Instructive March Polls for 2020: Day One — Trump’s Re-Election Numbers

Author’s note: As my most loyal readers know, I’ve recently enjoyed consecutive monthly growth in this website’s “Visitor” category, which measures the number of people that come to the site each day. (It should not be confused with “Views,” which measures total clicks. One visitor can read 10 things on any given day, but that only means 10 “Views.” If, however, a reader comes to the site at least once a day for 10 days, that’s 10 “Visitors.”) February, despite its abbreviated length, marked six straight months of Visitor growth. Unfortunately, March, though the extra readership has motivated me to double the number of posts, is coming up well short. March is 77 percent done, but I’m only 67 percent of the way to February’s numbers. Clearly I’ve done something wrong, and I’m trying to figure out what it is. Regardless, this week I’ll deploy a desperate attempt to reach February’s Visitor count by doing one short (read: under 1000 words) post a day with a theme: some kernel of illuminating information from a poll or polls taken this month. Come check each day!

On with the show…

The 2020 Election Stat of the Day: President Trump’s Approval

President Trump’s approval on March 24, 2019:

You might think that looks bad for his re-election chances. If anyone lives in a Democratic bubble, it can seem like President Trump couldn’t possibly win re-election if he has just 42 or 43 percent national approval, especially since the media continually reports to us how terrible of a leader he is. No way he can win, right?

Think again. Here are another couple of stats:

Ronald Reagan approval on March 24, 1983: 41.1%
Number of states won by Ronald Reagan in his 1984 re-election: 49

As I’ve written about several times before, if President Reagan mired in comparably low approval midway through his first term but went on to win the largest electoral landslide in history (Nixon also won 49 states in 1972 but had fewer electoral votes), Trump can surely find a way to get re-elected by at least a small margin, particularly if unemployment stays low and the freshly submitted Mueller Report, if it’s ever released, isn’t too damning.

You might counter with a reasonable rebuttal: for his entire presidency, Trump has had a ceiling on his support. Though his average approval rarely dips below 40 percent, it hasn’t risen above 45 percent either. Whether it’s a result of his incompetence and absurdity as a leader (the Democratic and #NeverTrump explanation) or closed-minded, media-trusting Democratic tribalism (the Republican explanation), a majority of the country seems closed off to the possibility of re-electing him. Hence, it can be argued he can’t possibly broaden his coalition enough to win.

But let me drop a few more numbers on you before we part ways for the day and you eagerly return tomorrow. Remember how Real Clear Politics has him at just a 43.1 percent polling average? Among the polls used in that average was Wednesday’s Emerson poll, which found him right at the number — 43 percent.

Now, look what happens when that same poll asked the same respondents about hypothetical head-to-head match-ups.

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The same Americans that reported President Trump is at 43 percent approval also relayed that if it becomes a two-way choice between him and another candidate, his numbers rise to 48 or 49 percent against four of the five most likely Democratic nominees. Only Joe Biden kept him to the mid-40s.

This statistic is brilliantly illuminating for a couple of reasons. First, it shows that once people are given a choice, they might not approve of Trump, but they might vote for Trump against a less preferable option.

Second, we can never forget a key stat from three years ago…

Trump’s share of the popular vote in 2016: 46.1 percent.

With the current Republican advantage in the Electoral College, 46 percent is enough for President Trump to win it. Against four of the five candidates, he already performs better now than he did in the 2016 general election.

In sum, he might be at 42ish percent approval, but so was Reagan. He might narrowly lose a head-to-head majority vote with most Democrats, but he did to Hillary Clinton, too. It’s about the Electoral College, and he’s just about where he needs to be — and that’s before Bob Mueller submitted his report without any new indictments or proof of Russian collusion, a natural starting point for at least a modest Trump rally in the polls.

As a result, I’ve moved his odds for re-election from 6/5 to even money. If the Democrats don’t straighten out their gathering circular firing squad, he soon might become an outright favorite against the field.

Come back tomorrow for Day Two of PPFA’s March polling analysis! Note you can sign up on the sidebar (computers and tablets) or below (smartphones) for email updates.

8 thoughts on “Instructive March Polls for 2020: Day One — Trump’s Re-Election Numbers

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