So there you were, enjoying a perfectly lovely Friday heading into the
Memorial Day weekend, (fine… it’s Labor day) safe and secure in the knowledge that all the things you needed to know about the 2016 presidential race were, for the moment, known. And then this happened.
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump leads Democrat Hillary Clinton head-to-head, according to a new poll released Friday.
The poll by SurveyUSA finds that matched up directly, Trump garners 45 percent to Clinton’s 40 percent.
In other head-to-head matchups, Trump beats out Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) by 44 percent to 40 percent; Vice President Joe Biden by 44 percent to 42 percent; and former Vice President Al Gore by 44 percent to 41 percent.
The other interesting question that the phone survey (taken in the first few days of September) explored was the predictions of who would win the GOP nomination. Previously, even among Trump supporters, the largest number of people liked Trump but they didn’t think he was going to be the nominee. Now even that metric has flipped and 30% believe he will be carrying the GOP standard into the general election, while 20% still think it’s going to be Bush. (That would be the “follow the money” crowd I suppose.)
One of the first objections which will be raised by both Democrats and Trump’s critics on the Republican side is that “it’s SurveyUSA.” We seem to hit at least one of these stories every election cycle, but the complaints don’t tend to hold a lot of water. Going all the way back to the 2010 midterms there were similar complaints lodged by people who didn’t care for their results, but even then Nate Silver was giving them positive marks compared to established names such as Rasmussen.
On Tuesday, polls conducted by the firm Rasmussen Reports — which released more than 100 surveys in the final three weeks of the campaign, including some commissioned under a subsidiary on behalf of Fox News — badly missed the margin in many states, and also exhibited a considerable bias toward Republican candidates.
Other polling firms, like SurveyUSA and Quinnipiac University, produced more reliable results in Senate and gubernatorial races. A firm that conducts surveys by Internet, YouGov, also performed relatively well.
Still, this is just one poll and we’ll have to see a few more lining up in the same direction before we can declare a supportable shift in the tides. But the numbers seem to be following a pattern which has become ingrained in this season’s ongoing drama. So, assuming this data starts locking in for a while, what explains it? Had they only run Trump against Hillary there would be an easy out: Clinton’s numbers have been in free fall across the board for a while now and she’s currently so far underwater on her favorability and trust statistics that Trey Gowdy’s next investigation may include charges of her stealing artifacts from the wreck of the Titanic. In that light it would be simple enough to just say that everyone hates Hillary so they just hate The Donald a little less.
But how then would we explain how he’s beating Bernie Sanders and even lovable Uncle Joe Biden? Something is happening here and it’s either going to turn out to be SurveyUSA hitting a serious glitch in their process or… can we say it out loud? The other choice is that everybody who does this for a living got this wrong. Trump is still breaking all the rules on a daily basis, but it’s becoming a very real possibility that the people out there getting ready to vote in the primary and the general election as well don’t really give a hoot about our rules.
We have all lived to see interesting times.