Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.
In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings with all polls are 43.6% approve, 51.9% disapprove (net -8.3%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 44.3% approve, 51.9% disapprove (net -7.6%). Since his lowest point of the coronavirus crisis, Trump has recovered about two points on net approval.
In the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, Biden’s lead over Trump has fallen to 4.5%, down from 5.9% three weeks ago. In the one recent poll of a key swing state, Biden leads Trump by three points in a Wisconsin Marquette poll. The previous Marquette poll, in March, also had Biden leading by three.
On Tuesday, by-elections occurred in two federal House seats. While the Republicans won by 57-43 in Wisconsin’s Seventh, this was positive for Democrats as Trump won this district by over 20 points in 2016. The Republicans’ win by a big 56-44 in California’s 25th is much worse for Democrats as the district voted for Hillary Clinton by almost seven points. This was the first gain of a Californian seat for Republicans since 1998. The 2016 presidential figures are from a Daily Kos downloadable spreadsheet.
During the 2016 campaign, whichever candidate drew the most attention would generally suffer in the polls. Clinton’s lead widened after Trump’s “grab em by the pussy”, but narrowed after her own “deplorables”, and when the FBI reopened its investigation into her emails.
Until recently, Trump was conducting daily coronavirus briefings. The media focus on these briefings may have contributed to his ratings slide. Recent media attention on Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegation against Biden from 1993 could have damaged him.
In the 2016 exit poll, those who disliked both Clinton and Trump voted for Trump by 17 points. CNN analyst Harry Enten says that in 2020, Biden is crushing with “double haters”, but Trump is crushing with those who do not dislike either candidate. In 2016, double haters were a larger portion of the electorate than now, while those who dislike neither candidate has grown.
There has been a recent decline in US coronavirus cases and deaths. If much of the economy can be reopened without a renewed surge in cases, that would be good news for Trump, enabling him to brag about a strong recovery before the November election. I cannot see Trump winning if the current terrible economic situation continues until the election.
A terrible US jobs report
The April jobs report was released on May 8. 20.5 million jobs were lost and the unemployment rate jumped 10.3% to 14.7%. That is the highest unemployment rate and the biggest one-month change in the history of this series. This data goes back to January 1948, so it does not include the Great Depression. The previous highs for unemployment were 10.8% in November 1982, and 10.0% in October 2009.
The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Americans that are employed – crashed 8.7% in April to just 51.3%, far lower than in the global financial crisis, during which the lowest employment ratio was 58.2% in June 2011. As the unemployment rate excludes those not participating in the workforce, I prefer the employment ratio as a summary statistic. In Australia’s April jobs report, the employment ratio was 59.6%, much higher than the US.
In January, before the current crisis, the US employment ratio was at 61.2%, the highest since November 2008.
The one positive in this jobs report was that hourly wages rose $US 1.34 to $US 30.01. But this was the result of so many low-income jobs being shed. The aggregate weekly payrolls (weekly wages times number employed) fell 10.9% in April.