When It Comes to His Bad Polling, Joe Biden Sounds a Lot Like Donald Trump

ElectionsWhite House Joe Biden
When It Comes to His Bad Polling, Joe Biden Sounds a Lot Like Donald Trump

Donald Trump Joe Biden doesn’t believe the polls. That’s according to a report from Axios which says that the president’s “dismissiveness of the poor polling is sincere, not public spin, according to Democrats who have spoken privately with the president and his team.”

It’s all fake news, folks! Don’t believe it! The very biased media hates honest Joe, except for that one poll that doesn’t according to Axios.

Biden likes to cite his numbers in a recent PBS/Marist poll, which show him ahead.

I had to laugh at that tidbit, it reminded me of another epic Biden Trump quote from 2021:

“If it’s bad, I say it’s fake. If it’s good, I say that’s the most accurate poll ever.”

It is extremely funny to say through one side of your mouth that Trump is degrading American institutions and eroding trust in democratic processes and through the other side of your mouth say, ‘he is right on the fake news polling though—but just for me.’

Joe Biden has continued the great Democratic Party tradition of being a terrible communicator, and this dance around what the polls actually indicate is some beautiful Trumpian performance art.

Both Trump and Biden do have legitimate gripes with polls, and kvetching about polling at this point is practically an American institution. Thanks to famed political pundit Nate Silver’s historic run through the Obama years, polls gained a reputation as something of a hard science instead of the small sample they are designed to be.

Polls were more accurate than they were pre-Trump, and their degradation is the story of the downfall of local news. As more outlets have gone out of business or been Gannett-fied to cut costs and produce minimal impactful journalism, the polls they conducted have degraded or disappeared too.

This earthquake first hit us in 2016 when polls did not properly encapsulate Trump’s strength (or Hillary’s weakness) in the Midwest. In 2022, it looked like the Dems might get wiped out of Congress, but a stronger-than-expected performance relative to polling helped save the Senate and create an extremely narrow and largely self-defeating majority for the GOP in the House.

The Axios report indicates that Team Biden looks at the 2020 Democratic primary to inspiration for their Trumpian doubt of pollsters, but that seems to reveal a fundamental lack of understanding of what actually happened. There were essentially three pluralities in the 2020 Democratic primary: Biden backers, Bernie backers, and voters who wanted neither.

This created something of a stalemate until Bernie’s win in Nevada sent the Democratic media into a full-fledged meltdown with TV anchors like Chris Matthews fantasizing about being murdered in public by flocks of rabid socialists.

Then Barack Obama and James Clyburn made some calls and moved some voters ahead of South Carolina’s contest, and Biden’s plurality began to tilt towards a majority as the Bernie coalition maxed out at around a third of Democratic voters. The polls didn’t “underrate” Biden’s rise, it was manufactured by classic behind-the-scenes political maneuvering by a president and congressman far more popular than Biden will ever be.

Biden can call bullshit on the polls all he wants, but if you look at how incredibly steady his disapproval rating has been since he pulled out of Afghanistan in late 2021, there is plenty of evidence to believe the polls.

FiveThirtyEight’s estimate is that 95% of Biden’s polls since late 2021 have fallen in between roughly 47% disapproval and 60% disapproval. By any objective measure Joe Biden is one of the least popular presidents we have ever had, and it’s pretty logical to assume he’d be consistently losing in the polls, even by a few points, to someone as unpopular as Donald Trump.

Polls are just a snapshot of a moment in time. Far too often our political discourse treats them as some form of all-knowing oracle that predicts the future, but they are backwards-looking by design. Just because Joe Biden has consistently trailed in swing states in New York Times/Siena and Bloomberg News polls does not mean that is what is portended for the future.

However, with every poll that indicates Trump winning, that argument gains more evidence. Focusing on singular polls like the Biden camp does with PBS/Marist completely misses the point of polling, which is to compile evidence in the aggregate to try to create a broader coherent picture out of chaos. Pointing to one out of many is definitionally focusing on the noise over the signal, and it paints an image of a Biden camp unsure of where to turn to counteract this evidentiary narrative that they are losing, other than to just echo what the other guy says.

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