Iowa Poll Previews a Trump Sweep

With a day remaining in the most consequential election in recent history, President Trump appears to be surging at the state and national level.

Depending on your political leanings, the most accurate pollsters from 2016 are either the “most accurate pollsters” of 2016 or “trash.”

The latter pejorative is assigned by Joe Biden supporters to outfits like the Trafalgar Group, Rasmussen and, indeed, any pollster with a record of embarrassing those the Biden camp prefers.

Polling is not a meritocracy. If it were, the most accurate pollsters of 2016 would enjoy most-trusted status in 2020.

Just two years ago, Trafalgar thickened its reputation by calling Florida’s gubernatorial for Ron DeSantis, against a consensus insisting Andrew Gillum had a four-point cushion.

It’s a sign of our tribal times. Pollsters are not meant to record reality but rather to recreate reality.

To Biden voters, a poll showing him double-digits ahead of President Trump offers comfort in chaos.

Which is why an Iowa poll released on Saturday shocked Democrats long convinced Joe Biden had this election sewn up, with the only dispute being the size of Biden’s win.

The final Des Moines Register/Selzer poll of Iowa finds President Trump leading Joe Biden by 48 percent to 41 percent. That same poll with the same margin in 2016 foreshadowed Trump’s sweep across the Midwest.

In September’s poll, the candidates were locked at 47 percent each.

Of course, detractors trotted out the usual, decrying the poll as an “outlier” and questioning its validity.

Nate Cohn, of the Upshot at the New York Times, was a little more realistic: the Selzer poll is the “gold standard of the gold standard.”

“If it’s not President Trump’s best poll of the cycle, I’m not sure what is: Mr. Trump led by seven points, 48 percent to 41 percent, in a state thought to be close enough that Joe Biden visited there [Friday],” observed Cohn.

“Four years ago, the final Selzer poll also showed Mr. Trump leading by seven points (he won by nine). In retrospect, it clearly foreshadowed the president’s late surge among white voters without a degree across the Midwest.”

Bill Kristol, professional Trump hater, recalled the same poll in 2016 had signaled a Trump sweep.

The detractors are partially right—it is just one poll. But the details matter.

According to J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., independents have swung toward the president. In September, Biden won independents by 50 percent to 38 percent. Now, the president leads with that group by 49 percent to 35 percent.

Biden has lost ground with women. In September, he held a 20-point lead. That has shrunk to just nine points—perhaps somewhat dissolving the narrative of suburban women dooming the president.

What panics Democrats is Selzer’s reputation. When Biden enjoyed a healthy lead, Selzer enjoyed its gold-standard status. It’s not possible to write off Selzer’s work.

If Trump leads by seven in Iowa, he’s faring far better in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan than many pollsters can see or would like to admit. To be blunt, no universe exists in which President Trump leads by seven in Iowa, and trails by 17 points in Wisconsin.

Indeed, some pollsters think Trump is closing out the swing states. Trafalgar this week finds President Trump leading in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Michigan. The race for Wisconsin is remarkably tight, with Joe Biden leading by just 0.4 percentage points.

Robert Cahaly, Trafalgar’s chief pollster, says President Trump is three points behind in Minnesota, yet would lead that state if not for Kanye West’s three and a half percent take.

Even the Washington Post/ABC News finds Trump leading in Florida (therapeutically describing the two-point gap as “roughly even”) and within the margin of error in Pennsylvania.

In every poll considered, Biden leads on handling the pandemic. Yet that issue has fallen behind the economy, where President Trump polls consistently in the mid-50s to Biden’s low-40s.

At the national level, the curious Democracy Institute continues its detonation of the narrative. The Institute’s final national poll finds President Trump leading Joe Biden by one point and on course for an electoral college landslide.

The Institute’s monthly poll, published in the British Sunday Express, has since June found President Trump leading or level in the popular vote, and enjoying stable leads across the swing states.

The poll finds the Hunter Biden email scandal has cut through Big Tech’s censorship, with 21 percent saying the revelations made them less likely to vote for Hunter’s father.

According to the latest findings, President Trump maintains a four-point lead in Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, on course for 326 electoral college votes (picking up Minnesota, New Hampshire and Nevada) to Joe Biden’s 212.

Like other heretical outfits, the Institute has unearthed a sizable shy Trump vote, and finds 23 percent of black Americans will vote for President Trump alongside 40 percent of Hispanics.

Nearly eight in 10 Trump voters, the poll finds, would not admit their choice to friends and family.

Asked about the Hunter Biden email scandal, 57 percent said whistleblower Tony Bobulinski was telling the truth.

The Institute finds Trump’s approval rating at 52 percent, chiming with Rasmussen’s approval rating at 51 percent and above for the week, and Gallup’s finding that 46 percent of Americans approve of the president. 

These approval figures match or surpass President Obama’s pre-Election Day poll numbers in 2012.

George W. Bush was reelected in 2004 with 48 percent job approval. The elder George Bush and Jimmy Carter both lost with approval ratings far below 40 percent.

Last week, Rasmussen found black support for Trump averaged 30 percent. Among non-white voters (excluding black voters) that support averaged 45 percent. The Investor’s Business Daily national tracking poll on Friday found President Trump winning the national Hispanic vote with 50 percent.

At the national level, the Investor’s Business Daily (IBD)/TechnoMetrica Institute of Politics and Policy (TIPP) presidential election tracking poll on Sunday found the race at five points between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, yet finds Trump leading with 54 percent of Hispanics.

IBD finds Biden garnering just 74 percent of the black vote, while President Trump leads among independents.

Someone is very wrong about all this. We’ll know soon enough. 

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About Christopher Gage

Christopher Gage is a British political journalist and a founding member of the Gentlemen of the Swig. Subscribe to his Substack, "Oxford Sour."

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

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