Dem 51
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GOP 49
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A Bad Poll for Biden

We're not sure this means all that much, but it's a major poll that's getting a lot of attention, so we pass it along. In the newest WaPo/ABC News poll, Joe Biden pulled his lowest approval rating ever; 36% of respondents approve of the job he's doing while 56% disapprove. Obviously, 20 points underwater is not a great starting point for a reelection campaign.

The crosstabs are also... interesting. Respondents were asked which candidate, between Biden and Trump, is more trustworthy. Biden came out on top of that one, but by just 8 points, 41% to 33%. When asked which man has the mental sharpness it takes to serve effectively as president, Trump came out on top by a staggering 22 points, 54% to 32%. And when asked which man is in good enough physical health to serve effectively as president, Trump absolutely crushed Biden, 64% to 33%.

We are not sure which of these numbers is most shocking. Biden is your standard politician, who spins the truth on regular occasions. Trump is an inveterate liar. They are not in the same universe when it comes to honesty and trustworthiness. As to mental sharpness, Biden's had a few high-profile gaffes, but Trump is a walking gaffe machine. And as to health, we might accept that a man who is considerably overweight and does not exercise, but is in his 40s or early 50s (say, Ted Cruz), is in better physical condition to be president than an octogenarian, even one who bikes and jogs regularly. But Trump is considerably overweight and does not exercise, and is just 3 years younger than Biden. It's madness to suggest that the former president is in better physical shape than the current president. We take this as evidence that Republican messaging about Biden's infirmities, messaging that has been significantly aided by the media (including the non-right-wing media), is landing.

Meanwhile, in a hypothetical presidential election matchup 45% of respondents say they would, or probably would, vote for Trump, while 38% say they would, or probably would, vote for Biden. That's a very unusual result, compared to other recent polls. And if there was a compelling explanation for it (say, the U.S. actually defaulted on its national debt), we could see it. But under current circumstances, we are inclined to think this poll is an outlier.

One other thing: The Trump vs. Biden matchup includes 18% of voters who say they are undecided. Since everyone knows who Trump and Biden are, that has to be interpreted as 18% who want someone besides these two, and are trying to communicate that. We are inclined to take more seriously polls that don't allow respondents to do that, and that force them to make a choice. Our guess is that most undecideds, if "none of the above" is not an option, are unenthusiastic Biden voters. But whether that guess is right or wrong, the numbers would be more meaningful if we knew what those 18% are likely to do. Because we can guarantee you that nearly one-in-five voters isn't just going to skip the presidential line on the ballot. (Z)

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