49-47 to Biden, says Emerson College Polling, which is significant for two reasons. First, there’s an awful lot of crappy polling in American elections – if you want an opinion poll to show your guy winning, then you’ll usually be able to find someone who’ll produce one for you. But Emerson College isn’t a crappy polling company. According to election and polling guru Nate Silver, they’ve got an “A” rating, which is the best he awards, and, if anything, tend to be biased a teensy bit towards the Democrats.
Second, it’s significant because that’s roughly what the national popular vote was four years ago, in the Trump/Clinton race. If it’s 49/47 on the day, then that’s basically a toss-up. Without doubt, given the record of the pollster, this is the best poll Trump has had all year.
What’s very strange though – and whether you believe this stuff comes down, basically, to who you are biased in favour of – is that Trump’s support seems to have changed entirely since 2016. Emerson say’s he’s on 47% today, but it’s a very different road to 47% than the one he took four years ago. For example:
For the first time since he’s taken office, Trump’s job approval rating is approaching a majority, at 49% approval and 47% disapproval. This is a jump of four points since July, where Trump had 45% approval and 51% disapproval. Trump’s approval is the highest among those aged 30-49 (55% approval), and lowest among those aged 18-29 (37% approval). His approval among those aged 65 and older has fallen almost ten percent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, from 50% approval in February to 41% approval today.
Biden leads with all minority groups, albeit by different ranges. Biden leads with Asians 76% to 11%, Blacks/African Americans 77% to 19%, and Hispanic voters break for Biden 60% to 37%. White voters break for President Trump 56% to 41%.
In 2016, Trump’s win was driven by an avalanche of support from pensioners and white voters in general. He’s still winning white voters today, but by a much narrower amount, and his standing with pensioners has collapsed, mainly (and this is borne out in other polling) because of the disastrous American response to Coronavirus, which tends to kill older people first.
On the other side of the ledger, the President is hitting heights with black voters and Hispanic voters last seen for a Republican candidate in 1984, when Ronald Reagan won 49 states. What’s driving that?
Well for one thing, like him or loathe him, Trump is the first Republican in almost forever to actually try to win black voters. This isn’t from his campaign, but it’s an ad from Republican Kim Klasik, who’s running for congress in an unwinnable inner-city district in Baltimore. Not the kind of ad you’d have seen from a Republican under George W. Bush:
Democrats don’t want you to see this.
They’re scared that I’m exposing what life is like in Democrat run cities.
— Kimberly Klacik (@kimKBaltimore) August 17, 2020
She won’t be in Congress after the election, but even narrowing the gap in inner-city black communities would be a massive benefit to Trump in places like Pennsylvania, and Michigan, where much of the Democratic vote comes from black-majority inner cities like Detroit and Philadelphia.
Anyway, if you’re a Trump fan, those are the reasons for optimism. But there are plenty of reasons for optimism amongst Biden fans too: Trump is now officially the first President since George H.W. Bush to be trailing in the polls after the party conventions are over. Before Bush, it was Jimmy Carter. Those are, incidentally, the last two incumbent Presidents to lose re-election.
What’s more, Biden’s support is solid. He’s been at, or close, to 50% of the vote since he wrapped up the Democratic nomination in the spring. Half the country is going to vote for him. It’s just about making sure that vote comes from the right part of the country.
Biden also has a much broader path to victory. He only needs to win two or three swing states, but Trump basically needs them all.
Anyway, this election has been going on forever, and there’s still more than two months to go. In Ireland or the UK, the election wouldn’t even be starting for another month, but in America we’re now entering the final days.
The first debate is on September 29th: For my money, it’s fairly straightforward from here: If Biden wins that debate, game over. If Trump wins it…. game on.