New CNN poll shows Biden's national lead shrinking to four points, but...

Remember that time Trump’s campaign pretend-threatened to sue CNN because one of their polls showed Biden leading nationally by 14 points?

I’m going to guess that, after this one, MAGA World is satisfied that all flaws in their methodology have since been resolved.


Every data nerd in America responded the same way to the uproar over CNN’s latest when it dropped last night: Do not cherry-pick polls. It’s the polling averages that matter, not the occasional outliers that crop up.

To hell with that. I’m a blogger, man. Cherry-picking data to suit people’s personal prejudices is what partisan media is all about. Headline: TRUMP NOW WITHIN FOUR OF BIDEN NATIONALLY.

Across 15 battleground states, the survey finds Biden has the backing of 49% of registered voters, while Trump lands at 48%.

The pool of battleground states in this poll includes more that Trump carried in 2016 (10) than were won by Hillary Clinton (5), reflecting the reality that the President’s campaign is more on defense than offense across the states. Taken together, though, they represent a more Republican-leaning playing field than the nation as a whole.

The movement in the poll among voters nationwide since June is concentrated among men (they split about evenly in June, but now 56% back Trump, 40% Biden), those between the ages of 35 and 64 (they tilt toward Trump now, but were Biden-leaning in June) and independents (in June, Biden held a 52% to 41% lead, but now it’s a near even 46% Biden to 45% Trump divide).

Trump has also solidified his partisans since June. While 8% of Republicans or Republican-leaning independents in June said they would back Biden, that figure now stands at just 4%.


Trump leads on the economy and also on which candidate has the “stamina and sharpness” to be president, although by only two points. (Biden leads more comfortably on various other measures of personal fitness.) This isn’t the only national poll to show a tight race lately either. The HarrisX surveys conducted for The Hill consistently show a Biden lead of three or four, as they include a much larger “undecided” contingent than other pollsters. The last one from Emerson also had Biden up four, and Rasmussen has at times showed a tight race, which isn’t surprising given their right-leaning “house effect” — although in their most recent poll, Biden led by six.

Sounds like a Trump comeback is under way. But … is it? That’s where we come to the “but” in the headline. Three other national surveys published in the past three days have Biden leading much more comfortably. NPR/Marist had the race 53/42 on Friday, up three points from June. In that one Biden tied Trump among white voters at 48 percent, also up from June and a death sentence for Trump 2020 if it persists. (He won whites by 20 four years ago.) Yesterday WSJ/NBC found Biden leading nationally by nine points, 50/41, a slight decline since July but still a hefty lead at this stage of the race. Trump leads whites by seven in this one but Biden leads by seven among senior citizens, another must-win constituency for POTUS. In this poll Biden has a seven-point lead in the swing states, a major difference from CNN’s poll. The explanation may be as simple as CNN including a few reddish states as “battlegrounds,” like Texas, that WSJ/NBC omitted.


One more, released just this morning. ABC/WaPo, which has an excellent track record in presidential races, has it Biden 54, Trump 44 — among likely voters.

Biden’s margin of voting support over Trump is built on stronger support among some groups of voters than Clinton achieved four years ago. He is winning independent voters by 17 points, for example, a group Trump narrowly won in 2016, according to network exit polls…

Biden and Trump are tied among seniors, a group Trump carried four years ago, although Biden has lost the 10-point advantage he held in May…

Among voters in the suburbs, a traditional electoral battleground, Biden has a narrow eight-point lead. Trump, who narrowly won suburban voters in 2016, has tried to appeal to them this year by holding himself out as the sole force preventing an influx of minority and poor residents. Still, suburban women currently favor Biden by 13 points, while suburban men are about evenly divided.

An interesting detail: The percentage of Republicans and leaners who say they’re following the campaign very closely is the same as it was four years ago, 58 percent. The percentage of Democrats and leaners who say the same is up 13 points, from 40 percent to 53. What will that mean for turnout this year?

All four of the polls I’ve described, including the CNN survey showing a tight race, have something in common. They all have Biden at 50 percent or better. In 2016, Hillary Clinton reached an average of 50 percent against Trump for less than one week and that came in March, before he clinched the Republican nomination. From the end of April until Election Day, she only touched as high as 49 percent once, and that was after the “Access Hollywood” debacle. Granted, Hillary had third-party candidates like Gary Johnson and Jill Stein competing for some of her voters whereas Biden doesn’t. But the fact remains that she never quite reached majority support, the level at which a candidate starts to look unbeatable (barring scandal or some catastrophic collapse) since there just aren’t enough undecided voters left for the underdog to win and overtake him.


Contrast Hillary’s predicament with Biden’s polling against Trump. He just crossed 50 percent for the third time in less than two months in the RCP average.

As I say, for most of the 2016 campaign, 49 percent was Hillary’s ceiling. Since June 1 in the 2020 campaign, 49 percent is close to Biden’s floor: He dropped slightly below it for a few days in July but otherwise has been north of it for two and a half months. In the last 10 national polls tracked by RCP, he’s hit 50 percent or higher in seven and in two of the other three he hit 49. And although odds of a convention bounce seem smaller than usual this year, there’s a chance that his lead may grow a bit after this week’s spectacle. It’s unprecedented for a challenger to be averaging 50 percent or better at this stage of the race, notes Harry Enten, but that’s where we are.

All told, I’d say that Biden pulling 54 percent among likely voters in the ABC/WaPo poll is at least as newsworthy as the smallish margin in CNN’s data. Fifty-four is a *big* number, especially among likelies.

One last point. Enten flagged a curiosity of the election in a post this weekend, namely that Trump tends to be running behind Republicans on the generic ballot this year. WSJ/NBC found another instance of it in their new poll: Republicans in Congress stand at 42 percent while Trump stands at 41 against Biden. On average, says Enten, Trump has done about two points worse in polling than the GOP has on the generic ballot — which is surprising, since he has the advantage of incumbency whereas congressional Republicans don’t. Maybe that’s a sign that some voters have written off Trump as a sure loser and have begun to consider ticket-splitting in order to check Biden’s power, but probably it’s just a reflection of the fact that Trump is a weak candidate who’s alienated some voters personally who might otherwise be open to voting Republican. There’s a glimmer of hope in that for McConnell, in that he might end up holding the Senate after all. But there’s every reason to believe the president is hurting the party’s chances in Congress more than he’s helping.


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