Steady Joe?

Biden's polling lead over Trump is historically stable.

First, the current numbers (via CNN, Biden’s lead is the steadiest on record):

A new Monmouth University poll finds that former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump 50% to 41%. When Rep. Justin Amash is included as the Libertarian Party candidate, it’s Biden 47%, Trump 40% and Amash 5%.

I have to say, I would be surprised if Amash wins 5% of the popular vote. Gary Johnson, for example, got around 3.27% in 2016 and just under 1% in 2012. Perhaps disaffected Republicans who can’t bring themselves to vote Dem will go Amash, but 5% seems like a lot. After all, Johnson was at 11% in a March 2016. My general recollection is that Libertarian and other prominent third party candidates (an oxymoron to a point) poll better than they ever perform (especially this far out).

In regards to Biden’s steadiness, Harry Enten notes:

Biden’s lead is about as steady as it can possibly be. Not only is he up 6 points over the last month or so, but the average of polls since the beginning of the year has him ahead by 6 points. Moreover, all the polls taken since the beginning of 2019 have him up 6 points.

The steadiness in the polls is record breaking. Biden’s advantage is the steadiest in a race with an incumbent running since at least 1944. That could mean it’ll be harder to change the trajectory of the race going forward, though this remains more than close enough that either candidate could easily win.

It is early yet and I am not certain what any of this means. However, I can’t help but think it is reflective of this:

The remarkable steadiness of public approval of Trump is such that surely this means the basic attitude towards the Democratic nominee would likewise be steady. If a pandemic, a semi-shutdown of the economy, and remarkable levels of job loss have not yet changed approval of the president in any significant way, what will?

Under normal conditions, with a normal president, we would have seen some kind of rally-around-the-flag effect. He got a tiny bump in early April, but nothing compared to what many governors have seen. For that matter, the nature of the crisis should also be putting stress on his support, and yet it really is not that much different than when we had record DJIA indices and record low unemployment. Some of this could seep into the numbers over time (Great Depression-like unemployment numbers can’t be good for presidential approval, one would think). By the same token polarized partisanship seems to have baked in views on Trump, and therefore views on his opponent,

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, 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. Michael Reynolds says:

    In the history of this country I don’t there’s ever been a time when Libertarianism was more clearly absurd.

  2. Kit says:

    Here at OTB, below the line, the first shot across Joe’s bow had several people running for the lifeboats. That does bode well.

  3. Teve says:

    Justin Amash was on some tv show the other day, and the first thing he said was the problem in America is Big Government that isn’t the limited government called for by The Constitution and before he finished the sentence I was listening to something way less brain dead.

  4. Kylopod says:

    I’ve been wondering what’s going to happen if we’re headed into the election and it very clearly looks like Biden is going to win. What will Trump do? It’s different than 2016 because even though Trump expected to lose (reports suggest he was as surprised on Election Night as most other people), he didn’t necessarily mind and was already planning how to maneuver his loss to the benefit of his career (the rumors were that he planned to start a network). But now, when he knows he could be in serious legal trouble once he stops being president (and besides, he probably perceives that becoming a one-term president is a greater indignity than losing a first election), he’s going to do whatever he can to sabotage and interfere with the election if it looks like he’s losing. That’s perhaps the scariest thing at this point. Part of me almost wants Trump to think he’s winning just so he’s caught off guard when he doesn’t.

  5. Scott F. says:

    Trump will do all he can to interfere with the election and it’s a given that he will never graciously concede should he lose. And of course, the GOP will cover for him.

    I’m having a hard time seeing how the peaceful transfer of power that has been America’s historical pride and glory holds in 2020.

  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    What he should do is what I’ve been proposing for three years now: Pardon everyone he can pardon, resign before the end of his term and GTFO of the country.

    What he is likely to do is call the election fraudulent. Barr and the rest of the toadies will back him up. But then what? He doesn’t have the support or the smarts to pull off a coup. So at that point I’d guess he’ll try for a deal with Biden – I’ll let you assume office if you pardon me.

    Unlike some I don’t fear Trump once he’s out of office. There’ll still be supporters reading from The Lost Cause playbook and some will resort to terrorism, but that will be quickly quashed by a freed FBI and an honest DOJ.

  7. James Joyner says:

    I thought there was no way Trump would win in 2016 and think the odds are worse in 2020 given he’s sent us into another Great Depression. But the national margin is next to meaningless and we don’t have great state polling yet.

  8. Barry says:

    @Scott F.: “I’m having a hard time seeing how the peaceful transfer of power that has been America’s historical pride and glory holds in 2020.”

    IMHO, it will be ‘peaceful’, in the sense of the Secret Service frog-marching him out of the White House. I can’t see the Secret Service having any desire to commit serious crimes for him.

  9. Matt says:


    reports suggest he was as surprised on Election Night as most other people

    Just watch the video of when Trump finds out he won. The dude just kind of blanks for a bit like “OH FCK I WON WHAT NOW??!??!?”. Before any of those reports came out the video was enough for me to see Trump didn’t expect to win.

  10. gVOR08 says:

    A week or so ago we were debating whether Amash helps or hurts Biden. This poll says he hurts Biden. Surprise. Amash’s first run for the House was funded by the DeVoses. I have no doubt they are also funding his Libertarian run. They’re assholes, not stupid. They can’t possibly think he can win, so they’re funding him purely as a spoiler.

  11. @James Joyner:

    the national margin is next to meaningless

    It depends on what the margin is. If it is wide enough then the likelihood of an EC inversion again are much smaller. But yes: state polls are needed.

  12. mattbernius says:

    @James Joyner:
    This. I know everyone says 2016 was an outlier. That said, I still cannot bring myself draw anything from national polling.

  13. @mattbernius: I agree health skepticism is warranted. I would caution against too much overcorrection, however.

  14. Sleeping Dog says:

    @James Joyner:

    Agreed. I haven’t dug into the details of the polling, but I wonder if the pollsters are making adjustments in the sample to account for state level differences. Pundits like Enten, Silver and Cohn appear to be pretty confident that Biden’s numbers are significant.

  15. Teve says:

    According to 538, Donald Trump‘s approval rating right now is 43.4%. If anybody asks me what percentage of the American population is brain damaged, the answer is 43.4%.

  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: Nah. Some of that 43.4% are elites. They getting exactly what they paid for and would have been fine getting it from anyone–Trump, Pence, Cruz, Bozo the Clown, Hitler’s cloned nose-whatever.

  17. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Oh, absolutely. Biden’s margin now is almost exactly what Hillary’s was on this day in 2016. But the polling had been up and down for months and continued to be. A steady margin is good.

  18. Teve says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: it was a first approximation 😀

  19. @James Joyner: And to be clear: we are so far out from the election that the only thing to really draw from this is one would rather be Biden than Trump as it pertains to the polls.

    But when we get closer, the national polling won’t be worthless and a big enough national margin would suggest success in swing states. Of course, I also expect 2020 to have more state level polling than any election ever.

    Mostly I am cautioning against the lesson of 2016 being that national polls don’t mean anything.

    Really, the stability is the thing that strikes me because it so obviously mirrors the stability of Trump’s approval. A huge number of people have made up their minds (and I also think that means that a huge number of people don’t even care all that much that Biden is the nominee, but rather that he isn’t Trump).

  20. CSK says:

    Do you have a link to the video? I believe that Trump never intended to win, that running was just a branding exercise for him. But I’d love to see his reaction. I heard Melania wept at the news.