Poll of the week: A new CNN/SSRS poll has former Vice President Joe Biden leading President Donald Trump by a 51% to 43% margin.
What’s the point: The big question coming out of the major party conventions would be if they would reset the 2020 campaign. Could Trump’s efforts to refocus the campaign on crime and law and order help him close what has been a consistent deficit?
The answer seems to be a no, for the time being. While it doesn’t seem that Trump’s messaging on law and order has hurt him to any large degree, it’s pretty clear that it hasn’t helped him in any significant fashion.
It’s not just that Trump is still down to Biden. It’s who and why he is trailing that tells the story.
As my colleagues Gregory Krieg, Dan Merica and Ryan Nobles noted back in June, Trump’s law and order messaging harkens back to Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign of trying to appeal to White voters. Just like then, protesters for civil rights have been marching in the streets. In some cases, riots have broken out.
The polls show, however, that, for a Republican, Trump is very much struggling with White voters. Trump is ahead of Biden by just 3 points in an average of live interview polls taken since the conventions. That matches the longer term trend since the beginning of the summer of Trump leading by 4 points among this group.
In other words, White voter support for Trump has not climbed in the last few weeks. It’s steady, even with the renewed focus on law and order.
A Republican only winning White voters by 3 points is, to put it mildly, a very weak performance.
Trump won White voters by 13 points in the final pre-election polls in 2016. Mitt Romney won them by double-digits in 2012.
In fact, you have to go all the way back to 1996 for a Republican to have done as poorly among white voters as Trump is right now.
That’s the opposite of what you would expect if Trump’s law and order campaign was successful at stroking White backlash.
But it’s not just the Biden vs. Trump polling that indicates Trump’s efforts are currently failing.
Take a look at the polling on crime and criminal justice. The issue isn’t as bad for Trump as the coronavirus pandemic, and these polls result are somewhat subject to question wording. Still, it’s clear that the crime issue isn’t the slam dunk for Trump as it might have appeared to be.
Our CNN poll had Biden ahead of Trump by a 7-point margin on who they thought, if elected, would do a better job on the criminal justice system in the United States. Biden was favored by a 6-point margin on who would keep Americans safe from harm.
The swing state polling doesn’t look much better for Trump. Fox News polled likely voters in Arizona, North Carolina and Wisconsin on who they thought would be better at handling policing and criminal justice. In both Arizona and Wisconsin, voters said Biden would be better by a 5-point margin. Biden and Trump were basically tied in North Carolina (47% for Trump to 46% for Biden, well within the margin of error).
The Wisconsin polling is especially notable because Jacob Blake was shot in Kenosha, Wisconsin. It’s where protests and riots have been taking place since that shooting two weeks ago. Yet, the shooting or the aftermath doesn’t seem (at least in the polling) to have helped Trump in the Badger State. Not only does he trail Biden on the policing and criminal justice question, but he was down 8 points to Biden in the horserace.
Now, we still have about two months to go in this campaign. Things can shift. We’ll get more data in the weeks to come. We’ll have to see if Trump’s efforts eventually pay off, but for now, it’s not.
Before we bid adieu: The theme song of the week is Law & Order.