Nov 19, 2023 - Politics & Policy

How to read Biden's bad polls

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Another ugly poll for President Biden — this time from NBC News — shows his approval rating has hit a new low of 40%, and that he's trailing Trump for the first time in 16 editions of the survey dating back to 2019.

Why it matters: Each round of bad polling produces a polar reaction from the two main factions of the Democratic Party — a dynamic that's likely to grow more intense if the trend continues in the coming months.

  • Biden skeptics see the polls as evidence that the president — who turns 81 Monday — should drop out before he facilitates Trump's inevitable return to the White House in 2024.
  • The Biden campaign and its allies largely brush off and even mock the Democratic "bed-wetters," insisting that polls are meaningless this far out from the election.
Obama 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina chimes in on X.

Between the lines: New York Times polling guru Nate Cohn laid out two sets of facts on X that both sides would do well to internalize:

  1. "It's a year before the election, so polls aren't 'predictive,'" wrote Cohn, who analyzed the NYT/Siena battleground polls that triggered so much consternation this month.
  2. "The voters know these candidates well, so what they say is worth taking seriously. Indeed, campaigns taking it seriously may even contribute to changing the numbers over the next years."

Zoom in: CNN's Harry Enten has his own helpful analysis on Biden's "near-historic deficit" as an incumbent president — which again, isn't necessarily predictive of what will happen in 2024.

  • Over the past 80 years, the only incumbent to trail his opponent one year out from the election was Trump — who was behind Biden by about 10 points in November 2019.
  • Trump did not lead Biden in any national poll that met CNN's standards for publication the entire 2020 cycle; so far this cycle, Trump has already led Biden in 17 such surveys.

The bottom line: "We're going to have to earn our re-elect, there's no doubt about it," Vice President Kamala Harris told CNN on Sunday, reflecting the "serious but not predictive" perspective on Biden's bad polls.

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