As the headline suggests, there’s a slew of polling data out in the past two days that might give the Trump campaign heartburn in states like Michigan, North Carolina, and even Texas. Still, I can’t help but wonder why and how so many analysts and media outlets can put much stock into early polling data. In fact, for that matter, after observing the 2016 election where nearly every poll said Hillary Clinton was a lock for the presidency, I’d be rather skeptical toward early polls regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on.

The numbers are worth examining for both sides, but when polls are taken this early, it’s hard to account for general enthusiasm since a good portion of voters, on each side, have yet to actually start paying attention to the race.

Here’s a rundown of what’s happening in the most recent 2020 presidential election polls between President Trump and his Democratic contenders in some key battleground states.

Michigan returning to dark-blue form?

A poll out of Michigan on Tuesday showed the entire Democratic field beating President Trump in the Wolverine State, with Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders each putting up a 12-point lead over the President:

Both former Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont showed 12-point margins over the first-term Republican incumbent in a Glengariff Group public opinion survey of 600 likely voters released to The Detroit News and WDIV-TV (Local 4). Three other Democrats included in the poll were preferred over Trump by less substantial margins.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (6 points), U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (4 points) and Kamala Harris of California (3 points) polled ahead of the president in the Glengariff poll, but the advantages of Warren and Harris were within the 4-percentage-point margin of error.

In other words, as you’d expect, Michigan is breaking harder for populist and/or establishment figures in the Democratic field. Joe Biden is a household name and can cut across the divide to speak to many of the same voters who pulled the lever for Trump in 2016. Ironically, despite policy differences with Biden, Bernie Sanders can do the same thing, just with a different style.

North Carolina gives Biden an early lead

An Emerson poll out of the Tar Heel State shows Biden with the best shot at beating Trump there, but once again, Bernie is right on his tail:

NC head to head Trump 2020

The chart offers a glimpse into where the minds of voters are starting off in this primary process. There’s a perception that Biden would be the one to beat Trump, so the polling tends to reflect and promote the narrative at the same time. In that regard, early polling like this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy as voters get into the mindset that candidates all possess a certain ability to win which is static throughout the campaign. Biden is benefitting from that perception, as is Bernie and Buttigieg.

Will Texas flip blue in 2020?

Asking the question is getting more and more meaningless since Texas remains a very solid red state, under most circumstances. Even with all the might of national support, former Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke couldn’t win statewide to unseat Republican Senator Ted Cruz in 2018. The question will be whether a Democrat like Joe Biden would be able to accomplish the Democratic mission of flipping the largest Republican Electoral College stronghold.

Polling out on Wednesday from Quinnipiac University shows Biden pulling in 48% of the vote in Texas to Trump at 44%:

In a head-to-head matchup, former Vice President Joe Biden has 48% while President Donald Trump has 44%, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll published Wednesday. In addition, the president is locked in too-close-to-call matchups with six other Democratic 2020 presidential candidates.

According to the poll, Trump is within or just in excess of the margin of error when up against these six candidates: Trump is at 46% compared to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 45%; Trump at 47% while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is at 44%; Trump at 48% compared to former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s 45%; Trump at 46% compared to South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s 44%; Trump at 47% while California Sen. Kamala Harris has 43%; and Trump at 46% compared to former San Antonio, Texas, Mayor Julian Castro at 43%.

The survey has is a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,159 Texas voters from May 29 to June 4.

For a variety of reason, Trump remains popular with the Republican base, but his popularity in some regions seems to bend a little weaker even among the GOP. Texas is one of those areas which is predominately favorable for Trump, but also on the brim of a demographic shift which is causing polls like this to jump out and give Republicans a scare and Democrats hope. The take on something like this is that Biden has yet to become a candidate being forced to stake out positions and defend them on topics like abortion and gun control, topics which would drive down his numbers in the Lone Star State. These numbers will change, but they must be giving President Trump some notice.

Are these polls accurate?

The Hill reports that some Republican strategists are worried, but not yet “sounding the alarm” when it comes to early polling:

“We are hundreds of news cycles, and an entire Democratic primary process away from a head-to-head poll mattering,” said Robert Blizzard, a GOP pollster. “There were public polls that showed Trump losing those states as late as the fall of 2016 and he won them. Horse race is fun and interesting but meaningless until the end.”

Democrats need something to hang their hat on right now, and these polls serve their purpose in igniting Democrats looking for a chance to beat Donald Trump. Republicans will also be watching closely, but with a much more grimaced expression wondering whether these polls are any more or less accurate in terms of predicting the final outcome as they were (or weren’t) in 2016.

One big difference is that we’re still sitting at the very front end of the primary. The polls which come after Democrats choose a nominee next year will be studied much more closely for trends which resemble 2016 when it relates to accuracy.

8 COMMENTS

  1. The people in Michigan who were polled must either be retired or those who come from money. Under the previous administration Michigan was extremely short on manufacturing jobs. President Trump did bring some work back to the state. I don’t know how many news articles I see begging entrepreneurs to invest in Detroit. Do the people who vote Democratic want to go back to the misery of the past??

