4. In 2016, district-level polls indicated a last-minute Democratic collapse. In 2020, they indicate Democratic strength.
In early November 2016, several careful polling analysts started sounding the alarm for Hillary Clinton in the upper Midwest.
Six days before the election, The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein noted that “Clinton has not visited Wisconsin since April, and appeared just twice in Michigan from June through October.” By abandoning these key states, she was acting “like a general who has sent out a large expeditionary force and left modest forces to defend their homeland.”
Five days before the election, Dave Wasserman at the Cook Political Report tweeted a poll from upstate New York that found Trump ahead by 14 points in a district where Obama and Romney had tied four years earlier. It suggested that Clinton’s support among white working-class districts was collapsing at the worst possible time. “Five days from Election Day, it’s clear who has the momentum,” he wrote. “And it’s not Hillary Clinton. This thing is close.”
This year, those congressional polls are telling a different story. Rather than illuminating surprising weaknesses for Biden, they’re reaffirming his strengths. In some cases, the district polls are pointing to an even larger Biden blowout than the national or state surveys. Most important, Trump isn’t getting anywhere near his 2016 margins in Michigan and Pennsylvania, Wasserman observed. Four years ago, there was a quiet “Trump! Trump! Trump!” alarm going off that only congressional polling analysts could hear. This year, they’re listening closely—but no Trump alarm is sounding.