Election 2020

CNN Poll Shows Trump Closing the Gap With Biden and Has More Enthusiasm from Supporters

AP Photo

Someone check on Brian Stelter. This CNN poll has excellent news for the Trump campaign as they have worked to instill message discipline and capitalize on the selection of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s running mate. On a national basis among registered voters, Joe Biden is at 50%, and Donald Trump is at 46%. The poll’s margin of error is 4%. Ladies and gentlemen, this is what we call a dead heat, and Team Trump is just getting started.

Neither candidate has over a 50% approval rating. Biden is at 46% with 47% who disapprove. Trump sits about where he has for his entire presidency, at 43% By way of comparison, the president’s approval rating on the day before the election in 2016 was 37.5% in the Real Clear Politics average.

However, the most interesting finding is why people are voting for the candidate they indicate they prefer. Only 38% of Joe Biden’s voters are voting for him. The other 58% indicate they are voting against President Trump. By contrast, 67% of President Trump’s voters are voting for him, and 29% are voting against Biden. Historically, this matters.

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This lopsided enthusiasm was present for the challenger in Reagan versus Mondale, Kerry versus Bush, and Obama versus Romney at this point in the election. Most of these challengers had a more significant share of voters casting a ballot for them than Biden currently does.

Even more impressive, when this measure is reversed running, against an incumbent, as it was in Bush versus Gore, the incumbent still won. However, no election with a challenger to a sitting president has a measure that was this lopsided at this point. By early September, 48% percent of Mitt Romney’s voters were voting for him, and 47% were voting against Obama.

Commentators might believe that anti-Trump sentiment is particularly high. This view would be a dangerous amount of navel-gazing. The #Resistance media would be severely underestimating the anti-Obama sentiment on the right in 2012. The Tea Party also didn’t burn and loot to show their displeasure, but opposition to the Obama agenda was significant.

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Still, the desire to vote against Obama as opposed to for Romney did not animate enough people to vote on Election Day. Joe Bien is currently in a bigger hole on this metric than Romney was. It does not appear the addition of Kamala Harris to the ticket has helped with this dimension. Biden is only up one point from June.

Perhaps this level of enthusiasm was reflected in the number of people watching the virtual Democratic Convention:

Or the number nodding off:

Another interesting poll detail is in the crosstabs. The polling firm Rasmussen was mocked in early August for reporting that, among likely voters, President Trump had a 36% approval rating among black voters. The CNN poll only breaks out people of color in the approval rating but reports that 37% of battleground-state voters in that demographic approve of the president. This statistic will likely not be highlighted, but it reinforces the Rasmussen finding.

Mike Pence and Kamala Harris have the same approval rating at 41%, with Harris having far lower name ID. Nearly 10% of those polled have never heard of her, and 11% have no opinion. Both running mates have the ability for some serious upside based on name ID and those with no opinion.

The poll was positioned as demonstrating the selection of Kamala Harris as a net positive. Technically, this is correct. However, at 52% positive, it ranks about the same or lower than the selection of Paul Ryan, Joe Biden, John Edwards, and Joe Lieberman. In fact, in the immediate post-announcement period, she is tied with Sarah Palin.

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The economy and the pandemic rank the highest among voter concerns at 47%, listing them as extremely important issues. Climate change ranks last in what voters consider extremely important. This finding indicates tying the polices of the Biden campaign on climate to the economic impact is a good strategy. This is the approach the Trump campaign has been taking, especially when it comes to the energy industry.

Registered voters also trust Donald Trump by a margin of 8 points on the economy. The campaign needs to focus on the coronavirus response. There are some significant wins in the response, including record-breaking vaccine trials, ventilator production, and delivery of supplies. Democrat governors expressed satisfaction with the support they received, and this should be capitalized on. Hitting the idea of federalism and local control is also essential.

Registered voters are also getting more enthusiastic about voting in the election. The number of them that characterize themselves as extremely enthusiastic is up 8 points since June at 53%. However, the enthusiasm for Donald Trump appears to be higher.

Polls are useful, but journalist and author Salena Zito points out a pretty significant fact. In 2016, which she calls Disneyland compared to 2020, 34% of the swing-state voters that were key to President Trump’s win never told anyone they were voting for the president. She predicts there is a higher number of Trump voters reluctant to disclose their vote this year. You can listen to her full commentary here with Townhall editor and WMAL host Larry O’Connor:

This insight may make the “secret Trump voter” more relevant, along with polls that ask people who their neighbor is voting for. In such a politicized environment, the election is far from over, and the outcome is up in the air. Time to vote like your life depends on it and make sure yours counts by going to the polls in person.

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