For a lengthy stretch, most of Trump’s presidency, there existed a narrow band of volatility with regard to polls having to do with the American electorate’s perception and assessment of Trump and his performance in office.
As many have observed, he has had a pretty firm floor and a very hard ceiling. Approvals would vary from the upper 30s to the mid 40s, but have never come close to 50 percent. If the polling numbers now being reported by various top tier polling organizations are reliable, a new picture seems to be emerging.
Yes, the approval rating average reported by Real Clear Politics, with several polls, the most recent of which, date to May 19 and 20, show Trump with an approval of 45 percent and disapproval of 53 percent. That’s consistent over the long haul with previous results. The two outliers in the composite are Politico / Morning Consult with Trump at 41 percent approval and Economist / You Gov at 46%.
The real trend that is an eye opener for political handicappers on the 2020 election, is found in the head to head polling between Joe Biden, the presumptive Democrat nominee and Trump. Some jaws dropped when the most recent Fox News poll was released on Thursday.
The biggest jaw to drop was that of the (impeached) president, himself:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 22, 2020
The Fox News situation, (apart from the regular smarmy sycophants, Hannity, Ingraham, Dobbs, et al.), is grinding Trump’s gears in recent weeks.
Trump has been able to, for the most part, use his rabid voting base to keep GOP elected officials in line, but he has been losing his tight grip on media outlets he used to believe he had locked up – Drudge Report being one notable and quite dramatic example.
Trump is flailing out at Fox:
Many will disagree, but @FoxNews is doing nothing to help Republicans, and me, get re-elected on November 3rd. Sure, there are some truly GREAT people on Fox, but you also have some real “garbage” littered all over the network, people like Dummy Juan Williams, Schumerite Chris…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 21, 2020
Trump said essentially the same thing in February. “Worst Polls, just like in 2016 when they were so far off the mark, are the @FoxNews Polls.” – and last December, “the @foxnewPolls (sic) always inaccurate, are heavily weighted toward Dems. So ridiculous, same thing happened in 2016. They got it all wrong. Get a new pollster!”
What is most notable with this is not that Trump is angry and disappointed and wants his voters to punish the network, but what Trump fundamentally believes the role of media to be.
It’s clearly not there, in his view, to report actual news with any degree of objectivity or to hold elected officials or government agencies accountable – but instead, to act as a prominent adjunct to Trump’s political campaign and his personal agenda.
This is not an instinct that is compatible with the ideals of a democracy, but it is compatible, perfectly so, with the motivations of an authoritarian, a man whose weltanschauung or worldview equates his interests with that of the nation, hence his adoration for nationalism.
This is also nothing particularly new, in that Trump has consistently over time expressed this sentiment. Trump sees the likes of Fox News as a point on an equilateral triangle, where he is positioned at the apex and Fox News, in this case, at one corner of the base and his voters at the other corner.
When Fox News does not fully comply with his imperatives, the triangle flops on its side. People who don’t conform to Trump’s expectations at the network, are, in his parlance, “garbage.”
But anyway, let’s have a look at what has the Donald’s diapers in a bunch. First of all, the Fox News poll of 1,207 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide interviewed live on both landlines and cellphones, shows the national results which reveal that former Vice President Joe Biden is leading Trump by 8 points nationally.
With the poll having a +2.5 / -2.5 error margin, no matter how you slice it, Biden is ahead by over 5 points from the same poll conducted last month. But the other findings of the survey are the ones that are perhaps even more deeply alarming to Trump and his campaign:
When asked which of the two men would be best suited to lead on COVID-19, those polled chose Biden by 9 percent – 46 to 37 percent.
Internal to this, as discovered by other polling, (Pew Research) – 43 percent of white evangelicals and 52 percent of white Catholics think the current community mitigation (stay at home for non-essential workers, social distancing, facial coverings in public), in their areas are appropriate versus 42 percent and 31 percent, respectively, who think fewer restrictions would be favorable.
Laura Gifford, Historian of politics and religion at George Fox University, observed:
“If grandma’s retirement home is suffering from an outbreak, there’s pretty good evidence that something is awry and it makes it difficult to ignore what public health experts are saying. This is something where that is harder to ignore than previous controversies or crises because it has life-and-death consequences for congregations and religious populations.”
As to which of the two men has a better grasp of and policy position on health matters generally, poll respondents preferred Biden by a whopping 17 percentage points – 50 to 33 percent.
This is especially significant when you consider that a prime factor in the decision making process of voters in the political middle – swing voters, in November, will be the virus and who will manage the facets of healthcare that the government handles, like Medicaid and Medicare, to most serve their interests.
