Woodward Revelations Hurting Trump
A new poll shows meaningful shifts in public attitudes.
Yahoo News has a new poll out with a feel-good story: Trump is falling further behind. Let’s hold our horses a bit before celebrating.
“New Yahoo News/YouGov poll: Trump falls 10 points behind Biden amid reports he misled Americans about COVID-19 and disparaged U.S. soldiers.”
Donald Trump has fallen further behind Joe Biden following bombshell reports that the president knowingly misled Americans about the dangers of COVID-19 and privately disparaged dead U.S. soldiers as “suckers” and “losers,” according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.
The survey, which was conducted from Sept. 9 to 11, shows Biden leading Trump by 10 percentage points among registered voters, 49 percent to 39 percent. The previous Yahoo News/YouGov poll found Biden ahead by just 6 points immediately after the Republican National Convention.
The results suggest that a week of unrelenting and unflattering revelations about Trump — from the Atlantic report on his alleged contempt for Americans wounded or killed in war (which appeared on Sept. 3) to Bob Woodward’s recordings of Trump admitting he downplayed the deadliness of COVID-19 (released on Sept. 9) — has damaged the president’s standing with voters.
My initial reaction was that the analyst was taking a change in a single poll within the range of sampling error and explaining it based on what had happened in the news since. But, no, they actually polled on those items.
Asked if their opinion of Trump’s coronavirus response has changed because of Woodward’s big scoop — a tape of Trump privately acknowledging the virus was “deadly stuff” even as he publicly sought, in his own words, “to play it down”— nearly a quarter of Americans (23 percent) say yes. Even 15 percent of those who voted for Trump in 2016 say the Woodward news has changed their mind about the president’s handling of the pandemic.
Those might seem like small numbers. But in an age of extreme polarization, they could augur a real shift. Overall, 15 percent of Americans say the Woodward quotes have made them less likely to vote to reelect the president in November — and a third of these were 2016 Trump supporters.
The military story seems to have had a similar impact. Asked which candidate shows more respect for the military, 50 percent of registered voters name Biden, compared to 39 percent for Trump. By the same margin, voters say Biden would do a better job leading the military than the current commander in chief.
Reactions to Trump’s reported remarks on the military were predictably partisan, but nearly a quarter of independents (23 percent) say the news increased their support for Biden, compared to just 9 percent who say the news increased their support for Trump. Six percent of 2016 Trump supporters say they have moved toward Biden as a result.
Again, I’m naturally skeptical of this simply because it didn’t change my opinion of Trump. But, of course, I’m almost certainly in the top 1 percent in interest in political news and my views are much more firmly rooted than normal citizens who pay rather scant attention.
This is a much more telling bit of information:
This reflects a larger problem for Trump. Only 1 percent of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 supporters say they will vote for the president in November. At the same time, 8 percent of Trump’s 2016 supporters say they will vote for Biden.
There were a lot of people who voted for Trump who had never voted for a Republican simply because they were tired of “politics as usual” and thought he would “reboot the system.” One presumes he’s lost most of those people.
More detail from the poll:
Registered voters reject Trump — and prefer Biden — on nearly every major issue. For instance, a wide majority of them (57 percent) disapprove of the president’s handling of the pandemic; only 40 percent approve. By a 17-point margin (48 percent yes to 31 percent no) voters say the current coronavirus situation in the U.S. would be better right now if Biden had been president instead of Trump.
Likewise, only 37 percent of registered voters approve of the way the president has handled the Black Lives Matter protests; 54 percent disapprove. In the wake of the protests in Kenosha, Wis., an even larger majority of registered voters (57 percent) say Trump “makes things worse” when he talks about race. Just 27 percent say he “makes things better.” By a 15-point margin, voters believe that Biden (49 percent) would have handled the Black Lives Matter protests better than Trump (34 percent).
Looking forward, a 10-point plurality thinks that if Biden is elected, there will be less violence of the sort seen in Kenosha (42 percent) rather than more (32 percent). Half as many voters believe Biden wants to “abolish the suburbs” (23 percent) — a frequent Trump attack — than believe he wants to do no such thing (46 percent). And a full 61 percent predict there will be more violence if Trump is reelected, while just 20 percent say there will be less.
Those are really good numbers. The thing is, we don’t know how they’re distributed or how salient they are for voters.
As we’ve beaten to death here over the years—and regular readers, who are also off the charts in interest in these things or they wouldn’t be, well, regular readers instinctively understand—we don’t elect Presidents on a national popular vote but in 51 statewide contests. It’s quite possible these attitudes aren’t the same in the “swing” states.
Additionally, there are almost certainly a significant number of traditional Republican voters who think Trump is a lying scumbag who has totally mismanaged the pandemic but will nonetheless vote for him because they can smell the opportunity to take over the Supreme Court and overturn Roe v. Wade.
As always, aggregates of polls are better than individual ones and they, too, are good news for Biden. The slightly Republican-leaning RealClearPolitics average also shows Biden’s lead widening—although not as wide as it once was.
While 7.5 points isn’t 10, it’s still significant. Moreover, the fact that Trump hasn’t tied, much less led, the race for even a single day going back more than a year is telling.
The FiveThirtyEight gang uses a more rigorous methodology in choosing and weighting polls but paint a remarkably similar picture:
Even with that, though, they give Biden only a 75 percent chance of winning 270 Electoral votes, compared to Trump’s 24 (there’s a 1 percent chance of a 269-269 tie). Mostly, though, that’s because the state polls are fewer and thus less reliable. Plus, they’re overcorrecting for the perception they got it wrong in 2016 and being extra cautious.