More Data

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Let me add the following to the mix. Via the Center for Politics: Electoral College Rating Changes: Upper Midwest Moves After Biden’s Debate Disaster.

The short version is that Michigan moved from “leans D” to “toss-up” and Minnesota went from “likely D” to “leans D.” This is bad news for Democrats, but again, not the devastation that should fuel a panic.

The broader context:

An Ipsos/FiveThirtyEight survey of voters taken before and after the debate showed that the share of likely voters considering voting for Biden only dropped 1.5 points, from 48.2% to 46.7%, and the share of those considering voting for Trump only increased 0.4 points, from 43.5% to 43.9%. Other polls also generally showed only modest movement. Dan Guild, a polling chronicler who wrote a piece for the Crystal Ball last week on the importance of those who just somewhat disapprove of Biden’s job performance, noted Tuesday that Biden’s margin on average against Trump had dipped a little more than a point when comparing post-debate polls to pre-debate polls conducted by the same pollster.

Overall, though, we’re afraid we’re going to have to give that old, familiar, and unsatisfying answer about the polling—we’d like to see more data before coming to conclusions about whether the race has fundamentally changed, and any big changes we do see could be because of partisan non-response (in other words, energized Republicans being likelier to respond to polls than depressed Democrats, something that seemed to artificially deflate Barack Obama’s support after a poor first debate with Mitt Romney in 2012).

Still, this comes at a time when Biden is already behind, so even if he doesn’t meaningfully fall further back, he really needed the debate to improve his numbers.

So the real issue is that the debate didn’t help (which was the hope of many Democrats). Moreover, the harm has yet to materialize in the numbers.

Again, setting aside everything else that has been said on this topic, does anyone think there is enough evidence to convince a sitting president to not stay in the race?

FILED UNDER: 2024 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Modulo Myself says:

    They’re leaking that he is seriously considering it, so yes, there is enough evidence.

    I know a number of people who said they woke up Friday morning with the same feeling they had the morning after Trump’s election. The debate was that bad. Biden’s campaign tried to bullshit their way around the obvious, but it looks like it didn’t work. Thank god.

  2. just nutha says:

    The only person I know who actually watched the debate gave a report that was generally positive. Unfortunately, he said both candidates seemed equally competent and were courteous to each other. (FTR, he is aware of Trump’s general likelyhood for competency.)

  3. @just nutha: I watched most of it (missed the last third or so). It was bad–it got better as it went, but only in comparison to how bad it started.

  4. Raoul says:

    As of now, the polls don’t seem to have shifted that much. Maybe 1-2% which would be typical for any type of impacting news (see Trump’s conviction). Whether he can win (he can) the real issue is Biden’s age. Most people who supported him had concerns about the octogenarian. Those concerns have been legitimized. Biden should consider stepping down not only because of electoral concerns but also because of his own health.

  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    @James had a chart the other day showing the relative popularity of Biden and other Dems v. Felon trump. Irrespective of who the Dem is, the Felon polls at 47-48%, a few Dems poll about the same as Biden and everyone mentioned is likely within the margin of error with the “weakest” Dem polling around 43%. The difference between the various Dems is the size of the undecided voters.

    To me, this indicates that replacing Biden wouldn’t necessarily be a catastrophe, unless it became a civil war among the interest groups. That said, there are certainly disadvantages to replacing Joe, for instance making it a stretch to claim the accomplishments of the Biden admin, but it would allow for distancing the candidate from the admin’s baggage.

    But the biggest advantage is that it would change the dynamic of the race. Felon trump would be the elderly, memory challenged candidate, who would be facing a much younger and intellectually superior opponent.

    Will the national polling push Biden out, not likely, but the polling from the battle ground states could very well.

  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    Interesting thoughts on this subject.

    There are risks. The Democrats can gamble and lose. But there are also clear benefits. The Republican convention, due to take place in less than two weeks, will be ruined. Trump and other Republicans won’t know the name of their opponent. Instead of spending four days attacking Biden, they will have to talk about their policies, many of which—think corporate subsidies, tax cuts for the rich, the further transformation of the Supreme Court—aren’t popular. Their candidate spouts gibberish. He is also old, nearly as old as Biden, and this is his third presidential campaign. Everyone will switch channels in order to watch the exciting Democratic primary debates instead.

    By contrast, the Democratic convention will be dramatic—very, very dramatic. Everyone will want to watch it, talk about it, be there on the ground. Tickets will be impossible to get; the national and international media will flock there in huge numbers. Yes, I know what happened in 1968, but that was more than half a century ago. History never repeats itself with precision. The world is a lot different now. There is more competition for attention. An open, exciting convention would command it.

    Whoever wins—Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, Vice President Harris, or anyone else—would be more coherent and more persuasive than Trump. He or she would emerge from the convention with energy, attention, hope, and money. The American republic, and the democratic world, might survive. Isn’t that worth the gamble?

    What it comes down to, is that sticking w/Biden is a risk, with a known and limited upside. Moving on from him is a risk, but provides a large upside. Either way Dems are playing Russian roulette.

  7. gVOR10 says:

    As I’ve noted before, there are time lags in public opinion. I’ve never seen any estimate of what the time lag is, but most people don’t react to events. People react to feelz, which derive from the narrative, which is changed by journamalismists, who react to events, but only after considering the effect on their brand. This takes at least several days. So I’m not taking any polling seriously for at least another week or three.

