Time running out for Trump

Seven weeks before the November 3 election, Biden still leads Trump by about five points in the Electoral College tipping-point states.

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 FiveThirtyEight’s national aggregate of Donald Trump vs Joe Biden polls, Biden leads Trump by 6.9% (50.3% to 43.4%). This is an improvement for Trump from three weeks ago, when he trailed by 8.2%. In the key states, Biden leads by 7.5% in Michigan, 6.8% in Wisconsin, 5.0% in Arizona, 4.8% in Pennsylvania and 2.3% in Florida.

In my article three weeks ago, the difference in Trump’s favour between the Electoral College tipping-point state and the national vote had widened to three points, but this difference has fallen back to two points, with Arizona and Pennsylvania currently two points more favourable to Trump than national polls.

If Biden wins all the states carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, plus Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, he gets exactly 269 Electoral Votes, one short of the 270 required for a majority. Maine and Nebraska award one EV to the winner of each of their Congressional Districts, and two to the statewide winner. All other states award their EVs winner-takes-all.

Under this scenario, Biden would need one of either Nebraska’s or Maine’s second CDs for the 270 EVs required to win the Electoral College. Nebraska’s second is a more likely win for Biden as it is an urban district.

The US economy has rebounded strongly from the coronavirus nadir in April. Owing to this, the FiveThirtyEight forecast expects some narrowing as the election approaches. Every day that passes without evidence of narrowing in the tipping-point states is bad news for Trump. Biden’s chances of winning in the forecast have increased from a low of 67% on August 31 to 76% now.

While Trump has improved slightly in national polls, some state polls have been very good for Biden. Recently, Biden has had leads of 16 points in Minnesota, 21 points in Maine, 10 in Wisconsin and 10 in Arizona.

Trump’s ratings with all polls in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate are currently 43.1% approve, 52.8% disapprove (net -9.7%). With polls of likely or registered voters, his ratings are 43.8% approve, 52.9% disapprove (net -9.1%). In the last three weeks, Trump has gained about two points on net approval, continuing a recovery from July lows.

The RealClearPolitics Senate map has 47 expected Democratic seats, 47 Republican seats and six toss-ups. If toss-ups are assigned to the current leader, Democrats lead by 51-49, unchanged from three weeks ago.

Coronavirus and the US economy

The US has just passed the grim milestone of over 200,000 deaths attributable to coronavirus. However, daily new cases have dropped into the 30,000 to 40,000 range from a peak of over 70,000 in July. Lower media attention on the coronavirus crisis assists Trump.

In the US August jobs report, 1.4 million jobs were created and the unemployment rate fell 1.8% to 8.4%. The unemployment rate has greatly improved from its April nadir of 14.7%. The headline jobs gained or lost are from the establishment survey, while the household survey is used for the unemployment rate. In August, the household survey numbers were much better than the establishment survey, with almost 3.8 million jobs added.

It is probably fortunate for Biden that the September jobs report, to be released in early October, will be the last voters see before the election. The October report will be released November 6, three days after the election.

I believe Trump should focus on the surging economy in the lead-up to the election, and ignore other issues like the Kenosha violence and culture war issues.

With the election drawing closer, I will do these reports every week from now on.

NZ: poll drought continues

A month out from the October 17 New Zealand election, there have not been any media-commissioned polls since late July. The only recently reported poll is a privately-commissioned UMR poll, conducted August 25 to September 2. That gave Labour 53%, National 29%, ACT 6.2%, NZ First 3.9% and the Greens just 3.2%.

The Greens’ low figure in this poll is very different from a Morgan NZ poll, conducted during August, which had the Greens on 11.5%. That poll gave Labour 48% and National 28.5%. Unless a party wins a single-member seat, the threshold required to enter parliament is 5%.

Electoral College may save Trump

Just over two months before the November 3 election, the gap between Biden’s national lead and the likeliest tipping-point states widens to about three points.

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 42.2% approve, 54.3% disapprove (net -12.1%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 43.3% approve, 53.4% disapprove (net -10.1%). Since my article three weeks ago, Trump’s net approval has improved about one point, continuing a recovery from July lows.

