Ahead of Joe Biden on Donald Trump in the voting intentions will be more difficult to overcome than that of Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The first reaction of many observers ahead of Joe Biden on Donald Trump in the polls of voting intentions is that we cannot rely on them, since the surveys were also an advance for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and you know the rest. Let’s forget for the moment the critical primary who reject all polls that do not reflect their preferences or who persist to say that polls of 2016 were false. (They were pretty fair, ahead of Clinton in the popular vote was less than one percentage point of the average predicted by the polls.) There are many signs that indicate that the current advance of Biden is extremely worrying for Trump.
A more advance high in 2016
First, less than five months before the elections, the average of the polls as calculated by Real Clear Politics shows an advance of 8 points to Biden, compared to 3 points at the same date in 2016 for Clinton. More generally, if we compare the trends of 2016 and 2020 from 1 January to 8 June, we can observe some key differences.
Figure 1 : Polls of voting intentions Clinton vs Trump, 1er January-8 June 2016
Chart 2 : Surveys of voting intentions Biden vs. Trump, 1st January to 8 June 2020
There is, first, that the average support of Hillary Clinton, was around 46%, with a ceiling of approximately 50% and a floor of 43%, while Trump had an average of about 41%, a low of 39% and a ceiling of 44%. We also note that the gap between the two candidates is very variable. In 2020, the average Biden is around 49% and that of Trump for approximately 43%, with floors of their respective 47% and 41.5% respectively, and ceilings of 51% and 45.5%.
At first glance, Biden has an advance in average two times higher than that of Clinton. It is also notable that there are significantly less of undecided voters or discrete in 2020 than there were in 2016 to such dates. By 2020, the proportion of those undecided and discrete fluctuates between 5% and 11%, whereas it ranged between 8% and 17% in 2020.
An electorate that is less mobile
Not only the advance of Biden is higher than it was for Clinton in 2016, but there is less room for change. This is important, because an observation of the trend of opinion in 2016 shows that the voting intentions were subject to significant variations, as shown in the general trend for the entire year before the election of 2016. We can probably expect less changes by next November.
Chart 3 : Surveys of voting intentions Clinton vs Trump, 1er January-8 November 2016
It is also noted in the surveys conducted up to this day by 2020 that Joe Biden has frequently reached or exceeded the symbolic threshold of absolute majority (50%) in surveys on an individual basis (27 times on 71 surveys since 1 January), while Hillary Clinton had rarely reached this threshold (only once in the average of polls in April 2016 and 13 times in surveys of the individual between January and June 2016).
On the other hand, it has been observed on several occasions in 2016 in the “mirror” in both directions, suggesting a back-and-forth of the voting intentions of a candidate to the other and, therefore, a certain fluidity of support. This movement of back-and-forth, which was present to some extent between Trump and Biden to the end of 2019, seems much less present in 2020. Eight times during the year 2016, the levels of support of Clinton and Trump have approached to less than two percentage points. The current president has been the chance that one of these points of rapprochement has taken place just at the time of the election.
Donald Trump narrowly won in November 2016. He lost the popular vote by two percentage points and won the electoral college by a slim margin of about 80,000 votes in three key States. What are his chances of repeating this feat in the current conditions?
It is always difficult to make predictions, especially if they concern the future, but it is already possible to see that not only the advance of Joe Biden on Donald Trump is higher and more stable than the one that Hillary Clinton had on him four years ago, but the undecided voters or removable are extremely rare and it will be all the more difficult to bring them back to him.
If we add to this general picture, the situation is little positive support for Trump in several key States that he cannot afford to lose, and the marked decline of its support among several groups of voters that form the core of his partisan basis (I’ll get to that), there isn’t anything to be surprised that an air of panic began to make itself felt in the White House and several republican lawmakers begin to consider taking their distance from a president that looks increasingly to be a burden to their re-election prospects.