Election 2020

The Democratic Convention Is Giving an Unusual Bump to Trump and the GOP

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

In a typical election year, people talk about the post-convention bump. That means the Democrats should expect the approval and preference for their presidential ticket to rise as their convention progresses. However, this is 2020, and nothing is typical. It actually seems the Democratic National Convention is giving President Trump and the GOP a bump.

The Democratic convention is virtual this year. This format means the activities like nominating and endorsing are all being done remotely and from different locations. It could be the lack of cheering crowds and other visuals that is dragging viewership down. Of course, it could also be the horrible production value and a pitch that never seems to go beyond Orange Man Bad. Or maybe it is the combination of the two.

Last night, the convention formally nominated Kamala Harris as the vice-presidential candidate and the proceedings focused on those who endorse her or have worked with her. So Harris became the formal nominee and gave a speech. We heard from her family and others in the Democratic Party about Harris and what she brings to the ticket.

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Following the historic nomination of the first woman of color to the presidential ticket for a major party, something extraordinary happened. The incumbent president’s approval rating went up. According to Rasmussen, President Trump’s daily approval rating, which had been bouncing around in the high 40s since early August, jumped three points from the day before to 51%.

Rasmussen recorded a similar three-point swing in the “strongly approve” and “strongly disapprove” ratings. On August 19th, 35% of likely voters strongly approved of the job Trump is doing, while 44% strongly disapproved. On Thursday, those ratings were 38% and 41%, respectively. It is interesting to note that Barack Obama’s approval rating hovered in a similar range between July and August leading up to his reelection in 2012, according to Gallup.

Rasmussen published another interesting finding. It asked likely voters whether watching a convention had ever changed their vote. Nearly one in five respondents said they had decided to vote differently after viewing the conventions. Even though 74% say that has never happened for them, 19% of likely voters have been persuaded in the past. That is a pretty big opportunity for either party.

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Among likely voters, 53% say they will be watching at least some part of the Democratic convention this week. Fifty-one percent of self-identified Democrats are very likely to tune in. By contrast, 81% of Republicans plan on tuning in to the Republican National Convention, with 49% saying it is highly likely they will do so.

The most interesting response came from unaffiliated voters. Among those likely voters, only 44% said they are likely to watch at least some of the Democratic convention. However, 52% say they will tune in when the Republicans take the stage. Since these voters are often considered Independents or persuadable voters, this is excellent news. There is an 8% swing towards the GOP, indicating less interest in the Democrat message.

These results are consistent with a particular aspect of several recent polls. Biden has a significant number of voters that are not voting for him. Instead, they are voting against President Trump. In such a case, it is not really necessary to hear what Biden and the Democrats have to say.

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By contrast, Trump voters are voting for him and his policies. A much smaller fraction characterizes their vote as one against Biden. It makes sense that more Republicans would tune in to see a politician they are enthusiastic about. The swing in interest in watching the Republican convention among unaffiliated voters may indicate enthusiasm in that group as well.

If nothing else, these voters can hope that the GOP puts on a more engaging event. Even high-profile Democrats have been bemoaning the presentation at their convention so far. There is a lot of content directed at particular identity groups that Democrats try to appeal to. Women and Black Lives Matter seem to be two groups they are targeting, in particular. In fact, the closing on the first night almost seemed to celebrate the current riots and unrest:

A musical number targeted at aging hippies and current insurrectionists doesn’t seem to be the best swing-state strategy. It’s probably not very appealing in flyover country, either. Time will tell.

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