The other critical issue that, despite the chronic disconnect among investors in the stock market, in voters’ minds is the condition of the economy. The sense is dismal and increasingly so:
54 percent of those surveyed think the economy is in the worst shape it’s been in since the Great Depression. 45% think the economy will begin to improve within 3 to 12 months – while 38 percent don’t see it turning around for up to two years. Trump doesn’t have two years – he doesn’t even have 6 months.
This is patently why he is constantly obsessed with getting people back into stores, churches, sports stadiums, airplanes, hotels and every other facet of existence that would show an uptick in consumer activity.
The unemployment numbers and the continued layoffs on the horizon, coupled with the likelihood that as he cheerleads for a premature opening of the economy without the guardrails in place, (serious testing, continued community mitigation, contact tracing, rebuilding the medical supply stockpile and a reliable vaccine) – secondary and tertiary waves of infection and deaths will ensue. We’re not even past the first wave at this point by any stretch.
But the omelette that Trump wants from the kitchen requires some more eggs broken in the form of expendable lives and he’s hell bent to get it no matter the cost.
The problem attached to that is when the second wave of the pandemic materializes as many infectious disease experts believe it will, given the factors Trump has established, including denialism among a significant minority of the population, the result will be the necessity to once again impose stay at home orders.
In turn, the consequence of that, needless to say, will be more economic disruption and quite possibly a fracturing of the social order that results in a national outbreak of violence.
And with regard to the economic disruption that has already ensued, an election model released this week by Oxford Economics, a subscription only data analytics organization, predicts that Trump, based on economic factors materializing, will “experience an historic defeat” – losing the popular vote to Joe Biden by 65 to 35 percent and losing the electoral college by a landslide.
Although there are various other components to the onset of Biden as the clear frontrunner, which we will look into in further detail in future reporting, the two of the greatest consequence are COVID-19 and the economy. And they are reflected in Biden’s status among independents and swing voters.
The enthusiasm gap tilts heavily in Biden’s favor – a 12-point advantage (53-41 percent). Fox News shows Biden leading with women by 20 percent. This is especially problematic for Trump, given that Pew Research discovered that in the most recent national election, the 2018 mid-terms, 55% of women cast ballots as compared to 51.8 percent of men, based on their analysis of Census Bureau data.
The two other statistically critical elements of the electorate that could deal a death blow to Trump are seniors and independents. Trump won both categories in 2016 – seniors by 7 points and self described independents by 4.
As matters stand now, according to Fox News, Biden is ahead with the 65+ crowd by 17 points and ahead with independents by 13. A factor in the thinking of seniors it would seem, would have to be the numbers of them dying in nursing homes from the coronavirus and Trump’s frequently stated intention to cut entitlement spending by giving Medicare and Social Security a haircut. If anyone needs a haircut, it’s Trump.
Trump, and this is born out in other polling as well, is on the wrong side of the issue with voters on his desire and that of his campaign, to curtail absentee ballots in November, even threatening to withhold federal money to states like Michigan (where Trump is already behind in the polls). Survey respondents told Fox News that they favor vote by mail, by a 63 to 30 percent margin. He’s also on a different page of music with voters on the question of when and under what circumstances, it is safe to open the economy back up.
Former President Barack Obama’s current popularity, 63% in the FN poll is an ill harbinger for Trump’s campaign, because Obama has recently set aside the customary hands off posture of former presidents and has begun to forcefully respond to the allegations Trump is hurling at him in public and via Twitter.
Obama’s participation on the campaign trail, will stir up the enthusiasm factor and tend to unite the party from its earlier fracturing during the primary.
Finally, and this is something that Fox News did not break down, as their poll was national, there is the status of the two men as it concerns the nitty gritty of the contest in the battleground states. The below chart is representative of several recent polls on that front:
Remember that Trump won Pennsylvania by just 44,000 votes, or .07 of the total votes cast. In Michigan the margin was just .02 and in Wisconsin only .08. If Biden holds anything that resembles the lead shown in polling averages going into November 3rd, his presidency is not only over, but over by landslide proportions.
Despite everything we have outlined here, elections come down to turnout. This election, more than it is anything else, is a referendum on Trump. Trump is doing everything possible to motivate his core base, but in the process, motivating, a lot of people, it appears, who not only think he’s demented and repugnant, but figure to confirm it by voting him out of office. But these Americans must follow up their intentions with deeds.
A missed vote is a vote for the status quo – and we know what that looks like.