In FiveThirtyEight’s national aggregate of Joe Biden vs Trump polls, Biden’s lead has slightly increased to a 50.6% to 42.2% margin, from a 50.0% to 42.5% margin three weeks ago. In the key states, Biden leads by 7.6% in Michigan, 5.9% in Wisconsin, 5.3% in Pennsylvania, 5.1% in Florida and 3.7% in Arizona. FiveThirtyEight adjusts state polls to the current national vote trends.

On current polling, Pennsylvania and Florida are the most likely tipping-point state. If Biden wins either of those states, and all other states more favourable for him, he wins the Electoral College. Trump wins by winning Pennsylvania, Florida and more pro-Trump states.

The problem for Biden is that the gap between the national vote and the vote in the tipping-point state has widened from 1.5% three weeks ago to 3.1%. That makes the scenario where Trump loses the popular vote by up to five points, but sneaks a win in the Electoral College more realistic. In 2016, Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2.1%, but won the tipping-point state by 0.8% – a 2.9% difference.

FiveThirtyEight now has a model forecasting the election result, and that model currently gives Biden a 70% chance to win, down from about 72-73% a few days ago. Biden has received virtually no bounce from the Democratic national convention last week, while Trump could get some bounce from the Republican convention that concluded Friday in Australia.

Why has the national vote to tipping-point state gap widened recently? The Midwestern states have a higher percentage of non-University educated whites than nationally. Trump’s general behaviour has offended better-educated voters, and they are likely to vote for Biden.

Whites without a university education may have moved slightly back to Trump because new US coronavirus cases are slowing and the economy is improving. There are currently 30,000 to 50,000 daily new coronavirus cases, down from a peak of over 78,000 in late July. There are over 1,000 daily deaths on most days, but this is down from the April peak of well over 2,000.

On the economy, there is a clear downward trend in new jobless claims since their peak in April, and also a down trend in continuing jobless claims. As I wrote last time, the sharp increase in real disposable income in April owing to a stimulus explained Trump’s better economy ratings.

If the jobs situation continues to improve, and there is no resurgence in coronavirus, Trump could win another term in the same way he won his first term – by exploiting the greater share of whites without university education in the electoral battlegrounds than nationally. The swing to the right among such voters explained the Coalition’s win in Australia and the Conservative triumph in the UK last year. Will they be enough to re-elect Trump?

In the RealClearPolitics Senate map, Republicans currently lead Democrats by 46 seats to 44, with ten toss-ups. If toss-ups are assigned to the current leader, Democrats lead by 51 to 49, unchanged from three weeks ago.

NZ: Ardern has large leads over Collins on economy and coronavirus

Owing to the recent outbreak of coronavirus in Auckland, the New Zealand election has been moved from September 19 to October 17. Sadly, there have been no voting intention polls since late July, before this outbreak.

The only recent poll is a Horizon Research poll, conducted in late August, that did not ask voting intentions. Labour PM Jacinda Ardern led National leader Judith Collins by 54% to 26% on managing the economic recovery from coronavirus, and by 64% to 18% on managing coronavirus. Both leads were down from Ardern’s leads over Todd Muller in July.

Biden’s lead over Trump narrows

Three months before the November 3 election, Biden’s lead over Trump has narrowed despite the continuing coronavirus crisis.

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 41.4% approve, 54.7% disapprove (net -13.3%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 41.9% approve, 54.5% disapprove (net -12.6%). Since my article three weeks ago, Trump’s net approval has improved about two points.

In FiveThirtyEight’s national aggregate of Joe Biden vs Trump polls, Biden’s lead has narrowed to a 50.0% to 42.5% margin, from a 50.3% to 41.2% margin three weeks ago. In the key states, Biden leads by 7.7% in Michigan, 7.4% in Wisconsin, 6.0% in Pennsylvania, 5.1% in Florida and 3.4% in Arizona.

On current polling, Pennsylvania is the tipping-point state. If Trump wins all states more favourable for him than Pennsylvania, and Biden wins Pennsylvania and other states that are better for him, Biden wins the Electoral College by 278 Electoral Votes to 260. But the issue for Biden is that Pennsylvania is about 1.5% more pro-Trump than the national average.

