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Friday, May 24, 2024

Left-Leaning Pollsters Remain Unchastened by 2016 Lessons

‘Things could—and probably will—change dramatically after the debates begin later this month…’

Trump Fires Back at Biden's Potshots in Likely Preview of General-Election Brawl
Joe Biden and Donald Trump / IMAGES via Youtube

(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) With the official launch of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign Tuesday and the first debates of the protracted Democratic primary season occurring next week, there is, once again, a renewed focus on polling data.

Of course, the lessons and disasters of the 2016 election will not be easily forgotten or dismissed, but a spate of recent numbers suggesting Trump trailing in head-to-head match-ups against several Democratic contenders have raised questions about how well the pollsters themselves have learned those lessons.

On Tuesday, just before the major Trump rally and Democratic debates set to take place in Florida, Quinnipiac University released a poll that suggested Trump was trailing significantly behind Democratic front-runner Joe Biden in the battleground state—despite other clear indicators showing that support for the president, who won Florida in 2016, had grown recently.

“Florida Republicans have won the last five major statewide elections, all by very close margins, but Sunshine State Democrats see these very early numbers as a sign that their losing streak might be coming to an end,” crowed Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, in a press release.

Trump’s 44–51 percent approval rating from the poll is the best since he was elected, and the majority of Floridians acknowledge that they are better off, financially, than they were in 2016.

Moreover, voters still resoundingly disapprove of impeaching the president—one of the central preoccupations of the Democratic party since Trump took office—by a 2:1 margin.

And Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis ranks high in popularity, with 54 percent approval, according to Morning Consult.

In contrast with the QU results, a Florida Atlantic University Poll in May found that the two front-runners, Trump and Biden, were neck and neck in the Sunshine State, with Trump leading all other contenders.

The QU methodology seems sounder than many—random sampling using live telephone interviewers, equal breakdowns based on ideology—but it admits to using statistical weighting “to account for deviations in the survey sample from known population characteristics, which helps correct for differential survey participation and random variation in samples.”

In other words, after painstakingly trying to establish balance in their ideological sampling, they then go out of their way to skew the data, weighing some responses more than others to account for demographic factors.

Curiously, the polls provide the raw numerical count for only two figures: the total number of respondents (1,279) and the number of registered Democrats who answered a separate question about the primaries (417).

Other numbers are left to percentages—with some tables adding up to more than 100 (presumably due to rounding).

One interesting breakout detail from the analysis, however, was the fact that Trump has actually gained on Biden by a few percentage points since the last time QU asked the question, in October 2015.

In another reminder of just how premature it is to form conclusions based on the polling data—something on which the pollsters themselves would no doubt agree—Ballotopedia’s Scott Rasmussen issued a release Tuesday noting that four years ago this month, on June 16, 2015, Donald Trump formally announced his candidacy, and entered into the primary pool of GOP candidates polling around 1 percent.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll a few days later found that 66 percent of Republican voters said they could not support him.

“Things changed dramatically in the course of the months that followed, particularly after the presidential debates began,” Rasmussen said. “Candidate Trump captured attention during the debates and dominated much of the media coverage on his way to the White House.”

Biden’s 41 percent lead over Democrats in QU’s Florida poll is considerably greater than what then-Republican front-runer Jeb Bush had (22 percent) at this point in 2015, but Rasmussen cautioned against thinking that the candidate with the most name-recognition or fundraising prowess (Bush was able to raise $150 million off his family legacy) would translate to later success.

“This data provides an important and cautionary reminder about reading too much into Democratic primary polling at the moment,” Rasmussen said. “Things could—and probably will—change dramatically after the debates begin later this month.”

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