Good news for the White House, although we’ll have to wait until later this week to see if this is part of a trend captured by other pollsters or an outlier.
Despite the endless soft-focus testimonials at the convention about what a swell guy Trump is, Morning Consult says his favorable rating didn’t improve at all. He’s at 43/55, same as last week. It’s probably a fool’s errand at this point trying to convince people who don’t like him after three and a half years to rethink their opinion. What the convention did succeed at doing is getting people to like Biden less: He went from 51/46 favorability last weekend to 49/47 now. Trump’s gains came among white voters and suburbanites, cutting a 14-point Biden lead among the latter group to eight. We can only speculate which convention message, specifically, resonated with them but an obvious possibility is the idea that America will see more violent unrest under a Biden presidency than it’s seeing now.
In fact, it’s possible that the news from Kenosha is what moved the numbers towards Trump here, entirely apart from the convention itself. Maybe he would have gained on the Democrat even if Republicans hadn’t been on TV this week.
Any post-convention bounce is a step in the right direction for him. But:
Being 6 points behind after your own convention is terrible news. It’s worse than McCain in 2008 or Romney in 2012. Its probably worse than Carter after the 1980 Democratic convention (which was not considered a very happy event at the time) but I would have to look that up.
— Peter Spiliakos (@petespiliakos) August 29, 2020
The sign of progress that Republicans are desperate to see is Biden consistently below 50 percent in polling. That would mean that some people who are in his corner right now have switched back to undecided. As it is, the Democrat’s at 49-50 percent or better in most surveys, which makes it hard to imagine a series of narrow Trump wins in battleground states again. When he beat Hillary four years ago, she led him 48/46 in the national popular vote with third-party candidates chipping away at her margins. Biden’s ceiling is higher than that, and he won’t have to worry about independents.
This point is also worth bearing in mind. If Trump is -6 after days of a carefully stage-managed production on national TV aimed at making him seem cuddly, even-keeled, and hyper-competent, where will he be after he spends the next week reminding voters yet again that he’s not that guy at all?
The GOP convention folks did an effective job keeping the president filtered and on teleprompter. The Convention is now over. https://t.co/xfIGHM8aj7
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) August 29, 2020
This comment, accusing his niece Mary of having never been loved by her grandfather, is extra special:
..Even whether it’s dumb warmongers like John Bolton, social pretenders like Bob Woodward, who never has anything good to say, or an unstable niece, who was now rightfully shunned, scorned and mocked her entire life, and never even liked by her own very kind & caring grandfather!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2020
Maybe it won’t matter. As I say, Morning Consult found that his favorable rating didn’t change at all despite the sustained effort at the convention to humanize him. People know who he is and formed an opinion about whether it’s disqualifying or not long ago. If Trump’s bounce really is a function of the GOP’s message about riots (or a backlash to the riots themselves) then he can behave like a jackass on Twitter all he wants and probably still expect to gain on Biden.
Speaking of post-convention numbers, he spent part of this morning declaring victory over Democrats in the convention ratings. Didn’t he lose the TV ratings battle? you ask. He did. But he claims he won the overall ratings war:
His source for the total number of views the GOP convention had is Fox News. Fox’s source for the total number of views the GOP convention had is … a senior Trump campaign official. He’s pointing to a number that he himself supplied, essentially. Fox’s source could be telling the truth, or they could be deliberately calculating online views (which are hard to measure) in such a way as to favor Republicans over Democrats. Or they could just be making it up. Remember, the Trump campaign is reportedly willing to go to great lengths to manage the president’s mood, up to and including wasting money to run TV ads in the deep blue D.C. market just so that Trump himself will see them and feel cheered by them.
He’s so psychologically invested in ratings that some of his campaign staffers may have feared being fired yesterday after news broke that Democrats did better on TV. Brad Parscale was sent packing as campaign manager after poor attendance at a single rally; God only knows how much house-cleaning would have been done if the convention turned out to be a ratings bust. Voila: “We won the online ratings battle, sir! Take our word for it.”
Anyway, ratings don’t matter. The polls matter (a little) and Trump’s trending in the right direction there. He should be happy enough with that. In lieu of an exit question, I’ll leave you with one more set of numbers via YouGov.
Update: Ah, and here comes YouGov with a poll of its own suggesting that the convention might have helped Trump. I say “might” because this is a re-poll of a sample of registered voters who were polled at the end of July. A lot has happened since then besides the conventions, from riots in major cities to an easing of the summer wave of COVID across the south. YouGov had Biden ahead by nine in that July poll but finds him up by six points now. The shift is due to “roughly 1 percent of registered voters switching from Biden to Trump and a smaller number who previously said they would not vote now saying they will vote for Trump.”
Before you go assuming that Trump’s gains are being driven by a backlash to urban violence, though, chew on this:
If the goal of the RNC was to tar Biden as a radical who will endanger Americans’ safety, it was not a success. One month ago, 37 percent of the public thought America would become more safe if Biden were elected; 35 percent said the country would become less safe. After both conventions, those numbers were 39 percent to 38 percent — no real change in the margin.
Nor did Trump convince Americans that he will make them safer. Today, 43 percent say the country will be less safe if Trump is reelected. Just 32 percent say it will be safer. One month ago, those numbers were nearly identical: 44 percent to 31 percent. Asked who would have handled the protests better, 43 percent say Biden. Only 35 percent say Trump.
Even more significant: “[A] majority of Americans (52 percent) think a second Trump term will lead to more violence of the sort seen in Kenosha. Only a quarter think Trump’s reelection will lead to less violence.” Asked whether Trump will protect voters from chaos or is a source of the chaos, voters split 27/46. The idea that what happened in Wisconsin and Minneapolis this week will certainly help Trump looks shaky based on that.