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. 

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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10 responses to “Iowa Poll Previews a Trump Sweep”

  1. One may be forgiven for suspecting that whatever standards the NCPP* claims as its own, they are largely ignored in favor of collecting dues from anyone claiming to conduct opinion polls. Aside from a few polling outfits with demonstrated scruples, the bulk are political activists dedicated to manipulating public opinion to fit their respective agendas. Perhaps that acronym should be more honestly translated as “National Council of Political Propagandists”.


  2. The entire premise of Gage’s op-ed is a complete red herring: no single poll will tell the entire infallible “truth” regardless of whether it is Ann Seltzer’s respected poll in Iowa or some outlier in Wisconsin that has Biden leading by 17.

    All polls need to be properly considered and weighed. E.g. the RealClearPolitics track record since the 2004 presidential election suggests a margin between the candidates <1% is a pure tossup. If Trump is trailing by three or four points on average, he _can_ pull off the occasional upset but this is history rare. In 2020, the RCP battleground state averages correctly identified the winner in 47 states out of 51. Among the four misses, Clinton won Nevada despite Trump leading by 1.6% in the final polls. The polls did underestimate Trump's support by 2.6% in PA and 3.6% in MI. Finally, Wisconsin had only a single poll during the final week which (in retrospect) somewhat reduces the shock of Trump performing 7.2% than anticipated by the RCP average.

    Regarding 2020, the thing to remember is Biden will win _even if we assume the current polls are wrong by 2.6% .. 3.6%_ !!! In other words, Trump has to hope a trio of C – rated pollsters (Trafalgar, Rasmussen as well as the Democracy Institute/AmGreatness) got everything right while EVERY OTHER POLLSTER was dead wrong. Note, in passing, that this is _not_ what happened in 2016 or 2018. E.g. DeSantis winning the Florida gubernatorial election was hardly an epic upset since he was only narrowly trailing in the final polls.

    • Take a gander at what’s happening in Miami Dade, Pedo Joe isn’t going to LOSE

    • Believe what you want about the pollsters. The hard fact is that Trump can fill stadiums and airports at the drop of a MAGA hat, whereas Biden can’t fill a school cafeteria and uses the excuse of controlled access for COVID risk. Pollsters have yet to come up with a method to measure that. This reality. What you’re saying in your comment verifies directly what was long assumed by Ayn Rand, “Rationalization is a process of not perceiving reality, but of attempting to make reality fit one’s emotions.”

      • Why do people like you keep repeating this, when you know Biden has at least enough supporters to have a large-enough rally? He has restricted his rallies to local Covid mandates out of concern for the people coming to see him.

    • Tomorrow’s results will make “settled science” of the theory that hot-button polling questions will often be answered contrary to the respondent’s gut feeling – upon which he will vote. When a majority of those polled reflexively say “I’m better off now”, it doesn’t matter how they answer to “Do you love or hate Donald Trump?”

    • The problem is that Trafalgar and Rasmussen are not C rated pollsters and the RCP rates crazy news media polls with D+12 splits as being the gold standard.

      Early voting demonstrates that the GOP energized base, increased from the 2016 election, are outperforming projections, with more super voters waiting in the wings than what the dems have. That’s just perusing voting records.

      Yes, Biden could win, but the odds are against him. And this year there are more polling outfits suggesting the PV will be much closer than 2016, even with all the California democrats voting. In a few days we will know.

    • Perhaps. What I would suggest is that you have a hypothesis – when the Real Clear Politics estimate shows a Biden margin >3.6% then Biden will win.
      Fair enough.
      As a scientist what I would suggest is this – if Biden wins then you feel happy and feel like your trust in the Real Clear Politics average is verified. BUT if Biden loses then you know absolutely, positively, beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Real Clear Politics Average failed you as a predictor. And larger, that the idea of averaging a bunch of biased polls oriented to voter suppression of (in this case Trump) voters is NOT a reliable thing to bet on nor are those biased voter suppression polls.

      Having a hypothesis is good. Seeing your hypothesis be tested is MUCH BETTER sinc you can Learn from it.

      That is how science works. You can never prove any hypothesis true by individual data. No matter how many black marbles you pull from an infinite barrel of marbles that never proves ALL the marbles are black It just gives you some sense of statistical confidence in an always tentative hypothesis. (All hypotheses in science are tentative – Newton’s laws lasted over 300 years before being refuted in a day by one key experiment). BUT the converse is not true. While you can never prove a hypothesis indisputably true with data, you CAN prove a hypothesis false with even a single data point. Pull one red marble from that infinite barrel of marbles and you know absolutely, positively, 100% beyond the shadow of a doubt that not all marbles in the barrel were black.

      So rather than argue about your hypothesis, lets see how it stands up to testing. As Einstein noted – “truth is that which withstands the test of experience”.

      Personally my bet is that your hypothesis is false. Just as it was false in 2016. But we will see. Reality always wins.

      • Thanks for that terrific explanation! Scientific method has taken a beating lately and I am grateful for the concise sum up you presented. Let’s hope many will learn a thing or two.

  3. Go out and vote and bring a friend. Trump is winning this, we need to make sure the margin is beyond the left’s post election mail in voter fraud and harvesting.