Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

A Very Interesting Poll from Monmouth

Let's start this item with the usual caveats: (1) It's only one poll, (2) It's a long time until people actually start casting ballots, and (3) The presidency is not awarded on the basis of the popular vote. With all of that out of the way, Monmouth released a poll yesterday that is going to warm the hearts of Joe Biden and his campaign staff.

To start with, Monmouth has Biden with a comfortable lead in the popular vote. Among voters who say their preference is definite, Biden leads by 10 points, 36% to 26%. When you add in the voters who say their preference is probable, Biden's lead is still 7 points, 47% to 40%. On the other end, 50% say they won't vote for Trump under any circumstance and 46% say they won't vote for Biden under any circumstance. These numbers are of slightly greater interest than most because the Monmouth poll is the first to be conducted since it became clear Trump is on the cusp of a third indictment. And if these numbers were to hold into next year, it would mean that a Biden blowout is not likely, but neither is a Trump victory. The Electoral College allows a person to win the White House with less than half of the popular vote, yes, but it's way harder once the gap in the popular vote gets above a couple of points.

This is particularly true for Trump, who needs to win a disproportionate share of the swing states (either 3 of 4, or 5 of 8, depending on how loose your definition of "swing state" is). And the swing-state vote tends to track pretty closely with national preference polls. Put another way, it would be very, very unusual for a candidate to be down 6/7/8 points in a national poll but to win Arizona, Pennsylvania and Nevada.

There's one other interesting thing about the Monmouth poll, and that is that they also ran their survey with two third-party conditions. The first of those was generic third-party bid, and the second of those was if the third-party ticket (in other words, the No Labels ticket) is Sen. Joe Manchin (D?-WV) and Jon Huntsman. In the case of a generic third-party bid, support is fairly anemic (only 5% would definitely vote third-party), and the votes would come out of Biden's and Trump's hides equally. In the case of a Manchin/Huntsman bid, support is even more anemic (only 2% would definitely vote Manchin/Huntsman), and while the impact would be greater on Biden than on Trump, the difference is minimal, well less than 1% of the overall vote.

Remember, people who say they are going to vote third-party usually choose not to do so when it comes time to actually vote. Most Americans understand their civics well enough to know that a third-party vote is effectively a gift to the candidate they like the least, as it deprives their preferred major candidate of a vote. And guess what, Monmouth also attempted to gauge the impact of the "spoiler effect." Their numbers say that if the spoiler looks likely to put Biden at risk, then more respondents would be "scared straight" into voting Democratic, as opposed to if the spoiler looks likely to put Trump at risk. The numbers are a little complicated, but in essence, "Biden at risk" causes 5% of the voters to migrate to the Democrats (44%) as compared to "Trump at risk" (39%).

There aren't too many polls right now, and in particular, there are very few worth writing about. This, obviously, is one of the exceptions. We will be watching closely if and when Trump is indicted a third, and possibly a fourth, time. Perhaps, when one reaches some critical number of indictments, it becomes implausible to sell the "It's all a left-wing conspiracy!" shtick. (Z)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates