Most general election polls of late have shown a potential one-on-one matchup between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump as a fairly even battle, with the race either tied or one candidate or the other winning by 1 or 2 points. Most voters aren’t especially happy with their choice of candidates, but it remains highly likely that we’ll be getting the first general election rematch since Dwight Eisenhower took on Adlai Stevenson twice in the 1950s.
Donald Trump Wins! But Not What You Think…
One survey has Trump significantly ahead, but there’s a catch: It’s among those unlikely to vote.
A new TODAY/Suffolk Poll shows that Donald Trump has a nearly 2-to-1 advantage among what the poll termed “unlikely voters.” USA Today defines that term as “registered voters who say they aren’t likely to go to the polls.”
Such voters “back Trump over Biden by nearly 20 percentage points, 32%-13%, with 27% supporting a third-party or other candidate,” USA Today said. “Citizens who are eligible to vote but haven’t registered also favor Trump by close to 2-1, 28%-15%; 27% prefer another candidate.”
Does it matter, if they’re not likely to vote? Probably not as much as polls of those who are likely voters. But if Trump can persuade some percentage of that cohort to vote, that could be to his advantage.
The story also implied something in the other direction: Trump’s talk of rigged elections may have dissuaded some of the voters he needs from political participation.
“Be careful what you wish for,” David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, told the newspaper. “In a year of major political ironies, this is the irony of ironies with some turned-off Trump voters disgusted with voting and the election process.”
The poll follows a CNN survey released earlier in the week, which found that in potential head-to-head matchups, several of the non-Trump Republican candidates fare better against the president than Trump does. Nikki Haley leads Biden by 6 points, while Mike Pence, Tim Scott, and Chris Christie are also all ahead of the president.
However, recent polls should not be a reason for Democrats to worry, at least according to Democratic pollsters quoted by Semafor. Beyond the election being 14 months away, there’s the idea that the campaign has barely begun.
“Every time you see a poll showing Biden’s approval in the 30s, mentally add an asterisk that says ‘before Democrats spend $1 billion,’” Semafor’s Benjy Sarlin wrote.
“So here’s the thing about the national general election polling you’re seeing that has Biden & Trump basically tied – while perhaps close now, they are in two very different places, whereas Trump is basically at his ceiling, Biden is close to his floor. That’s the key difference,” pollster Cornell Belcher wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Meanwhile, Nate Silver wrote a screed on his website against way-too-early polling noise.
“The election is 58 days — and one year — away,” Silver wrote. “It is way, way, way too early for any of this [stuff.]”
“It is much too soon to engage in what Other Nate (Cohn, of the New York Times) calls ‘crosstab diving’, i.e. scrutinizing the minutiae of polls,” he added. “Most voters aren’t paying attention yet, and it will be nine months to a year before they do. Furthermore, polling this early historically has little to no predictive power. It’s not hard, for instance, to find polls from this point in 2015 showing Hillary Clinton with double-digit leads over Trump.”
Silver also denounced a recent social media freakout about Fabrizio Lee, a firm that has done work for Trump, being part of the Wall Street Journal’s polling, as part of a partnership with Democratic firm GBAO. Such bipartisan polls on behalf of major news outlets, he noted, are neither rare nor nefarious.
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Stephen has authored thousands of articles over the years that focus on politics, technology, and the economy for over a decade. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @StephenSilver, and subscribe to his Substack newsletter.