rosenberg and Rob Shapiro discussing the latest updates and analysis on COVID-19. The briefing will take place on Zoom and will last for 45 minutes. If you would like to attend, please register at this link. Once you register, you will find a link to the briefing location on Zoom that will go live at 2pm on Friday.

Simon is NDN's President and is a frequent political strategist and commentator in the national media, appearing regularly in the New York Times, Washington Post, and MSNBC. In this past election cycle, he was a senior advisor to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, helping craft the strategy which netted Democrats 40 seats and earned the highest vote share by either party since 1986. 

Rob is a long-time contributor to NDN and was the Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs in the Clinton Administration. He was a senior economic advisor to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Kerry in their presidential campaigns, and is currently the Chairman of Sonecon LLC, an economic and security policy consultancy. 

As background, Rob published a new piece in The Washington Monthly today discussing how unemployment in April was even worse than the 14.7% number published on Friday, which you can read here. As well, Simon recently published a new piece about how to manage the 75 million young people who will be away from school and summer camps as a result of COVID over the next several months (link here), as well as one that discusses how COVID's spread through the White House within days of its reopening is a lesson for how hard it is going to be to open up the country in the days ahead (link here). 

White House Struggles With COVID Are An Ominous Sign For The Country

White House Struggles With COVID Are An Ominous Sign For The Country - Despite warnings from experts that the virus was still too active in the US to re-open the country, two weeks ago the White House itself returned to work.  The Vice President traveled.  Governors came to visit.  Meetings with outside leaders including the House GOP leadership, which could have been held over video conference, were held inside the White House.  Based on photos from then and subsequent days, the President, his team, and his visitors didn’t wear masks and didn't keep six feet apart. 

Last week, as predicted, COVID came into the White House.  At least two senior staffers and some number of Secret Service agents tested positive for the virus. Dr. Fauci and the heads of the FDA and CDC have all self-quarantined, as have some number of White House staffers.  The Vice President announced that he was self-quarantining last night, but then reversed his decision soon after. White House economic advisor Kevin Hassett, in a TV interview yesterday morning, said that it was "scary to go to work" at the White House but that the urgency of our national challenges required staff there to risk it all, go in, and not work from home.  Re-opening has become a chaotic and dangerous mess, even for the White House.

For every American trying to figure out how to navigate phase II, that the White House is on the verge of shutting down within days of re-opening  is a clear sign of how hard these next few months are going to be.  Perhaps emboldened by their access to rapid daily testing, the President, his staff, and their visitors haven’t followed the protocols - they haven’t worn masks and haven't stayed six feet apart.  We don’t know whether they’ve eaten together and shared meals across from one another, but we have to assume that they have. And the virus came, quickly.  Unlike the rest of us, however, their access to rapid testing may have caught the virus early, and prevented a huge outbreak which could have threatened the President himself.  Most American workers will not be so lucky if the virus hits their workplace, as very few will have access to this level of testing each day.  The virus will come, people will start to get sick, and lock downs will return. It is no wonder, then, that the public isn't happy with the President's COVID response.

As of Saturday, DC has the highest per capita rate of new infections of any state in the country - the virus is spreading faster here than anywhere else.  A Senate hearing tomorrow on the virus will be conducted by a Committee Chairman in quarantine, working from home, and experts will also be quarantined and speaking from home.  It will be another powerful reminder of our struggle to manage this extraordinary time and return to normal - re-opening here, in DC, carries incredible risks at this time for anyone.

