2020 polls: Trump campaign in free fall with one of the worst debate swings in history and collapse in baby boomer support

·3-min read
Donald Trump has been frantically tweeting as he recovers from Covid at the White House (Getty Images)
Donald Trump has been frantically tweeting as he recovers from Covid at the White House (Getty Images)

Donald Trump lost significant ground after his first debate performance against challenger Joe Biden, largely with seniors and suburbanites. But the early returns suggest that his Covid-19 diagnosis has had little impact on the race.

President Trump remains an unusually unpopular incumbent candidate. The last one, Barack Obama in 2012, never had a consensus polling day under 45 per cent in that cycle, according to RealClearPolitics. Contrast that to Trump, Who has not for one day been above 45 per cent since Joe Biden secured the nomination.

Biden is averaging over 50 per cent now, as has been the case for most of September. Obama never hit 50 per cent in the aggregate polling, though he did win 51.1 per cent ultimately (outperforming his average on October 7 of that year by 2.7 points).

While President Trump’s base may have enjoyed his combative style in the 29 September debate against Biden, his performance seems to have been viewed poorly by the broader electorate. In the 10 polls taken entirely in the post-debate window, Biden has a lead of 9.9 points on average. Compare that to his 5.5-point lead in the 11 most recent polls that covered the pre-debate period.

This rivals the biggest debate swings in history, according to Gallup. In 2000, Al Gore’s dismissive first debate against George W. Bush cost him eight points. And Ronald Reagan gained six points on Jimmy Carter (from down three points to up three points) in the immediate aftermath of their only debate in 1980.

In the first two polls first released that cover Trump’s entire post-COVID diagnosis period (YouGov and CNBC), his average deficit is 9.5 points. That’s virtually unchanged from his current deficit of 9.4 points.

Two major recent polls (CNN and NBC/WSJ) show Biden’s lead expanding to an average of 15 points. In them, two traditionally more GOP-leaning constituencies are turning away from Trump dramatically: senior citizens and suburban voters.

Biden leads Trump by an average of 24.5 points among seniors in the recent CNN and NBC/WSJ polls. And Trump won seniors by nine points in 2016, a 33.5-point swing away from the president.

That’s a huge issue in Trump’s must-win state of Florida, where 30 per cent of the electorate historically has been seniors.

According to CNN Politics, Biden is leading Trump there among voters age 65 and older. In 2016, Trump won Florida seniors by 10 points en route to a 1.2 per cent victory there (111,891 votes out of the 9,123,841 cast for the two candidates).

The most stunning example nationally of how the president has lost his advantage in the suburbs compared with 2016 is in the swing state of Arizona. Maricopa County was the largest county won by Trump in 2016, at plus-16 points over Hillary Clinton. In the recent polling, Biden is up nine points there, a 25-point swing.

According to Ronald Brownstein of CNN, no Democratic candidate has carried Maricopa County since Harry Truman in 1948.

Overall, heading into the Vice Presidential debate, FiveThirtyEight gives Biden an 83 per cent chance at victory. That’s the highest it’s been to-date in its model, rising about 13 points in the last month.

The Princeton Election Consortium says the race must move at least 5.5 points in Trump’s favor to be a toss-up; in 2016 Clinton won the national vote by 2.2 points yet lost the electoral college, 306-232.

The 2020 Forecast Average, basically an aggregate of the aggregators, says Biden’s chance of victory is 81 per cent.

The Economist places it at 90 per cent. The betting markets remain slightly more hesitant to bail on the incumbent president, giving Biden an implicit 68 per cent chance, though that’s up four points since Sunday.