Biden is making significant gains in polling. However, does this mean he will win in November?
Ok, so the polling shows Biden with some significant leads. The polling is notable because it is polling done on a state by state basis. It measures what is happening in states that are crucial in the November 2020 election. Moreover, it is widely reported that recent polling is showing a developing trend in voter preferences for President both nationally and in these battleground states.
The bottom line, right how, Biden has a decisive lead. However, this does not mean Biden wins in November.
Normally, polling this far out from an election is not a predictor of the winner. Dynamics can change, changing voter attitudes about a candidate. As time goes on voter’s minds will change due to changing circumstances. Therefore, it is normally unwise to read too much into polling as a predictor of the ultimate outcome this far in advance of an election. Events change voters' minds. Additionally, there is a lot of time between now and Election Day, so even though it may be good for Biden right now it is more important to see where things are about 6 weeks out from the election. By then we will know a lot more about voting patterns, current events and voter attitudes.
When considering the current polling data, we thought the following from Vox adds some more perspective on what the polling actually means:
“It wouldn’t take much to put the outcome in doubt
Those who recall the 2016 election have naturally developed some doubts about poll-based predictions of big Trump defeats. So to understand what’s similar today and what’s different, it’s helpful to remember exactly what went wrong in 2016.
Polls overestimated Clinton’s national lead in the popular vote but only by a modest amount. The real error made by many forecasters (though, notably, not by FiveThirtyEight) was to model the odds of state-level polling errors as totally independent from one another.
Consider current polling that says Biden is narrowly favored in North Carolina, Georgia, and Ohio while tied in Iowa. If you treat these as four independent contests, it starts to look extremely unlikely that Trump could sweep all four states. If you toss a fair coin four times, it will only come up tails 6.25 percent of the time. And since Trump’s odds in three of those four states are worse than a coin flip, that translates into even worse odds for Trump. But another way of thinking about it is that if polls are generally overestimating Biden by a bit, then he is probably being overestimated everywhere. So the real question is, 'Just how likely is it that Biden is being slightly overestimated?'
Modest polling errors are common, so it would only be moderately surprising to see it happen. Any time a baseball at-bat ends in a hit, it’s a moderately unlikely outcome but not exactly an earth-shattering surprise.
The bad news for Trump is that winning North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, and Iowa wouldn’t be nearly good enough for him. He needs to win Florida, Arizona, and Pennsylvania to carry the day. And right now, Biden’s leads in those states are big enough that it would take a very large and genuinely rare scale of polling error for that to happen.
The good news for Trump is that his Electoral College edge remains large. In the FiveThirtyEight average, he’s losing nationally by 9.9, but he’s only losing Pennsylvania by 5.8 percentage points. That means that if Trump could cut his national polling deficit down to 5 or so — which could be easily enough achieved by reminding right-of-center voters who are currently undecided that they have fundamental disagreements with Biden on policy — he’d be within “normal polling error” range in the pivotal state.
Even then, he’d be favored to lose, and it’s certainly possible that Trump’s numbers will get worse in the future rather than better (especially if the economy worsens when emergency measures expire in August), but the point is just that his large deficit is hardly insurmountable.”
As Vox finally points out :
“After all, Michael Dukakis was up by 17 points in mid-July 1988.”
With all of this in mind, the polling may get worse if Donald Trump continues to undertake politically poor decisions like asking the Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act, including its preexisting protections allowing people with preexisting conditions to get coverage.
Donald Trump is doing some stupid things. If he continues down that path these poll numbers could hold. After all, stupid candidates doing stupid things lose elections.
“If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.”
― Mark Twain