    • Trump did not create our improving economy, it has been recovering for
      the past 8 years. Remember “The Great Recession.” Trump is taking full
      credit for the recovery. We need real answers to the problems in our
      country. Investigate Andrew Yang for President, you will like him.
      Hearing him speak is what it must of been like to hear Jesus speak.

      • You are correct somewhat in your assertions. Every president inherits the good and the bad from the previous administration. Do you recall the great O’Bugger saying that certain jobs will never come back to America, what is Donald Trump going to do, wave a magic wand and bring them back? It is true that Obama began the recovery but if God forbid Billary were president she would be as spineless as Obama was and the US wouldn’t be seeing the economic progress that is happening under President Trump.?

        Unfortunately the limp wristed Obama left the world a mess for Donald J Trump to fix. Iran was given new life by the disastrous deal forged by that idiot Kerry among others. China continued to grow more and more powerful under Obama and is now a problem being tackled by President Trump. Obama left a lot more negatives than positives after his eight long and painful years.?

        • Well we agree. Our leadership over the long term has not found the
          correct indisputable answers to our problems. The answers are our there
          to steer us on a long term course for economic growth and prosperity
          while not leaving the poor, elderly, uneducated or sick behind. Those
          answers do exist. We just need smart leaders. Again I ask, check out
          Andrew Yang. Watch some of his interviews on YouTube. He has been on
          Fox at least 5 times. Listen to what he is saying. You will feel
          refreshed. He has smart answers based on math. “Not left, not right,
          forward!” – Andrew Yang

  2. It is NOT true that the polls were wrong in 2016. With history’s two most unpopular candidates, the public had wide mood swings. If you look at the FINAL polls, which were taken days ahead of the election, they were showing a very close race, and let’s not forget that Hillary ended up with three million more votes. Also, of course, Comey’s interference was too late to show up in the polls.

    However, as you say, this is way too early, and we are almost always bored with the incumbent, until we consider the alternative.

    The real problem is that there are so few landlines now, and thanks to caller ID, 70% of the public now will not pick up the phone until we know who it is. That’s the real worry about polls.

    • Perhaps it’s safer to say that the media and/or analysts drawing concrete conclusions from polls which contained a lot of uncertainty is what can be considered “wrong” in 2016. Remember all the models predicting “99% chance Hillary Clinton is the next President.” That data was based on polls, so at some level, the polls were wrong. Perhaps analysts ignored the warning signs or read them wrong, but the underlying data was flawed and couldn’t be accounted for so the models did what they were supposed to do which is build the probability of an event based on data points, which consisted of polls.

      Plus look at the individual state polls in 2016. Hillary was supposed to cleanup in PA, MI, WI, and others. Yet Trump won those by a hair. So the polling was flawed somewhere. Either respondents lied or changed their minds, or something happened to produce bad data.

      The lesson here? Be careful predicting the future with polls. Look at them, analyze them, explore them, but don’t firmly predict with them.

      • I agree that the polls were RIGHT and the pundits were wrong.

        The only time you can check the veracity of polling is by comparing with the actual vote totals. In 2016, the final average of polls–even without being able to figure in the “Comey effect” was as follows:

        https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/general_election_trump_vs_clinton_vs_johnson_vs_stein-5952.html

        POLLS
        Clinton 45.5
        Trump 42.2
        DIFFERENCE–3 points

        ACTUAL VOTE
        Clinton 48.2
        Trump 46.1
        DIFFERENCE–2 points

        ONE point off–which is clearly from last-minute decisions. And if a poll is within 3% it’s considered perfectly accurate.

        Again, Clinton DID win the popular vote, which is all polls can tell.

        As for the pundits, you can’t blame them. Trump had to get EVERY break possible to win–and it just turns out that he did.

        At some point, we need to acknowledge that most people work hard and do their job well. And halt the dangerouis erosion of respect.

    • It was obvious to me in 2008 the Dem was going to win, unless he or she shot someone on 5th Ave. No one liked Bush II. Dems did not like him and Repubs did not like him. Further the economy was in free fall.

      In 2012 I said if the Repubs nominate Romney, Obama will win. I knew Romney would fail for the same reason New Coke failed. Romney was trying to win as Obama-light on the ACA. And although Romney said lots of things in 2012 he wanted to double down on the Bush II tax cuts. And people did not like Bush II. (As a headline after the 2012 election said, “Romney benefited from the long coat tails of Bush.)
      After the 2012 election I said the Republican would win in 2016. Republicans promise JOBS. Dems promise FREE STUFF. Voters want JOBS so they can buy their own STUFF. Romney campaigned on the old-tired strategy of “Give tax cuts to the rich and they will give you JOBS.” He lost.

      Trump campaigned on “Elect me and I will kick out all the illegals and you can take their jobs.” Hillary campaigned on, “I will give you FREE community college education.”

      In 2020 Trump will be campaigning on his kicking out illegals and a good economy. The Dems will be campaigning on FREE STUFF (Free college, reparations, free money for the poor,)

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