At NDN, we hope that the President uses his own struggles with re-opening to help educate the country about the challenges ahead.  The virus isn’t gone or receding - the US still has among the highest new infection rates of any nation on earth, and they aren’t dropping.   Our "lockdowns" were not as aggressive as other nations, and thus didn’t get the virus under control in the way that we all would have wanted.  We don’t have rapid ubiquitous testing in place, like the President does, which is needed to allow workplaces and communities to catch new infections early, isolate the sick, and allow people to keep working.   Re-opening will require an incredible commitment to social distancing and masking (um, Mr. President); and if nothing else the President should admit his errors, and commit now to crashing a national testing/tracing/isolation regime for the country, a regime which has allowed his workplace to stay open.  The President's repeated refusals to adhere to any of the things that experts have recommended to combat the virus - immediate national shelter-in-place, social distancing/masking, testing/tracing/isolation - remain inexplicable and terribly terribly reckless.  He has the opportunity now to course correct, and to help us all learn from this experience.  Re-opening now is fraught with risks, ones that he should be honest about; and risks which, if he is unwilling to admit and address, require Congress to step in and address for him.   

What Are Kids Going To Do This Summer? — A Few Ideas

This essay originally appeared on Medium.

Over the next few weeks school will end for most American students of whatever age, from college to pre-Kindergarten. With camps, recreational centers, community pools and sports teams unlikely to be at full strength this summer or operating at all, summer jobs non-existent, parties and social gatherings scaled way back, what exactly are all these kids going to do this summer?

This is more than just about the opportunity costs of young people not having enriching experiences, socialization, education, jobs and physical activity. If kids are home it is harder for parents to go back to work. If kids have nothing to do, some are assuredly not going to use all this free time wisely. Given how many young people we are talking about — at least 75 million or so — this is no small matter, and it is coming upon us very quickly. We need to start having a big conversation about the summer and our kids, as citizens, parents, educators and elected officials as we all struggle together to adapt to our “new normal.”

We’ve begun that conversation in our own family as our college freshman finished his classes on Wednesday and my two other teenagers finish school in early June. My older children had summer employment lined up — one at a garage, the other at a restaurant. Is it safe for them to do this work? Can they take public transportation? Should they do it for free it the employer can’t pay? And what happens if schools and college don’t reopen this fall? We are facing the prospect of many many months of many millions of kids with very little to do and an educational system facing financial hardship and fatigue.

I don’t know how the US should handle this, but I do have some thoughts what schools of older kids — middle and high school, community and four year college — can be doing this summer. They should stay open, virtually, and be there for their students in some manner. In talking to the schools of my own children, we’ve come up with a few ideas that may be worth trying out, while allowing educators the time off they deserve this summer:

Offer a course called “Navigating COVID19” — Use the academic resources of the school to lead a summer long online course which gives young people a far better understanding of the virus and our collective societal response. The course could include a comprehensive curriculum which teaches them about the biology, economics and geopolitics of COVID. They could study how their own community is responding and discuss the tough decisions we have to make about social distancing, masking, testing and tracing. It can attempt to give them skills to deal with the natural anxiety, loss, struggle which comes with COVID and how and why they need to make good decisions about their own behavior. We should try to make our young people experts in infectious disease — it will be knowledge that they can use their throughout their lives, and could make a real difference in our efforts to defeat this virus in the coming months.

As a parent one thing I’ve learned through this crisis is kids are struggling to understand who to believe, and what is true. They don’t always trust their parents, and let’s be honest, the information coming from the federal government has been a bit wobbly. They need help in navigating COVID — and schools are perhaps the best tool we have now as a society to help them do so.

Questions of whether the course is live or recorded how much homework and reading there is, can be left up to each school. Schools should allow students to keep computers or iPads or other equipment over the summer, and work as hard as they can with local governments to help those students without access to broadband or hardware to participate.

Keep School Clubs Open — Create summer jobs for some students by paying to keep school clubs open — debate, chess, martial arts, e-sports, art etc. Will allow students across the country to stay engaged in hobbies and communities they love, and provide leadership opportunities for tens of thousands of students who may otherwise be idle this summer. Anticipating that parties and gatherings of young people will remain infrequent, we need ways to help break the debilitating isolation so many kids are feeling these days.

