If the latest national and state polls are correct, President Trump’s bid for a second term faces serious headwinds in the four months until the election.
Nineteen different polls of voters in swing states released this week show Trump trailing former Vice President Joe Biden, including in places Republicans are unaccustomed to losing in a general election.
Polls released Thursday by the New York Times/Siena College showed Joe Biden leading Trump by 11 percentage points in Michigan and Wisconsin, by 10 points in Pennsylvania, 9 points in North Carolina, up 7 points in Arizona, and ahead by 6 in Florida.
The pollster Hodas & Associates Strategic Communications had similarly bleak news for the president in polls released the same day. In Michigan, the pollster found, Trump trails Biden by 18 points. He’s behind by 16 points in Wisconsin and down 12 points in Pennsylvania.
Redfield & Wilton Strategies also surveyed voters in the swing states of Michigan, where they found Biden ahead by 11 points; North Carolina, where Biden leads Trump by six points; Pennsylvania, +10 for Biden; Wisconsin, Biden +9; and Arizona and Florida, where the pollster found Trump is behind by 4 points.
Fox News, a network friendly to Trump but whose pollster Trump has often criticized, released its own swing state polls Thursday. They showed Biden leading Trump by 9 points in Florida, up 2 points on the president in North Carolina and Georgia, and perhaps the most surprising of all, leading Trump — albeit by a single point — in the state of Texas.
Polls, of course, are subject to change, especially with four months to go before Election Day. But the near unanimity of the data shows that Trump suddenly finds himself trailing Biden in states he must win to remain in the White House.
In its lead editorial on Friday, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal — a strongly Republican paper — cited Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police as reasons for his polling decline. The paper’s editors also dismissed Trump’s conspiratorial view that polls are rigged against him in order to suppress turnout.
“Mr. Trump refuses to acknowledge what every poll now says is true: His approval rating has fallen to the 40% or below that is George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter territory. They’re the last two Presidents to be denied a second term,” the editorial stated.
When it comes to the cumulative average of national polls, which themselves are little more than a barometer of national sentiment that may or may not predict the outcome of a presidential election, Trump continues to edge downward. According to the website FiveThirtyEight, Trump now trails Biden nationally by 9.3 percentage points. At the beginning of June, that margin was 6.2 percent. The Real Clear Politics national polling average has Biden’s lead at 9.5 percent.
As his poll numbers have worsened, Trump has blamed the messengers, portraying surveys that show him losing as “SUPPRESSION POLLS,” and assuring his supporters that “we are winning.”
After a CNN national poll released earlier this month showed Trump trailing Biden by 14 points, the president’s campaign demanded that the cable network retract it and issue an apology.
"It's a stunt and a phony poll to cause voter suppression, stifle momentum and enthusiasm for the President, and present a false view generally of the actual support across America for the President," a letter to CNN signed by the campaign’s senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis and COO Michael Glassner stated.
All polls contain a margin of error, because they are based on interviews with a subset of voters, chosen to be representative of the electorate as a whole but who may or may not accurately reflect the entire nation. On its website, the Pew Research Center explains:
“Because surveys only talk to a sample of the population, we know that the result probably won’t exactly match the ‘true’ result that we would get if we interviewed everyone in the population. The margin of sampling error describes how close we can reasonably expect a survey result to fall relative to the true population value. A margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level means that if we fielded the same survey 100 times, we would expect the result to be within 3 percentage points of the true population value 95 of those times.”
While Trump and his supporters often cite the 2016 presidential election results to show that polls cannot be trusted, an analysis by FiveThirtyEight found that general election polls from that year “were about as accurate as polls of presidential elections have been on average since 1972.”
And, as they say in politics, the only poll that counts is the one on Election Day — by citizens who actually get out and vote.
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