The new one from Fox that dropped this afternoon has it 50/38. Biden by 12.
The president hasn’t tweeted about it yet as I write this at 6:30 ET but it’s coming. This could be the final straw that leads him to abandon Fox entirely and give OAN his full endorsement as the news network of Trumpublicans everywhere.
I don’t know why Fox hasn’t just shut down their polling bureau by now. True, it’s a respected outfit and conducting one’s own polls is a prestige thing for an American news network, but the grief they get from the president and his base whenever they drop a new bunker-buster on him just can’t be worth it to them. They’re expected to be On The Team and 99 percent of the time they are, especially in primetime. Then out trots the polling bureau once a month and smacks Trump upside the head with a crowbar.
One of the first comments about the poll on Fox’s website tried to grapple with the massive cognitive dissonance this way: “I suspect Fox is trying to lull Democrats into complacency with these polls.” Sure, let’s go with that. Whatever you need to tell yourself.
As Josh Jordan points out, the most arresting detail in the new survey is the fact that POTUS’s job approval is several points higher than his head-to-head number against Biden. He’s at 44 percent in his approval rating; that drops to 38 percent against Sleepy Joe because a small but meaningful share of women, blacks, and Latinos (among others) who say that they at least “somewhat” approve of Trump’s performance shift to Biden when given a choice between the two. That’s worrisome in that it implies that Trump getting his job approval up towards 46, 47, or 48 percent by Election Day might not be enough to lock down reelection. Some voters who think he’s doing a reasonably good job prefer Biden anyway.
There are more familiar but no less worrisome trends in the head-to-head polling as well:
Biden’s lead comes from the backing of black voters (+79 points over Trump), those under age 30 (+37), suburban areas (+22), women (+19), and voters ages 65+ (+10).
Trump, on the other hand, is underperforming his vote share among key groups, such as white evangelical Christians (+41 points) and rural voters (+9). In 2016, he won white evangelicals by 64 points and rural areas by 27.
Moreover, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide protests against police brutality, more voters see Biden as empathetic and respectful.
Forty-seven percent say the phrase “cares about people like me” describes Biden compared to 37 percent who say it fits Trump.
Biden’s big leads among women and suburbanites are giving him a cushion and he continues to maintain a sizable margin among seniors, a group that went decisively for Trump four years ago. The “empathy gap” is important too. I’ve written about empathy before as an area of unusually sharp contrast between Biden and Trump: It’s one of the few things Biden does well as a politician and something Trump does notoriously badly. And Trump happens to be saddled right now with two major crises (three, really) that are well-suited to empathetic politicians. One is the COVID catastrophe that’s left more than 100,000 families bereaved with many more to come, the other is the racial reckoning the country’s grappling with after the death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests. Trump’s chief reaction to the human toll from coronavirus has been to push people to get back to work; his chief reaction to civil unrest over Floyd’s killing was to threaten to send U.S. troops into the streets against Americans. The GOP should probably be happy he’s only down 12.
The empathy gap may explain the odd disconnect between his approval rating here and his share of the vote against Biden, in fact. Some segment of voters may believe he’s doing well enough at the nuts and bolts of the job under the circumstances but just can’t stomach his lack of empathy. Give them a choice between him and Biden and they’ll take grandpa, who at least seems able to relate to other people. Quote:
Over half of seniors (52 percent) and a plurality of women (46 percent) think “cares” describes Biden. Larger numbers of both groups say it does not apply to Trump (57 percent seniors and 60 percent women).
Suburban women, in particular, give Biden the edge on “cares” (48 vs. 30 percent for Trump) and respecting racial minorities (55 vs. 27 percent).
This says it all about the difference between 2016 and 2020, from the Fox poll:
Biden 53/44 (+9)
Trump 43/56 (-13)
Clinton 41/56 (-15)
Even now, Clinton’s net fav worse than Trump’s.https://t.co/072vaQWdUG
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) June 18, 2020
People just like Biden more than Trump (and Hillary). Interestingly, they don’t like him a ton: Just 31 percent of Biden supporters say they’re voting for him due to enthusiasm they feel for him versus 63 percent who say they prefer him because they fear a Trump second term. With Trump the numbers are reversed, with 62 percent of supporters saying they’re voting for him out of enthusiasm and 33 percent saying they favor him due to fear of Biden winning. But that’s not necessarily a good position for Trump to be in. In 2016, Fox notes, more Trump voters said they voted out of fear of the other candidate than Clinton voters did. Fear is a good incentive to vote! POTUS needs more people to fear a Biden presidency than do so now or else he’s cooked.
What the enthusiasm metrics for each candidate are telling us is that right now the election is a referendum on Trump. And that’s not what the GOP wants given the state of the economy, the pandemic, and race relations.
Just to show you how heavily Biden is investing in themes of empathy and caring, check out the ad he dropped early this morning. It’s not just the voiceover either; there are lots of shots here of him in close conversation with others as a visual symbol of empathy. In lieu of an exit question, one more strange but true fact from the Fox poll: Mitt Romney now has a higher favorable rating among black Americans (43/40) than he does among Republicans (37/51). We’re a long way from 2012.