There’s no doubt that many liberals feel encouraged by early polls predicting a landslide victory for Joe Biden over Donald Trump. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed Biden leading Trump by a whopping 13 points. Of course Republicans and Donald Trump himself have dismissed such polls as “fake news” and point to all the polls of 2016 that were equally dismal for Donald Trump.
Well, it turns out that there’s actually bipartisan skepticism about these early polls, according to a report from The Hill on Friday:
“These same geniuses all predicted that Hillary Clinton was unstoppable and inevitable,” said Chris Kofinis, a Democratic pollster.
While Trump argues the polls undersell his support, some Democrats say surveys showing Biden well ahead of the Democratic field are not to be trusted.
Both sides think a close race in 2020 is likely and that surveys showing Biden and other Democrats with huge leads aren’t likely to reflect Election Day’s reality.
“Anyone who believes that the Democratic candidate is headed for a landslide victory right now is doomed to repeat the tragic history of 2016,” Kofinis said. “It’s a fundamental mistake for anyone to believe that reality can be projected or predicted based on these polls this far out from the general election.”
The doubts surrounding polls underscore the degree to which confidence in the polling industry collapsed in 2016, when much of the public was blindsided by Trump’s victory.
According to one top Democratic strategist, “The only thing we need to remember is that every single poll had Hillary Clinton winning and then she lost. I don’t put any stock in any poll, especially right now. I think Trump starts off in a strong position. Can he be beaten? Yes. But we’ll be going up against a machine and a very organized force. Don’t believe anyone who tells you Joe Biden or any Democrat is winning in Texas. That’s crazy. Give me a break.”
FiveThirtyEight also dismissed these early polls.
So, just how seriously should we take hypothetical general election polls more than a year out and before the Democratic nominee has been selected?
In the runup to the 2016 presidential election, this same question came up, and FiveThirtyEight analyzed general election polls from 1944 to 2012 that tested the eventual nominees and were conducted in the last two months of the year before the election (so for 2012, that would be November and December of 2011). On average, these polls missed the final result by 11 percentage points.
Back at this point in the 2016 campaign cycle Hillary Clinton was also leading Donald Trump by 12 points. Trump never had a lead in their polling.
Clearly, there’s no reason to Trump supporters to panic, nor is there any reason for Democrats to think they have this election in the bag. But, considering how extreme Democrats have become on issues such as abortion, the Electoral College, transgender issues, religious liberty, and much more, I think Trump will go into the general election on much more solid footing than the eventual Democrat nominee. Internal reporting from the Trump campaign seems to back this up.