A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows former Vice President Joe Biden clearly ahead of President Donald Trump. Biden’s up by a 53% to 43% margin among registered voters in this survey.
But it’s important to put individual polls into context, and that context continues to show Biden’s in one of the best positions for any challenger since scientific polling began in the 1930s.
There were more than 40 national public polls taken at least partially in the month of May that asked about the Biden-Trump matchup. Biden led in every single one of them. He’s the first challenger to be ahead of the incumbent in every May poll since Jimmy Carter did so in 1976. Carter, of course, won the 1976 election. Biden’s the only challenger to have the advantage in every May poll over an elected incumbent in the polling era.
Biden remains the lone challenger to be up in the average of polls in every single month of the election year. His average lead in a monthly average of polls has never dipped below 4 points and has usually been above it.
Biden hasn’t trailed Trump this entire year in a single telephone poll in which at least some voters were reached via their cell phones – historically the most accurate. The ABC News/Washington Post poll is the latest example of these polls. In fact, Biden’s never been behind in any of these polls since at least January 2019. No other challenger has come close to that mark.
Indeed, the stability of Biden’s edge has been what is most impressive. The May polls had Biden up by 6 points on average. That is right where the average of polls taken since the beginning of this year has been. It’s where the average of polls conducted since the beginning of 2019 has been as well.
If we limit ourselves to just the telephone polls that call cell phones, Biden’s edge might even be slightly larger. This month those polls have Biden up 7 points on average. Estimating Biden’s advantage from state polls of this type shows a similar lead for Biden.
A look at the fundamentals shows why Trump continues to trail. Simply put, he remains unpopular.
His net approval rating (approval - disapproval) in the ABC News/Washington Post poll was -8 points. That’s very close to the average of polls, which has it at about -10 points. At no point during the past three years has Trump ever had a positive net approval rating.
The only other two presidents to have a net approval rating this low at this point in the campaign were Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992. Both of them lost reelection.
But I’m not predicting anything here. Between the coronavirus pandemic and now the protests and riots taking place nationwide, we’re obviously in a volatile news environment.
Still, no other campaign involving an incumbent president has moved as little as this one has. That’s after nearly three months of the coronavirus dominating the news cycle. That’s after many anti-Biden ads have been aired.
It’s at least possible that nothing will move the electorate substantially in Trump’s direction.