Why you can trust Joe Biden's polling lead
On October 16, 2016, SNL released their sketch of the Presidential debate between Republican Donald Trump and, as they infamously phrased it, "President" Hillary Clinton. The New York Times election model had Trump with a 15% chance of winning on election morning. We all know what happened next.
Though we are still 100 days out from the election, Joe Biden has a commanding 8.2% lead in the polls from FiveThirtyEight's polling average seen below. This has been largely brought about by Trump's disastrous handling of the coronavirus pandemic, in which a Fox News poll found 38% approving the president's response to the pandemic, with 60% disapproving.
Trump has also faced backlash of his handling of George Floyd's murder and the ensuing protesting and unrest. A recent ABC/Ipsos poll found just 32% of Americans approved of the president's handling of race in America. His longtime Trump card has been his 55% approval rating with his handling of the economy through most of his term, far above his overall approval rating. This is starting to look like a weaker position as the US unemployment rate stands at 11.1% and in a recent Fox poll, Biden leads Trump on who would be better for the economy, with 44% and 43% respectively.
Which leads us back to Hillary's defeat. You don't have to wade far into the flow of left leaning political dialogue to hear people write off Biden's lead with 'Well I don't trust polls' or '2016 proved polls are worthless'. This is misguided. National polls had Hillary winning the national popular vote by 3% in 2016, and she won by 2.1%, well within the margin of error. The problem was statewide polls slightly oversampled the share of voters with college degrees in the midwest, the people who leaded towards the Democrats, and pollsters have become much more accustomed to accurately measuring these since then. But even these polls had Clinton with only a few points lead over Trump in these states, and in the end, Trump won Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin by less than 1% each. FiveThirtyEight and the Economist's respective election models gave Trump a 30% chance of victory, which is by no means a long shot. According to a broad analysis by FiveThirtyEight, polls were as as accurate in 2016 as they have been on average since 1972.
I'm not advocating for being complacent, and voting by mail and other voting access could certainly make the election a lot closer than it should be. But Democrats should recognize that the polling is accurate, and that Joe Biden is on track for a landslide victory. This should prompt bold thinking from the DNC. Joe Biden has done well to keep a low profile for now, but as we near election day he should continue to present a vision for the future that isn't simply I'm 'not Trump'. Hillary lost the election in large part because she played not to lose. If Democrats want to take the White House, they should play to win.