Trump’s gains come despite a coronavirus death toll that has trended up to over 1,000 daily deaths on most days. There have been over 160,000 US coronavirus deaths. However, the daily new cases have dropped into the 50,000’s from a peak of over 78,000 on July 24.

I believe Trump has gained owing to memories of George Floyd’s murder fading, and thus race relations becoming less important to voters. An improving economic outlook could also explain the poll movement, although the economic data is mostly pre-July, when the second coronavirus wave started. The US July jobs report will be released on Friday.

Despite the coronavirus’ effect on the US economy, Trump’s economic approval is close to a net zero rating according to the RealClearPolitics average. Nate Silver says that real disposable personal income increased sharply in April, contrary to what occurs in most recessions. This increase was due to the coronavirus stimulus, and explains Trump’s better economic ratings.

A danger for Trump is that extending the stimulus is stalled in Congress. This close to the election, Republicans should be eager to stimulate the economy, but there are many Republicans who are ideologically opposed to government spending.

Danger for Democrats in mail voting

Owing to coronavirus, much of the US election will be conducted by mail voting. Trump has been castigating mail voting, and this could depress Republican mail turnout. But there is a danger for Biden and Democrats in Trump’s attacks.

As Cook Political analyst Dave Wassserman says, mail votes can be rejected owing to voter error. Also, while there are some states that conduct elections mostly by mail, the US as a whole does not. There could thus be errors such as voters not being sent their ballot papers in time.

If Republicans mostly vote in person, while Democrats mostly vote by mail, it is likely to distort the election night results as mail votes usually take longer to count. Furthermore, mail errors, whether by election officials or voters, are likely to cost Democrats in close races. If Trump could get within five points in national polls, his advantage in the Electoral College and the mail issue could see him sneak another win.

In the RealClearPolitics Senate map, Republicans lead in 47 races, Democrats lead in 46 and there are seven toss-ups; that situation is unchanged from three weeks ago. If toss-up races are assigned to the current leader, Democrats lead by 51 to 49. If Trump’s numbers continue to improve, Republicans are likely to be boosted in congressional races.

Biden maintains clear lead over Trump

Three and a half months from the election, Biden maintains a high single-digit national lead over Trump as US coronavirus deaths start rising. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

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 40.3% approve, 55.6% disapprove (net -15.3%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 40.9% approve, 55.1% disapprove (net -14.2%). Since my article three weeks ago, Trump has lost about one points on net approval. While Trump’s approval has continued to drop, his disapproval has fallen a point from a peak last week.

The latest FiveThirtyEight national poll aggregate gives Joe Biden a 50.3% to 41.2% lead over Trump. Most polls at this stage give voting intentions based on registered voters, but Republican-supporting demographics have historically been more likely to vote, hence FiveThirtyEight adjusts registered voter polls a little in Trump’s favour. Three weeks ago, Biden’s lead was 9.6%.

Where there have been few recent polls of a state, FiveThirtyEight adjusts that state’s polls for the national trend. In the key states that are likely to decide the Electoral College, Biden remains well ahead. He leads by 9.1% in Michigan, 7.7% in Pennsylvania, 7.6% in Wisconsin and 6.8% in Florida.

If Biden wins all the states carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016 (232 Electoral Votes), he needs another 38 EVs to reach the 270 needed to win. If Biden wins Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (46 total EVs), he wins the election with at least 278 EVs.

The issue for Biden is that the tipping-point state in the Electoral College is still about 1.5% better for Trump than the national polls. In 2016, the tipping-point state was 3% better for Trump than the national popular vote. If Trump were able to hold Biden’s national vote margin to under five points, and make bigger gains in the Midwestern swing states, he could still win the Electoral College.

Trump’s general behaviour offends well-educated voters, and they were always likely to vote for an alternative. To compensate, Trump needed the support of voters without high educational attainment. Had the coronavirus faded well before the November 3 election, and an economic rebound was on track, such an outcome would have been plausible.

However, the last few weeks have seen record numbers of daily cases set, then exceeded a short time later. On both July 10 and July 15, over 70,000 new US coronavirus cases were recorded.