Make Sure The School Newspaper Stays Open — Like the club strategy, pay students to keep the school newspaper open and reporting. Will give students an informed student led set of voices to help them stay current as they navigate these challenging times. Encourage experimentation with Zoom or other video platforms for interviews or performances. Keep students talking to one another, learning, engaged. Ask alums or local journalists to “chair” this experimental effort, offering their expertise along the way.

Keep “Advisories” Open — Every school handles small grouping of students in different ways, but for those who have “home room” or “advisories” they should keep meeting weekly over the summer, doing a check in, let folks share their stories of how they are getting by, staying happy. Bigger colleges should break up into smaller “colleges,” and keep video conversations going with 150–200 students weekly. Students need to see one another, stay in touch — this will be a great way.

Like many parents, our family is all of a sudden waking up to the challenge of what exactly will our kids be doing this summer. I think this is a far bigger challenge than many realize, and the country should begin a big conversation about it, spitballing ideas, working to keep our young people informed, safe and happy. Schools have a key role to play, and it is my hope they will step up and let their students know that even though school is ending they will be with them at every step pf the way in this challenging time.

 

Analysis: Control Of The Senate Is Now A Toss-Up, With Democrats Perhaps Slightly Favored

This is the third piece in NDN's weekly Thursday polling round-up. You can find the previous two weeks' pieces here and here.

In our polling round-ups over the past two weeks, we've discussed how the Presidential race remains remarkably consistent with the large advantages that the Democrats held in 2018, with the race continuing to see a 5-9 point lead for the Dems in our three preferred polling aggregates: Biden-Trump head to head, Trump approval rating, and Congressional generic ballot. 

However, a major new development in the past month has been a significant tightening of the race for the Senate majority, to the point where today Democrats probably are very slight favorites to win at least 50 seats. To get to 50 (a majority assuming Biden wins the presidency), Democrats have to win four of the following battleground states: Colorado, Arizona, Maine, North Carolina, Montana, Iowa, two Georgia seats, and Alabama (Dems currently have 47 seats, so they need 3 new seats plus Alabama/a 4th state - so 4 of these battlegrounds). Importantly, two of these seats - Colorado and Arizona - look very close to locks for Democrats, as the polling averages there currently have Dems up high single digits (8 in Arizona, where there has been high quality polling, and 17.7 in Colorado, where the polling has been relatively low quality however).

As a result, the majority will likely come down to whether Democrats can win two seats from Maine, North Carolina, Montana, Iowa, Georgia (two races), and Alabama - and right now Democrats are competitive in most of these states. Firstly, Dems likely have slight leads in both North Carolina and Maine. North Carolina has had several quality polls and they currently have Cal Cunningham up 0.3 points over incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis. Importantly, Tillis has consistently had his approval rating in the high 30s, and in the head to head polling he is averaging just 40.7% support. Similarly, Sen. Susan Collins in Maine has seen a dramatic decline in her approval rating from over 50% approval in 2018 to the mid-30s now. Maine has had very little head to head polling, but one high quality poll from PPP had her trailing by 4 to Sara Gideon.

Secondly, Dems are very close (although probably slight underdogs) in Montana and Iowa. The entry of Gov. Bullock into the Montana race has made it very competitive, with a recent (although quite low quality) poll from the University of Montana giving Bullock a 7 point lead. Bullock is almost certainly not leading by that type of margin (if at all), but the race is one that Democrats have a good at chance at winning. And in Iowa, incumbent Sen. Joni Ernst has also seen her approval rating drop quite significantly over the past year, and a new PPP poll found her leading by only 1 point to one of her potential Democratic challengers. Just like in Montana, Democrats are probably slight underdogs to win in Iowa, but they have made the race competitive nonetheless (and that is likely all they need to do in these two races to have a very good chance at winning the majority).

Finally, Democrats are long shots in both Georgia races and especially the Alabama race, but they could still make the Georgia races competitive and regardless, Dems don't need to be close in these states to still win the majority.

As always, below you can find a detailed aggregate of the most important polling data (in our view) for understanding where the 2020 election currently stands. 

