Allow me to revise and extend my remarks on polling skepticism in our annus horribilis by citing … another poll. Yes, yes, I get the irony of this, but yesterday’s AP/Ipsos poll points out the dichotomy facing election polling in every cycle — but especially in this one. And that dichotomy is how to calculate preferences against enthusiasm in identifying just which voters are likely to participate at all, especially in the middle of a pandemic.
The toplines of the poll are hardly cheery for Donald Trump or Republicans. At the moment, 41% of respondents plan to vote for Joe Biden, while only 30% plan to vote for Trump — which might be a new low in presidential polling. The leaners break roughly evenly, adding up to a 46/34 advantage for Biden. Eight percent don’t plan to vote at all — a point to which we’ll return in a moment — and another 10% think they’ll go with a third-party candidate in November.
Trump’s approval ratings, both overall and on issues, are dismal in this series. He peaked this year in March at 43/56 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but has slid ever since. In this iteration, Trump gets a 38/61, which is notably above his share of the vote in the same sample. Trump is now underwater on the economy (48/51) after peaking at 56/41 in late March. He only gets 32/68 for his handling of the pandemic, 36/63 on health care overall, and 36/63 on education. Trump tends to do poorly in this series anyway, but these numbers look especially bad.