John notes below the latest “mainstream” polls showing both Biden and the Democrats reaching the burnt toast stage of this election cycle, but amidst the lingering questions about the accuracy of polling these days, it should be noted that the outcome of the midterms presents a huge dilemma for Democrats no matter how the election turns out. If Democrats get drowned in a wave, they face the serious problem of how to arrange a succession for the plainly hopeless Biden, whose pride and cluelessness will keep him stubborn, thus prompting an intraparty struggle to push him out.
But if Democrats do better than expected, it makes it all the harder for Biden to be pushed out, and he becomes nearly a lock to be renominated in 2024. The “Comeback Kid” and all that.
But if the Trafalgar pollsters are right that current polling methodology cannot capture “submerged” Republican voters, it means these latest “mainstream” poll results are even worse for Democrats that they look. About those “shy Republicans/Trump voters,” I have a simple theory which I explained on the latest 3WHH podcast last week, but here it is in print for those of you aren’t tuning in. (You don’t know what you’re missing!)
More than 30 years ago I happened to be embedded inside some local sales tax increase initiatives in California, for boring reasons that take too long to relate. In any case, these initiatives, always at the city or county level, were for a 1/2 cent sales tax increase to support local schools, parks, roads, and other good things that government now charges you extra for, since providing basic services is no longer the top priority of government at any level. (That’s an issue for another time.)
These well-funded local tax increase initiatives were always supported by the local establishment—both parties, the local chambers of commerce, the local media, etc—and faced little opposition. And the pollster for the campaign would report that his poll of registered voters found 58 percent said they supported the initiative. Slam dunk, no?
No. The pollster explained that the initiative needed to poll at least 60 percent favorable in order to expect getting to the 50.1 percent mark on election day. This pattern had shown up in several previous local tax increase campaigns, where polls showed strong majority support but then lost on election day.
Me: “Wait—is your polling so bad that its margin of error is so large? And all in one direction every time? What kind of pollster are you?”
He explained that when it came to local tax increase initiatives, about 10 percent of respondents lied to pollsters. Then what is the use of polling at that point? I borrowed the field theory of historian John Lukacs that there is a distinction to be made between public opinion, which is what people think they are supposed to think and tell pollsters, and public sentiment, which is what people actually think. Public sentiment is difficult or impossible to capture in polls. Faced with a relentless local campaign in favor of a tax increase, some people will tell pollsters that they favor the idea, even though they plan to vote against it.
This phenomenon has gone national. Let’s see: with the President of the United States demonizing Republicans in a prime time speech, and the media in full attack mode, how many Republicans want to tell someone on the phone, who asks, incidentally, for their income and other personal data, who they plan to vote for? Answer: fewer and fewer all the time.