Should You Buy Biden’s Polling Bump?

Several polls now show Joe Biden with a healthy lead over Donald Trump. One CNN poll has Biden up 14 points; another in Michigan says the former VP leads Trump among independent voters 63-23. RealClearPolitics lists Biden’s aggregate lead over Trump at +7.8; only one of the polls factored into the average (IBD/TIPP) currently has Trump within 3 points of Biden.

Roughly five months until Election Day it’s safe to say that despite a parade of gaffes and missteps, Trump’s historically inept performance has Biden sitting pretty. But as we know, it’s impossible to count ballots before they’re cast. There are three main reasons not to fully buy into Biden’s polling bump.

It’s still early. Like, really early.
There are still 147 days until Election Day, and the past three months have shown that anything can change instantly. Our reality today is so vastly different from March that it almost seems dumb trying to predict anything months in advance.

Trump is world-endingly, historically bad right now.
Trump’s average approval rating has dipped nearly five full points since the end of March. But it feels like even polling can’t quantify how bad the ongoing crises have been for the president. Protests against police brutality have reexposed Trump’s authoritarian nature and distaste for freedom of speech that doesn’t agree with him. COVID-19 showed his utter lack of preparedness and care, and the economic downturn that came with the pandemic essentially wiped out any goodwill he built up due to his “historic” economy (which was apparently going south before the virus hit hard).

America is currently at the crux of three separate existential crises. As bad as Trump’s been, severe attitudes toward him could easily level off by November.

Biden enthusiasm still isn’t there.
The former VP’s enthusiasm gap has been widely reported. But even amidst Trump’s brutal 2020 performance—and perhaps because of it—that lack of enthusiasm persists. According to new CNN polling, a whopping 60 percent of Biden supporters plan to cast their votes “against” Trump rather than “for” Biden. Trump supporters, meanwhile, are just the opposite—70 percent will cast their vote “for” Trump vs. just 27 percent voting “against” Biden. Ultimately that gap might not matter if negative attitudes towards Trump persist. But the lack of enthusiasm for Biden has to concern his campaign staff and Democrats who claim to fear a repeat of 2016.

Either way, 2020 is not 2016, no matter how much the disappointment of that election still haunts our collective memory. There are a number of political and historical forces at play now that weren’t four years ago, things that could foment real change and reform in America. With nearly a full term of Trump under their belts, a majority of Americans appear pissed off at his performance. However, there’s still a long way to go before they can do something about it with their ballots.

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