Links: 12345678910111213, 14, 15, 16

Much More Economic Support Is Needed To Prevent A Lost Decade

Over the past few weeks, we've begun to receive data on the state of the economy during the coronavirus crisis, and the numbers are even worse than expected. First quarter GDP fell by 4.8% on an annualized basis, the second worse quarterly decline since 1982 (only Q4 2008 was worse at -8.4%), and economists now project that Q2 GDP will decline by over 25%, by far the largest quarterly decline since the Second World War (the current worst decline is -10% in Q1 1958). Furthermore, over 30 million people have filed jobless claims over the past month and a half, and economists forecast that this Friday's employment report for April will show the unemployment rate hitting 15%. 

But perhaps the most worrying economic data is the CBO's newly released projection of unemployment - they forecast the jobless rate to average 10.1% in 2021, meaning that a v-shaped recovery doesn't occur and people continue to remain unemployed for an extended period of time, similar to the slow recovery seen in 2009-2011. This type of lost decade, with elevated unemployment and weak wage growth for years, is not inevitable however, and Congress and the Administration should do everything in their power to boost growth right now. In particular, there are four areas where a surge in new spending could make a real difference in boosting the recovery - significantly increasing funds for the PPP small business fund and making those funds more widely available; boosting spending on direct relief programs including food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid, and TANF; sending out another round of $1,200 cash payments and making those payments monthly; and developing a massive loan program for state and local governments so that they don't cut budgets and lay off workers. The point is to boost spending in the economy as much as possible and, given historically low interest rates, the federal government shouldn't worry about taking on large deficits to do it.

Unfortunately, and reminiscent of their blanket opposition to the 2009 stimulus as well, Congressional Republicans have recently come out in opposition to this type of urgently-needed economic support package. Last month, McConnell infamously came out against aid to state and local governments as "blue state bailouts", even though this would help all states and clearly the dire straits of these states is a result of coronavirus, not profligate spending by certain states. Furthermore, Republicans opposed hundreds of billions of dollars in new funding for hospitals and testing, state and local governments, and relief programs such as food stamps in the latest relief package negotiations with Democrats, and only backed down in return for no money for state and local governments. This should not be a partisan issue - every additional dollar spent now will mean fewer unemployed Americans in a year's time, and it is our hope that Congress will come together to pass this type of legislation in coming weeks.

Tests for Me, Not for Thee

Last week, the White House made a significant attempt to portray “normalcy” - we saw meetings in the Oval Office in close quarters with no social distancing and no masks; the Vice President began official travel again, still with no mask; and the White House press briefing returned, again with no masks.  It was a show, a very purposeful show, of our return to before, of opening up. 

To make all of this happen, with the COVID infection rate in the US remaining the highest of any major developed country in the world per capita (and not falling), the White House created a regime of ubiquitous, rapid testing for the President and Vice President and anyone they come in contact with. The problem with this story, of course, is that this type of testing regime is something that the President has explicitly said he is not attempting to provide for the people of the United States.  If this is what it takes to “re-open,” and we know that the American people don’t have it and won’t at best have it for many months, why is the President working so hard to undermine and end the stay-at-home policies which have worked to slow the virus?  As Simon said in this Washington Post story from over the weekend, the President did more last week to show us how far we are from returning to normal than how close it all is. 

As we’ve been writing for months now, once the virus started spreading here in the US (which we now know was in mid to late January), the President had two choices - mandatory stay at home orders, and/or an aggressive testing/tracing/isolation regime like the one South Korea implemented immediately.  Today, he has still chosen to do neither, and as the President has essentially ended the national stay at home period, it is imperative that Congress force the President to adopt a national testing/tracing/isolation system.  Without such a national system, it is going to be very hard to slow the current far too rapid spread of COVID and give people confidence that their government is doing everything it can to keep them safe in this period before a vaccine comes. If these two things aren't the case, we will have enormous trouble beginning the recovery that the President so desperately wants. 