    That said, I will note: A) Someone around here has said that party alignment tends to be stable. He’s even listed reasons Trump voters would stick with Trump even if they recognize him for the stinking pile of dung he is. Said someone has also noted the effect also applies to Ds. B) Numerous pundits have noted that Trump being scum and Biden being old were baked into the cake before the debate. (This is a subset of A.) And C) The narrative is that this election turns on the choice of undecideds and other low information types. Partially true, but it really depends on turnout, no polls accurately reflect turnout, and these quick polls certainly don’t reflect the effect of the debate on turnout.

    Please note I am taking no position here on what Biden or anyone else should do or think, just advising a skeptical view of these polls. (With a caveat that campaign internal polling will be better. And that the family, and the campaign, probably have informed medical opinion to work with.) And I’ll also note that, consistent with A) above, I made the decision to vote for Biden (or Harris, or Newsom, …) in 2024 sometime around 1964. I’m a Dem because my parents were Dems. My parents were Dems because GOP bankers wanted their parents’ farms and Dem pols helped save them. I’ve seen nothing since to change that perception of the parties.

  8. @gVOR10:

    just advising a skeptical view of these polls

    Perfectly fair.

    My only point about citing the polls is that they are actual data while the pundit reaction is vibes.

  9. gVOR10 says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Interesting. Having stated, including above, that I’m agnostic on Biden stepping down or being forced out in some undefined way, Applebaum has one of the few reasonable takes I’ve seen, also Bouie, from our professional take taker class.

    I would add a thought to Applebaum’s case. Given a tight election, one can blame Hillary’s defeat on pretty much anything you care to mention. But there is, IMHO, a clear root cause. Hillary was the obvious nominee and the GOP character assassination team worked on her for years, hence: Benghazi, emails, foundation, strident, etc. Part of Biden’s success was that he didn’t become the apparent choice until late in the game. The assassination team didn’t know who to work on. They’ve had four years to work on Biden: he’s old, he walks slow (ever seen a picture of Trump on a bicycle), he’s old, HUNTER BIDEN, he’s old, the diary, he’s old, … The GOPs have worked a little on Harris, a bit on Newsom, but basically the GOPs haven’t had a chance to plant a lot of baggage on any of the alternates.

    On the other hand, Biden has all the advantages of incumbency. We tend to elect a prez twice. Carter and Trump himself being the modern exceptions. (Ford is a black swan.) Does that transfer from the incumbent to the Party? I don’t know. I remain agnostic on replacing Biden.

  10. gVOR10 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Sorry I didn’t make it clear my point was to amplify your take that polling doesn’t provide a compelling case either way.

  11. Andy says:

    One thing to consider is the reaction of the GoP to replacing Biden – they really don’t want that and want to face Biden.

    It has supposedly reached the point where the GoP is preparing to file lawsuits to prevent Biden from being removed from the ballots if a switch does come.

  12. wr says:

    I think the punditocracy is acting even worse than ever, especially the lynch mob at the NY Times, which resolutely refuses to recognize they’ve been calling for Biden to step down since 2019 and pretends to be coming to this idea only after the debate.

    And yet, once even the Pod Save America guys, who know Biden, who worked for Biden, and who really seem to love Biden, are suggesting it’s time for him to go, it’s hard to call this an outrageous idea.

    And now there are an awful lot of people leaking an awful lot of stuff suggesting he’s not really as fit for office as we’ve been told, clearly an organized effort to get him to step down.

    I do honor the work Biden has done, but even I am coming around slowly to the Kamala train…

  13. CSK says:

    Deleted. Wrong thread.

  14. Kathy says:


    That. And what money can be used by what candidate. And the Democrats who will cry bloody murder the candidate wasn’t chosen in the primaries or the convention. And I’m guessing like a million other things I haven’t thought about.

    It’s not as easy as “change the candidate.”

    Further, if Biden stays in and loses, we’ll hear about how he should have been replaced for the next 4 to 8 years. If he replaced and the other Democrat loses, the better part of the decade will be dedicated to the folly of changing candidates.

  15. Gustopher says:


    On the other hand, Biden has all the advantages of incumbency. We tend to elect a prez twice. Carter and Trump himself being the modern exceptions. (Ford is a black swan.)

    No one ever remembers George HW Bush.

  16. SenyorDave says:

    I don’t have a good feeling about Biden’s chances. I think of it this way: The best avenue I see for a Biden win now is for Trump to be so god-awful that a good portion of the undecideds actually decide to vote against him. Biden’s performance in the debate gave a lot of undecideds cover to vote for Trump. If Biden had done reasonably well in the debate, something like a B-, then he’d do pretty well on the fitness comparison, and they could go hard after Trump on character.
    But Biden got an F on the debate (maybe a D- if someone’s generous), and the ads will make him look like a slow, old man who isn’t up to the task.
    I have no doubt that the Republicans want to face Biden. Even the incumbency factor doesn’t work very well for Biden because some people might just assume his experience doesn’t matter too much if he isn’t up to the job right now.

  17. PT says:


    Read my lips: Look…if… we finally beat Medicare

  18. DK says:


    How to cure COVID: “And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute — one minute — and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.”

  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: HW is a different breed of cat. He betrayed the true believers with “Read my lips. No. New. Taxes.” mere weeks before he gave an interview to someone at TNR acknowledging that the budget would never fly without new taxes.

    He tried to sell “they drug me kicking and screaming to the table and forced me…” but failed, and lost.

  20. PT says:


    These are our choices apparently.


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