State-by-state polls show clear movement to Democrats since the protests began: political analyst

State-by-state polls show clear movement to Democrats since the protests began: political analyst
President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks at the Meeting of the Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 6, 2019. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain] / ABC News screenshot

In some respects this could be considered strange and counterintuitive: we have a nation roiled by street protests, the vast majority of which were peaceful, but some of which have erupted into violence. The violence was typically at the hands of law enforcement, but the news media have also highlighted widespread property damage and looting by civilians in several areas. Many observing what is happening in the streets are not participants in these protests, and many are locked down in their homes with only limited mobility as a consequence of an unprecedented health crisis that has not only altered their day-to-day lives but has also devastated the economy.

Normally this type of atmosphere would seem to be ideal for a political party that prides itself on its supposed fealty to “law and order,” whose members pledge allegiance to the gun lobby, adorn themselves in pretensions of “patriotism” and rely on their formidable media apparatus to place blame on African-Americans and other minorities for all violence and disorder as matter of routine. That atmosphere would appear to be even more favorable for this party since the most visible of the protesters are in fact African-American.

One could reasonably expect the American population gravitating towards that party out of sheer unease and fear, the same way Americans gravitated to Richard Nixon in 1968 as a result of widespread protests against the Vietnam War.

But that is not what is happening at all, as Harry Enten, senior writer and analyst for CNN and Fivethirtyeight, explains. The latest polling in Iowa’s Senate race between the Republican incumbent, Joni Ernst and her Democratic challenger, Theresa Greenfield, appears to be representative of a phenomenon he is observing at the state level since the protests against the murder of George Floyd began.

As Enten notes, the Iowa poll, which has Greenfield up by three points against Ernst, is ”[T]he latest state survey for either the race for the White House or Senate to show a clear shift toward Democrats since protests began nationwide following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer.” According to Enten:

“These state polls in aggregate suggest that the movement toward former Vice President Joe Biden seen in the national polls is funneling down to the state level.”

Enten gathered all cell phone polling at the state level but limited his data to those polls conducted since the protests began. He then compared the results in that polling (by reviewing the responses to eleven separate polling questions) to the 2016 presidential vote in those states. What he sees is a marked increase in voter preference for Biden during the last month, as the protests unfolded.

The Democratic candidate is running ahead of Hillary Clinton's margin by an average of 10 points. Although the sample size is small, the average overperformances were within a point of the 10 point average when examining the Senate and presidential races as distinct groups. When a similar calculation was made about a month ago, Biden was doing about 5 or 6 points better than Clinton on average in the state polling.

Enten’s analysis of the state polling (which includes polling in several “battleground” states such as Arizona, Wisconsin, Ohio and --yes—Texas) indicates that Biden overall is running ahead of Trump by double digits, which is consistent with the national polls. As Enten puts it, “Trump is losing ground in a lot of different places,” and Biden is well ahead at this time of any potential disparity between the Electoral college and the popular vote, such as occurred in 2016.

And the implications of this all this (thus far) are also very favorable to Democrats to retake the Senate.

Focusing on the Senate specifically, the limited data we have at this point is consistent with the idea that Republican candidates will not be able to hide from Trump's unpopularity. If he continues to have an approval rating in the low 40s nationally, there is a good chance that it will cost the Republicans control of the Senate.

The reason the Greenfield/Ernst poll is so significant is that Ernst’s seat was assumed to be relatively safe, barring an unusually dramatic shift of public opinion towards the Democrats. According to Enten, that seems to be what is occurring. And while Enten allows that poll could be an outlier, it is also consistent to what he sees in Arizona, with Mark Kelly pulling well ahead of Martha McSally.  One poll may be an outlier. But, as Enten says, “Not all of them are.”

In totality, they suggest Republicans up and down the ballot have their work cut out for them over the next four and a half months.

It seems obvious that Trump’s inability to perform any function of the office of president that doesn’t simply involve wiggling his Twitter fingers is finally sinking in to the American electorate. The country now faces three crises, all of which are fairly unparalleled in its modern history: a deadly pandemic, a collapsed economy, and a broad-based, nationwide movement protesting against police violence towards African-Americans. Trump has shown himself wholly unable and incompetent to address any of these crises, let alone all three. And the entire Republican Party has tied itself to Trump’s ineptitude.  Viewed from this perspective, these poll results really aren’t that surprising.

It looks like Americans have had quite enough of Donald Trump.


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