From the very beginning, the President’s response to COVID has been outside of science and reason, and full of magical and wishful thinking. Not surprisingly, it just hasn’t worked. Poll after poll show the President’s approval rating plummeting now, frontline governors 20-30 points more popular than him, and broad majority support for more aggressive measures to attack the virus.  What remains so difficult to understand is why the President refuses to do what he knows needs to be done - which is why, now that Congress has begun to return, winning Phase II of our nation’s response to COVID should be the highest priority for both Speaker Pelosi and Senator McConnell.  If the President refuses to fight the battle against COVID, they must, along with the nation’s governors, take the lead.  

Analysis: The 2020 Election Is Shaping Up To Be A Lot More Like 2018 Than 2016

This is the second piece in NDN's weekly Thursday polling round-up. You can find last week's piece here.

NDN's central belief surrounding the 2020 election is that the race currently resembles the Democrats' significant victory in the 2018 midterms far more than it does Trump's win in 2016. Looking at our three preferred polling aggregates* - Trump approval among likely/registered voters (from FiveThirtyEight), Biden-Trump head to head (from Real Clear Politics), and the Congressional generic ballot (from FiveThirtyEight) - we can see this divergence clearly. First, the polling data underlying the current race looks very similar to that on election day in November 2018. On November 6th, 2018, Trump had a net approval rate of -9.6 among likely/registered voters and the Congressional generic ballot favored Democrats by 8.7 percentage points. Similarly, Trump's net approval today is -10 and the Congressional generic favors Dems by 7.7 points.

By contrast, the data we see today looks markedly different from what we had available in November 2016. On November 8th, 2016, Clinton led Trump head-to-head by 3.2 percentage points and the Congressional generic ballot favored Democrats by just 1.2 points. Meanwhile, Biden today leads Trump head-to-head by 6.3 points and Democrats lead Republicans by 8.7 points in the generic ballot. As we can see, the 2020 approval and generic ballot numbers are only 0.4 points and 1 point different from those same numbers in 2018, whereas the 2020 head-to-head and generic ballot numbers are 3.1 and 6.5 points different (in the Democrats' favor) from those same numbers in 2016. While there is still plenty of time for the 2020 race to see significant changes, right now the Democrats are keeping their 2018 advantages while Trump is not keeping his 2016 ones.

Below you can find a detailed aggregate of the most important polling data (in our view) for understanding where the 2020 election currently stands. 

Links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Finally, there are two other important data points that we believe point towards 2020 being a substantively different election than 2016: how voters who dislike both major candidates vote and how unified the Democratic party becomes behind its candidate. In both instances, it is clear that Biden has substantial upside compared to Clinton. First, on voters who have unfavorable opinions of both major candidates. According to data from CNN, voters who disliked both Trump and Clinton in 2016 supported Trump by a 17 point margin. Right now, however, voters who dislike both Trump and Biden are supporting Biden by 50-60 points. This matters because Trump's favorability is so consistently low (it has remained at around 40-44% for his entire presidency) that he has to win voters who have unfavorable views of him to win the election. He did this in 2016, but isn't doing it right now.

Second, on party unity behind the Democratic candidate. In 2016, Clinton ended her primary campaign in May 2016 with strong unfavorables among Sanders supporters according to YouGov data - she had a net -16 favorability rating among them and 37% of those voters had a very unfavorable view of her. By contrast, Biden ended his primary campaign in April 2018 with much stronger numbers among Sanders supporters - he had a net -1 favorability rating among them and 23% had a very unfavorable opinion of him. This is also important because a major problem for Clinton in 2016 was her difficulty in uniting the more progressive wings of the party around her, while Biden starts the general election in much better shape among Sanders' supporters than Clinton did.

* Note that we can only make comparisons between elections using aggregates that were used in both elections being compared. For example, the generic ballot was used in both 2016 and 2018 so we can use that to compare the elections, but head-to-head polling was not used in 2018 so we cannot use that metric to compare 2016 and 2018.

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