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Glenn Defeats Reagan! Or, Why Those Biden/Trump Polls Are Meaningless

“SHOCK POLL: BIDEN OPENS 8-POINT LEAD ON TRUMP” screamed the Drudge Report headline on the announcement that two-time loser Joe Biden has decided to run, once again, for president. 

The headline links to a Morning Consult story that found Biden with a 42 percent to 34 percent lead over President Trump in a hypothetical matchup.

“Along with his advantage over Trump, Biden has held a consistent lead in Morning Consult’s weekly tracking among likely Democratic primary voters,” the report says.

But the only thing shocking about this poll is that anyone would put any stock in such polls so early in the race. Just ask President John Glenn.

In May 1983, a Gallup poll came out showing that then-Sen. John Glenn would do better in a matchup against President Reagan, with a far wider margin than the Biden/Trump split.

As the New York Times reported on May 19 of that year, the survey “found that Senator Glenn led Mr. Reagan 54 percent to 37 percent.”

At that point, the eventual Democratic nominee, Walter Mondale, had a 49 percent to 43 percent edge over Reagan.

Harris survey in July 1983 concluded that “it seems certain that the 1984 presidential election will be close, with neither the President nor his most probable Democratic opponents assured of any solid lead.”

Actual result: Reagan won a massive landslide over Mondale, getting almost 59% of the popular vote and 525 electoral votes — winning every state except Mondale’s home state of Minnesota.

Fast forward to 2003, when President Bush’s sky-high post 9/11 ratings started to collapse. In March 2003, a Quinnipiac poll found that an unnamed Democratic party candidate would beat Bush by a 48 percent to 44 percent margin.  An April 2003 Gallup poll found Sen. Joe Lieberman with a lead over the nine other candidates running at the time. A month before, Rep. Dick Gephardt was leading the pack.

Anyone recall who the Democratic nominee was? Or the winner of the 2004 race?

Bush beat Sen. John “Reporting for Duty” Kerry by a 50.7 percent to 48.3 percent margin. Bush won 31 states, compared to Kerry’s 19.

Nor does Trump’s low approval rating at this point mean anything in terms of his reelection prospects.

As Gallup points out:

There are several examples when presidents who had nationwide approval ratings in the 40% range in the year before the election won a second term, including Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. All managed to get to 50% approval by the time of the presidential election. Trump has yet to attain that level in his presidency, but he will have the next 20 months to get to there, and to make the case to Americans that he deserves a second term.

Trump’s approval rating in the Gallup tracking poll — 45 percent — is identical to Obama’s at this same point in his presidency. It’s higher than Reagan’s, two points below Clinton’s. 

And, just to underscore how meaningless approval ratings are this far out from a presidential election, George H.W. Bush’s approval rating at this point in his first term was 77 percent.


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John Merline

Veteran journalist John Merline was Deputy Editor of Commentary and Opinion at Investor's Business Daily. Before IBD, he launched and edited the Opinion section of AOL News, and was a member of the editorial board of USA Today, where he continues to be a regular contributor. He’s been published in the Washington Post, National Review, Detroit News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forbes, and numerous other publications. He is regular commentator on the One America News Network and on local talk radio. He got his start in journalism under the tutelage of M. Stanton Evans.

9 comments

  • Rasmussen Has Trump at 50% today and it has been hovering at that level for a while now.

    • Biden only has 42 percent to 34 percent lead over President Trump in a hypothetical matchup “…among likely Democratic primary voters”.
      As much as I like hearing good news, I seriously doubt our beloved POTUS Trump is favored by 34% of “Democratic primary voters”.

  • Neil Kinnock of the British Labor Party, whom old Joe stole a whole speech from in the 80s, is still available for Joe to get advice from! LMFAO

  • It is amazing , after 2016, that anyone believes any of these made up polls. They are all lies. They will remain lies until the day before the election when some of the media tries to regain their lost credibility but it will be too late. Again, the only poll that matters is the one done on election day in the voting booth.

  • I thought this poll seemed dubious, so I went to the link to the actual poll, here
    https://morningconsult.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/190452_crosstabs_POLITICO_RVs_v1.pdf

    and they give the demographics of their sample of 1992 registered voters, on page 327

    Liberals 32%
    Moderates 23%
    Conservatives 34%

    hmm, sounds like a heavy oversample of liberals to me. Gallup January 2019

    https://news.gallup.com/poll/245813/leans-conservative-liberals-keep-recent-gains.aspx
    says

    ” Conservatives continue to outnumber liberals, 35% to 26%”
    a +9 point margin, not +2 as in the morning consult poll sample

    Moving on to another tab, check out religion in their sample:

    Protestant 25%
    Roman Catholic 18%
    Atheist, Agnostic, None 30%

    Hmmm, these numbers seem distorted to me. Here are the numbers from wikipedia, admittedly unverified & possibly out of date

    75% of polled American adults identifying themselves as Christian in 2015.[1][2] This is down from 85% in 1990, lower than 81.6% in 2001,[3] and slightly lower than 78% in 2012.[4] About 62% of those polled claim to be members of a church congregation.[5] The United States has the largest Christian population in the world, with nearly 240 million Christians, although other countries have higher percentages of Christians among their populations.

    All Protestant denominations accounted for 46.5%, while the Catholic Church by itself, at 20.8%, was the largest individual denomination. A 2014 Pew study categorizes white evangelical Protestants, 25.4% of the population, as the country’s largest religious cohort;[6] another study in 2004 estimates evangelical Protestants of all races at 30–35%.[7] T

    from wikipedia

    According to the Pew Research Center, in 2014, 22.8% of the American population does not identify with a religion, including atheists (3.1%) and agnostics (4%).
    Irreligion in the United States – Wikipedia

  • Looks like journolist is alive and well–any polling done this early–especially with a skewed sample such as that is suspect–I will start looking at polls a year from October. As St Yogi reminds us: predictions are tough–especially about the future.

  • By the way, does anyone remember what the polls indicated weeks before the 2016 election? If I recall, the polls had Hillary winning in a landslide. How did that work out?

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