“#The Trump-Biden race is a lot closer than the headlines are telling you”
But many public polls overstate Biden’s actual lead — owing to two factors.
For one thing, some polls use disproportionately Democratic samples. Consider CNN’s general-election poll, released this week, which shows Biden beating Trump nationally by a 14-point margin, 55 percent to 41 percent.
Thirty-two percent of the people surveyed identified as Democrats, compared to 25 percent identifying as Republicans. Yet this seven-point Democratic margin doesn’t represent actual voter turnout on Election Day. Indeed, according to CNN’s own 2016 national exit-polling data, the margin of voters identifying as Democrats compared to those identifying as Republicans favored Democrats by three points.
By contrast, an Emerson College poll of registered voters conducted at the same time still showed Biden ahead, but with his lead cut by more than half, to just six points. This poll used a sample more representative of turnout by party, with Democrats comprising 35.6 percent, while Republicans accounted for 32.5 percent. These figures more closely align with party data from 2016 exit polls, leading me to believe that Biden’s actual lead is likely closer to six points rather than 14.
The second factor is whether the poll is of registered voters, as opposed to likely voters.
Both the CNN and Emerson College polls use registered voters, and polling registered voters has historically overrated Democrats, while polls of likely voters have proved in recent decades to be a much more reliable predictor of election results.
From 1990 to 2014, polls of likely voters showed virtually no bias toward either party and were largely in line with the ultimate results of the election. Polls of registered voters, however, showed a median Democratic bias of two points, according to FiveThirtyEight.
The same FiveThirtyEight analysis found that between 1990 and 2014, there has been a nearly two-point margin favoring GOP turnout in presidential election years. Thus, polls of registered voters would inherently have a Democratic bias, given that more Republicans turn out to vote.
Then, too, polls fail to factor in the clear enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans. This was evident in Georgia, where turnout in the Republican primary for Trump substantially exceeded the combined vote for Biden and Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side.
To be sure, while Biden’s lead might be exaggerated, the former vice president still has a clear advantage, meaning it will be an uphill battle for Trump to win re-election. The president faces vulnerabilities in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as his response to the George Floyd killing. Some prominent members of Trump’s own party and retired military officers have recently denounced him for some of his comments and actions.
At the same time, Biden also has cause for concern. According to an analysis of recent polling released this week by The New York Times, Biden in the past few weeks has failed to make inroads with nonwhite voters. That’s a crucial voter bloc that Democrats will need to turn out to triumph in November. The analysis shows that Biden has a 46-point lead among non-white voters, which is less than Hillary Clinton’s 50-point advantage among these voters in the final polls of 2016.
And despite the fact that Trump has lost ground with suburban white moderate voters, independents and older voters, Biden may find himself in an increasingly problematic situation as he tries to court these voters.
With Democrats moving too far left with policy initiatives such as defunding the police, Biden may have a much more difficult time cutting into Trump’s margin with these voters than today’s public polling suggests. If history is any guide, we can expect some moderate Republicans and Republican-leading independents to return to the fold — to “come home,” as is said in politics.
That’s especially likely if Trump is able to convincingly make the case that he successfully dealt with the fallout from the pandemic and put our economy on the path to recovery come November.
Bottom line: The eventual result of the election is much closer than it currently appears.
Douglas E. Schoen is a Fox News contributor. This column was adapted from FoxNews.com.
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