Despite the surge in cases, daily coronavirus deaths had generally been decreasing until about ten days ago. But it takes time for patients to go from showing symptoms to death, and it also takes time for states to process the paperwork. US daily coronavirus deaths are rising again, with almost 1,000 recorded on Wednesday. It is likely they will increase further.

With coronavirus such a huge crisis, the candidate seen as best able to handle it is likely to win, and at the moment that’s Biden. In a terrible Quinnipiac poll for Trump, in which he trailed Biden by 15 and had a -24 net approval, Biden led on the coronavirus by 59-35, and Trump’s net approval of handling of coronavirus was -27. By 67-30, voters said they did not trust information about the coronavirus provided by Trump, while by 65-26 they trusted information provided by Dr Anthony Fauci. Picking a fight with Fauci appears to be dumb.

As I wrote in a recent Conversation article, the June US jobs report was good, but there’s still a long way to go to reach employment levels that would normally be considered poor. The coronavirus surge is likely to derail any economic recovery.

In the battle for the Senate, the RealClearPolitics Senate map currently shows 47 seats where Republicans are ahead, 46 with Democrats leading and 7 toss-ups.

Polish and Croatian elections

Owing to lack of elections, Wednesday’s article about the recent Polish and Croatian elections is the first I’ve published on my personal website since February. In the Polish presidential election, the candidate aligned with the economically left but socially conservative Law and Justice party won narrowly. In Croatia, the conservatives won easily in a disappointing result for the left.

Biden further extends lead over Trump

Just over four months from the election, Biden has a near double digit national lead over Trump as US coronavirus cases spike again. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

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 40.9% approve, 55.4% disapprove (net -14.5%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 41.3% approve, 55.1% disapprove (net -13.8%). Since my article three weeks ago, Trump has lost about three points on net approval. His ratings are at their worst since the US government shutdown in January 2019.

FiveThirtyEight has started tracking the presidential general election polls. As there are far more national polls than state polls, they adjust state polls for the national trend. So with Biden widening his national lead, FiveThirtyEight will adjust states in Joe Biden’s favour where there hasn’t been recent polling.

The latest national poll aggregate gives Biden a 50.9% to 41.3% lead over Trump. US polls usually include an undecided option, so the remaining voters are mostly undecided, not third party. Three weeks ago, Biden’s lead was 6.6%.

In 2016, four states – Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida – voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton by 1.2% or less. In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, Biden leads in Pennsylvania by 5.6%, in Florida by 7.4%, in Wisconsin by 7.6% and in Michigan by 9.6%.

Biden also leads in several states Trump won comfortably in 2016. He leads by 4.7% in Arizona, 1.3% in Georgia, 1.9% in North Carolina and 2.4% in Ohio. Trump has just a 0.1% lead in Iowa and a 0.5% lead in Texas.

If the election were being held next week, there is little doubt that Biden would win both the national popular vote and the Electoral College easily. But the election will not be held until November 3. Can Trump recover? If Biden’s national lead is reduced to fewer than five points, the Electoral College could save Trump, as Biden’s lead is narrower in the pivotal states than nationally.

The two issues that have eroded Trump’s position are coronavirus and the protests after the murder of George Floyd. Up to the last week, US coronavirus cases and deaths had fallen from their peaks in April, but the last week has seen a renewed surge in cases. Over 38,000 cases were recorded Wednesday, the highest since April 24. Analyst Nate Silver says this increase is not caused by greater testing, with the positive test rate rising to 7.7% from 4.9% on June 17.

There has not yet been an increase in daily coronavirus deaths, but it is likely that deaths are a lagging indicator, and will increase later. The seven states with over 1,000 cases Wednesday are all southern states except for California, a big western state. In March and April, the north-eastern states were hit hardest. Weather may be a factor: the virus spreads more efficiently indoors, and people stay indoors more if the weather is either too cold or too hot.

It is unlikely that there can be a genuine economic recovery while coronavirus is still active. Trump’s best chance of re-election is for the coronavirus to have faded by November, and a strong economic recovery. May US economic data has been much better than April, but April was so terrible that a recovery still has a long way to go. I cannot see Trump being re-elected without an economic recovery.

