2020 poll watch
February 28, 2021

Unsurprisingly, former President Donald Trump won the Conservative Political Action Conference's 2024 presidential straw poll Sunday, and he did so handily, garnering 55 percent of the vote. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) was the only other potential candidate to reach double digits at 21 percent.

It's unclear if Trump will run, but many Republicans, including some of Trump's fiercest critics, think he is the overwhelming favorite for the nomination right now if he does enter the ring. So, CPAC conducted a second poll without Trump. DeSantis led the way in that one at 43 percent, followed by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) at 11 percent. Meanwhile, former Vice President Mike Pence, who declined an invitation to the conference in Orlando, didn't gain much traction.

The polls, of course, come with many caveats attached. The election is a long way away, straw polls aren't the most reliable predictive method, and the CPAC conference is not necessarily representative of the larger Republican Party, which many analysts consider to be at a Trump-inspired crossroads right now. It's also worth noting that DeSantis' strong showing may be partly tied to the conference taking place on his home turf. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

November 2, 2020

Morning Consult released its final pre–Election Day tracking polls early Monday, and they had mostly good news for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. According to the polls, Biden is above 50 percent in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and is narrowly ahead of President Trump — but within the margin of error — in North Carolina, Georgia, and Arizona, plus tied in Texas. If — and this is a big if — Biden wins just the states where he is outside the margin of error, he will almost certainly be the next president.

Nationally, Biden leads Trump by 8 percentage points, 51.9 percent to 43.9 percent, and Democrats have a 7-point edge in the generic congressional ballot, Morning Consult found. The pollster also found the Democratic Senate candidates leading in Colorado, Michigan, and North Carolina, the GOP candidate leading in Alabama, Kentucky, and Texas, and the races in Arizona, Georgia, and South Carolina within the margin of error.

Morning Consult's national results are from surveys conducted among 14,663 likely voters Oct. 29- 31, and the margin of error is ± 1 percentage points. The state-level polling was conducted Oct. 22-31 between 727 to 4,451 likely voters in each state, and the margin of error is between ± 2 points to ± 4 points. Peter Weber

November 2, 2020

"Joe Biden heads into Election Day with a unique coalition and multiple paths to victory against President Donald Trump — but some Democrats can hardly believe the polls, haunted by the ghosts of 2016," NBC News reports. Jesse Ferguson, Hillary Clinton's 2016 deputy national press secretary, describes the mood among many Democrats as "a blend of confidence that this election is very different than the last one, and dread." Many Trump supporters remain convinced he can pull off another big upset.

"And indeed — although nobody needs any reminders of this after 2016 — Trump can win," Nate Silver says at FiveThirtyEight. "All the election models are bullish on Biden, but they are united in that a Trump win is still plausible despite his seemingly steep deficit in polls." Almost all forecasts expect Biden to win the popular vote, and FiveThirtyEight gives Biden an 89 percent shot at winning the Electoral College, but "Trump's chances in our forecast are about 10 percent and not zero," Silver noted.

If Trump significantly over-performs his polls and wins Pennsylvania, for example, "Biden does have some paths to victory" but he goes "from favorite to underdog," Silver said. And "if Biden wins the popular vote by 2 to 3 percentage points, the Electoral College is roughly a toss-up. But if Biden wins the popular vote by less than 2 points, Trump is a fairly heavy favorite to win the election. Even popular vote margins of up to 6 points are not entirely safe for Biden if his votes are distributed in exactly the wrong way." Biden's current national polling lead, according to FiveThirtyEight, is 8.5 percentage points.

Polling and electoral forecast sites aren't "giving" Biden an 89 percent chance of winning — "we aren't giving anybody anything," Silver said. Instead, his site is "mapping uncertainty," and you don't know everything you don't know. "Systematic polling errors do occur, and it’s hard to predict them ahead of time or to anticipate the reasons in advance," he added. Read more, including numerous charts, at FiveThirtyEight. Peter Weber

October 29, 2020

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden enters the final week of the 2020 election with a lead of 12 percentage points over President Trump, according to a CNN/SSRS poll released Wednesday. In the poll, 54 percent of likely voters are backing Biden while 42 percent favor Trump. The CNN polls is better for Biden than the national averages from RealClearPolitics, 7.5 points (51.1 percent to 43.6 percent), and FiveThirtyEight, where Biden's 9-point lead (51.8 percent to 42.9 percent) is paired with 88 in 100 odds of winning the Electoral College.

Trump trailed by 16 points in CNN's last national poll, so this is an improvement, but the race has been remarkably steady. "Biden has held a lead in every CNN poll on the matchup since 2019, and he has held a statistically significant advantage in every high-quality national poll since the spring," CNN reports. "All of the data point to an election that is a referendum on an unpopular president, and a sizable share of both candidates' supporters are making their decisions based on their feelings about Trump," whose approval rating sits at 42 percent. CNN broke down some of the big demographic splits on air.

CNN's poll wasn't the only one national survey released Wednesday, "and although there are some outliers in both directions, they tell a fairly consistent story, overall: A steady race nationally, perhaps with some gains for Joe Biden in the Midwest," Nate Silver writes at FiveThirtyEight. Biden appears to be losing a tiny bit of ground in post-debate national polls but gaining in state polls, and he's doing better in higher-quality polls like CNN's than in lower quality ones.

