Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Siena Uncorks Another Wild One

Siena College, which partners with The New York Times, was the pollster responsible for the half-dozen swing state polls a couple of months back that showed Donald Trump winning everywhere. This led to an enormous amount of coverage, and much hand-wringing among Democrats. We found these polls hard to swallow, since they were so out of line with what everyone else's data were saying.

Earlier this week, Siena released its latest, and it's another eyebrow raiser. Focusing specifically on New York (where both Siena and the Times are located, of course), the pollster says that Joe Biden's Empire State lead over Donald Trump is just 12 points, 48% to 36%.

As a reminder, in 2020, Biden won the state by 23 points, 61% to 38%. What this means is that at least one of these three things must be true:

  1. In a world where up-for-grabs voters are nearly an endangered species, the voting public, at least in New York, has shifted 11 points toward Donald Trump.

  2. Current polls are not capturing the electorate accurately.

  3. Something is wrong with Siena's model of the electorate.

Our view is that it's partly #3, but it's mostly #2. As we have written several times, we think that most people who are going to vote for Trump in November have already reconciled themselves to that fact, and so there will be no "coming home" for them, because they're already there.

By contrast, we believe there are future Biden voters who are telling pollsters they are "undecided" or "no opinion" or third-party as a means of protest against the almost-certain Democratic nominee. More specifically, we think there are some voters who want Biden to step aside due to his age and who will move beyond that once the only available options are Biden or Trump. We also think there are some voters who are angry about Biden's handling of the situation in Israel, but who will move beyond that as events in the Middle East unfold (say, a ceasefire takes effect) or as they recognize that installing Trump in the White House will produce an even worse handling of the situation in Israel.

There is at least some evidence in the poll for our point of view. To start, note that Trump's poll result and his actual 2020 result are very nearly the same. And note that he got 37% of the vote in New York in 2016. It is improbable that he is suddenly much more popular with New Yorkers than he was 4 years ago or 8 years ago. And if he's not, then that means the lion's share of those undecided/no opinion voters are likely to end up as Biden voters.

There's also one notable data point in the crosstabs. According to Siena, Trump is leading among Jewish voters by 9 points, 53% to 44%. If that were to hold, it would be a seismic shift. But, boy howdy, that is hard to swallow. We would guess that most politically conservative Jews would be pretty happy to have Trump in the White House, since he would be ultra-pro-Israel and ultra-anti-Palestine, and are therefore telling pollsters they are Trump voters. But we would also guess that moderate and liberal Jews are currently unhappy with both candidates, and are using their poll responses to send a signal to the White House about the course it is currently pursuing in the region. Which, if we are right, would actually be pretty savvy.

In the end, we simply cannot shake a basic fact: Donald Trump has previously shown himself to have a pretty hard ceiling, both nationally and in each individual state. Is it really plausible that, with 91 indictments on his ledger, and vastly more craziness under his belt, Trump has finally broken through that ceiling? It is true that Biden is pretty unpopular right now and has some rather significant flaws. But is he really far more unpopular/flawed than Hillary Clinton? We just can't come up with an explanation that would make possible a major shift in Trump's fundamentals. We think it is more likely that a lot of people—and not just Trump supporters—are playing games with the pollsters, which makes the polls hard to understand. (Z)

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