It’s the second poll in three days to show Trump trailing Biden by 11 points, which is mega-landslide territory by the standards of presidential elections. But there are two differences between Wednesday’s poll and today’s. Wednesday’s was a poll of Pennsylvania. Today’s is a poll of the entire country. And Wednesday’s poll came from Quinnipiac. Today’s comes from … Fox News.
Have we had any presidential tweets yet accusing Fox of being “fake news”? If anything’s going to do it, this will.
It’s actually not the head-to-head number with Biden that’s most ominous for Trump here.
Biden also performs best in hypothetical 2020 matchups. Among all registered voters, he leads Trump by 11 points (49-38 percent), up from a 7-point advantage in March. Biden’s is the only lead outside the margin of sampling error in the matchups tested — and he is the only Democrat to push Trump’s support below 41 percent.
Sanders tops Trump by 5 points (46-41 percent) and Warren is up by two (43-41 percent), while Harris ties Trump (41-41 percent) and Buttigieg trails him by one (40-41 percent).
“He is the only Democrat to push Trump’s support below 41 percent” is a tactful way of communicating to the Fox readership that, for the moment, Trump’s ceiling is 41 percent. Even against no-names like Buttigieg, that’s the best he can do. In fact, when you give people a choice between reelecting Trump and voting for someone else, his numbers actually sink back down to 38 percent:
Just 21 percent of independents are leaning towards Trump over a generic candidate. Even if you assume that every indie in the “too soon to say” category (15 percent) will eventually break for POTUS, there are still more leaning against him than towards him. You can see the asymmetry between the two parties in that table too: Democrats are almost uniformly against Trump whereas 17 percent of Republicans are only “probably” in favor of reelection. Fox notes that at this point in the 2012 cycle Obama was also trailing a generic Republican nominee — but by a far smaller margin, 44/49. O had to erase a five-point deficit; Trump has to erase a 16-point one.
Why is Biden doing better than other Democrats? Because, whether for reasons of pure name recognition or personal appeal, he’s more competitive among some of Trump’s core groups than other Democrats are, which was also true in Quinnipiac’s poll of Pennsylvania. Biden trails Trump here by just a single point among whites; no other Democrat comes closer than six points. He’s also the only Democrat who leads Trump among voters aged 45 or older (48/43). Next best is Sanders, who trails 46/42. But it’s not just Trump’s base that’s helping Biden to a big lead. He’s cleaning up among nonwhite voters, 65/18. Bernie, by comparison, tops out at 58/21 against Trump, 10 net points short of Biden. Kamala Harris, the only nonwhite candidate tested, is a comparatively weak 54/21 for now. All of which is to say, you can see in this single paragraph why Biden’s momentarily not just the biggest threat to Trump but the runaway leader in the Democratic primary. His coalition of supporters cuts across more demographic lines than others’ do.
Well, that and “electability.” Fox tested various qualities Democrats want to see in a nominee. The winner was “ability to beat Trump,” which 73 percent described as “extremely” important. The only other trait tested that approached that was “has high ethical standards,” at 71 percent. Between those two categories, Dems are obviously judging their own candidates through a Trumpy filter.
Here’s the most bananas result, though, and this one’s not all bad for POTUS:
Look carefully at the dates there. We’re 18 months out from Election Day 2020 and voters’ interest is already higher than it was during the entire 2016 campaign, including the week of the election itself. It’s also higher than it was at any point of the 2012 election, when the share who said they were “extremely” interested in the election topped out at 52 percent a month before the vote. And if you look down to the crosstabs, you’ll find the interest is bipartisan: 62 percent of Democrats are “extremely” interested versus 58 percent of Republicans, each higher than the overall number of 57 percent across the population. (It’s independents, only 34 percent of whom are “extremely” interested, who are dragging down the overall number.) That is, Trump has a fighting chance next year despite his lackluster approval ratings because for the moment Republicans are almost as focused on the election as the overwhelmingly anti-Trump Dems are. He’s always seemed to believe that he can get reelected by appealing to his base and essentially only his base. We’re going to test that theory next November.