I believe the video evidence of George Floyd’s murder is a major reason for the great dissatisfaction with Trump’s performance on race relations, and sharply increased support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Had this murder not been on video, the police would have been able to deny it, and many would have believed their denials.

What about Congress?

As well as the presidency, all 435 House of Representatives seats and one-third of the 100 senators are up for election on November 3. Democrats gained control of the House in November 2018, and are very likely to retain control; they have an 8.1% lead in the FiveThirtyEight generic ballot tracker.

There are two senators per state. While it was not always the case, the bias towards low-population states now favours Republicans, who currently hold a 53-47 Senate majority. In deeply conservative Alabama, Democrat Doug Jones unexpectedly won a December 2017 by-election, and is unlikely to repeat his success.

The RealClearPolitics Senate map gives Democrats some chance of winning the Senate. It has 48 Republican seats, 47 Democrats and five toss-ups. Republicans are currently being dragged down by Trump, so a move back to Trump would assist them.

Biden increases lead over Trump

Trump’s ratings fall back as the US is engulfed by protests over George Floyd’s murder. The UK Conservatives also slide. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

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 42.7% approve, 53.6% disapprove (net -10.9%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 42.7% approve, 53.8% disapprove (net -11.1%). Since my article three weeks ago, Trump has lost about three points on net approval. His disapproval rating is at its highest since the early stages of the Ukraine scandal last November.

In the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, Joe Biden’s lead over Trump has widened to 7.8%, up from 4.5% three weeks ago. That is Biden’s biggest lead since December 2019.

In the key states that will decide the Electoral College and hence the presidency, it is less clear. National and state polls by Change Research gave Biden a seven-point lead nationally, but just a three-point lead in Florida, a two-point lead in Michigan and a one-point lead in North Carolina. In Wisconsin, Trump and Biden were tied, while Trump led by one in Arizona and four in Pennsylvania.

This relatively rosy state polling picture for Trump is contradicted by three Fox News polls. In these polls, Biden leads by nine points in Wisconsin, four points in Arizona and two points in Ohio. Trump won Ohio by eight points in 2016, and it was not thought to be in play.

Ironically, Change Research is a Democrat-associated pollster, while Fox News is very pro-Trump. Fieldwork for all these state polls was collected since May 29, when the George Floyd protests began. A Texas poll from Quinnipiac University had Trump leading by just one point. Trump won Texas by nine points in 2016.

US daily coronavirus cases and deaths are down from their peak, and stock markets anticipate a strong economic recovery. But it is likely that a greater amount of economic activity will allow the virus to resurge. A strong recovery from coronavirus would assist Trump, but unemployment is a lagging indicator that recovers more slowly than the overall economy. The May US jobs report will be released Friday night in Australia.

Concerning the protests over the murder of George Floyd, in an Ipsos poll for Reuters conducted Monday and Tuesday, 64% said they sympathised with the protesters, while 27% did not. 55% disapproved of Trump’s handling of the protests, while just 33% approved. That’s well below Trump’s overall approval of 39% in that poll.

UK Conservatives slump after Dominic Cummings scandal

In late May, it was revealed that PM Boris Johnson’s advisor, Dominic Cummings, had breached quarantine rules during the coronavirus lockdown in March. However, Cummings did not resign and Johnson refused to sack him.

An Opinium poll for The Observer gave the Conservatives just a 43-39 lead over Labour, down from a 12-point lead the previous week. It is the lowest Conservative lead in that poll since Johnson became PM. Johnson’s net approval was down from +6 to -5. 68% thought Cummings should resign, and 66% thought Johnson should sack him if he did not resign.

However, a YouGov poll for The Times gave the Conservatives a ten-point lead, up from six points previously, implying that public anger may be short-lived. In general, the poll trend over the last two months has been towards Labour, as the UK’s coronavirus death toll has risen to be the second highest behind the US.

Another NZ poll has Labour in the high 50s

A Roy Morgan New Zealand poll gave Labour a 56.5% to 26.5% lead over National, concurring with two polls published in May. The poll was taken April 27 to May 24, so it does not account for the May 22 change in National leadership. New Zealand has just one active coronavirus case remaining, and has recorded no new cases since May 22. It increasingly appears they have succeeded in eliminating coronavirus.