SSRS conducted the CNN poll Oct. 23-26 among 1,005 U.S. adults reached by phone, including 886 likely voters. The poll or likely voters has a margin of sampling error of ± 3.8 percentage points. Peter Weber

October 28, 2020

A Washington Post/ABC News poll of Wisconsin and Michigan released Wednesday morning had good news for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. In Michigan, the poll found him beating President Trump by a modest 7 percentage points among likely voters, 51 percent to 44 percent, within the margin of error. But Biden's lead in Wisconsin was 17 points among both likely and registered voters, a lead so large The Washington Post suggested it might be "significantly more bullish for Biden than some other public polls" because of "variation in random sample surveys."

Biden's Wisconsin lead in the RealClearPolitics average is 5.5 points (49.8 percent to 44.3 percent), and FiveThirtyEight puts Biden ahead by 7.1 points, 51.4 percent to 44.3 percent. RealClearPolitics also gives Biden a 9-point lead in Michigan (50.5 percent to 41.5 percent), while FiveThirtyEight pegs it at 8.3 points, 50.9 percent to 42.6 percent. Biden has led in both states for months now; Trump won both by narrow margins in 2016 — 10,704 votes out of 4.8 million cast in Michigan and 22,748 out of 3 million votes in Wisconsin.

Trump's approval rating and poll numbers are down in both states compared with the last Washington Post/ABC News poll, and the pollsters attribute his especially precipitous fall in Wisconsin — Biden led by just 6 points in mid-September — to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wisconsin is "now reported to be third in the nation in per capita COVID-19 cases, with a 53 percent increase in average daily cases in the past two weeks, a record number of hospitalizations, and a 112 percent jump in deaths," ABC News reports. And the polls bear that out: Biden now leads Trump by 20 points on who Wisconsin voters trust to handle the outbreak, from 7 points in September.

Biden's lead is also fueled in both states by double-digit leads among women and majorities of older voters.

The polls were conducted via phone, mostly cellphones, Oct. 20-25 among 789 likely voters in Michigan and 809 likely Wisconsin voters. The margin of sampling error in both states is ± 4 percentage points. Peter Weber

October 26, 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden may be making inroads with America's youth.

A new poll released Monday by the Harvard Kennedy School revealed that the Democratic presidential nominee's favorability rating shot up from 42 percent in April to 56 percent currently among likely voters between the ages of 18 and 29, although the amount of respondents who view him negatively remains unchanged.

Biden already enjoyed a stark advantage over President Trump in the younger demographic, even when his popularity was lower, but the new numbers do seem to back up the idea that younger voters are enthusiastic about voting in this election. Indeed, 63 percent of those surveyed said they "will definitely" head to the polls or send in a ballot, compared to just 47 percent who said the same in 2016.

The Harvard poll was conducted between Sept. 23 and Oct. 11 among 2,026 voters between 18-29 years-old. The margin of error was 2.99 percent. Read the full results here. Tim O'Donnell

October 26, 2020

A poll Sunday from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden beating President Trump by 3 percentage points among likely Texas voters, 48 percent to 45 percent. "That's within the margin of error, but it's also a 5-point reversal from the last such poll in early September," the Morning News reports.

This poll may very well be an outlier, but not by much. Trump and Biden are tied in FiveThirtyEight's Texas polling average.

"I suppose I'd note here that our forecast still has Trump favored in Texas, in part because it has strict voting laws (one of the few states without no-excuse absentee voting)," FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver adds, "but Biden's chances there (38 percent) are the highest they've been all cycle." Turnout is high, so far. As of Saturday, 7.2 million Texans had voted, 42.4 percent of the state's registered voters, The Texas Tribune reports. That matches the 2016 early vote count, and Texans have five days left to cast their ballots before Election Day.

If Biden pulled off a win in Texas, Trump would have essentially no path to victory. Still, Trump isn't going to visit the Lone Star State before the election because "he's going to be in battleground states," former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), Trump first energy secretary, told the Morning News. "Texas is not a battleground state, it's that simple," and a Biden victory is a Democratic "pipe dream." It's not clear how seriously the Biden campaign is taking Texas — not seriously enough, according to Texas Democrats — but vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is paying a visit Friday.

The Dallas Morning News/UT Tyler poll was conducted Oct. 13-20 among 1,012 registered Texas voters, including 924 "extremely likely" voters. The poll's margin of error for the likely voters is ± 3.22 percentage points. Peter Weber

October 25, 2020

President Trump has stirred up controversy by giving some evasive answers on what he'll do if he fails to win re-election on Nov. 3 (or whenever the presidential race is called). The president has said he will accept a peaceful transition of power, but he continues to suggest the election may not be "honest" or "clean," with a particular focus on the mail-in voting process, which he believes is vulnerable to fraud.

Regardless, the majority of his supporters are prepared to accept the election results no matter who wins, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll revealed Sunday. In the survey, 59 percent of those who are backing Trump said they'll accept a win from his Democratic competitor, former Vice President Joe Biden, and the data is pretty much the same on the other side of things, where 57 percent of Biden supporters said they'd accept a Trump victory.

That does theoretically leave a significant amount of people who would refuse to accept the results, but not all of those folks would take action to challenge the outcome. Among Trump backers, 16 percent said they would try to do something about a Biden victory, while 22 percent of Biden voters said they'd make an effort to dispute a Trump win.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online between Oct. 13-20. It gathered responses from 2,649 American adults. The margin of error was 4 percentage points. Read more at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

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