By C. Douglas Golden, The Washington Sentinel
After 2016, Republicans have been loath to trust polls, particularly those that have President Donald Trump’s name on it. Now they have a new reason to distrust polling: The absence of it.
If you’ve watched cable news for any of the election cycles in recent memory, the focus in the days and weeks following the national conventions of the major political parties was the polling. It was about who got a “bounce” and who didn’t.
This time, there seems to be a void. Perhaps you didn’t notice. If you did, maybe you thought this was a case of a particularly busy few news cycles. Kenosha. Chadwick Boseman. Nancy Pelosi’s salon visits and ice-cream detours.
The answer is a bit more curious: There isn’t a whole lot of it, at least from the major news networks.
That’s The Federalist’s Sean Davis, noting Tuesday that the Big Six of network and cable news haven’t put out a single poll since the GOP convention ended on Aug. 27 and the Democrat convention ended on Aug. 20. (To be fair, this is more like five entities ignoring polling, as MSNBC would use polls from NBC News. This doesn’t make it much better.)
According to RealClearPolitics’ aggregation of major polls, the rest of Tuesday passed without a poll from those entities, either. What is clear is that Trump has been gaining on Democratic nominee Joe Biden. In the RealClearPolitics polling average, Biden’s lead went from 7.8 percent on Aug. 24 to 6.2 percent on Aug. 31. For a brief period in June, Biden’s average lead was 10 points and as late as July 27, he had a 9.3 point lead.
In fact, there have only been two surveys included by RealClearPolitics that even sampled respondents after President Trump’s acceptance speech on Aug. 27. Emerson, in a poll conducted among 1,567 likely voters Aug. 30-31, found Biden with a 2 percentage point lead over Trump, 49 percent to 47 percent. A survey by The Hill/HarrisX, meanwhile, found Biden with a 9 percentage point lead over the president, 47 percent to 38 percent.
There have been multiple polls since the Democratic National Convention closed, meanwhile — but, conspicuously, none by those six organizations.
One of the organizations that have issued results since the DNC was Rasmussen Reports, which found Biden only ahead 46 percent to 45 percent, conducted among 2,500 likely voters between Aug. 19 and Aug. 25. Rasmussen, too, noticed the incongruity and had an explanation for it: “National political poll suppression.”
The CBS/YouGov Battleground Tracker, it must be said, doesn’t always poll nationally, although it often does. Rather, it generally focuses on a wide range of campaign-related issues and who’s ahead in various battleground states. However, this is the last tweet from CBS’ polling account as of early Wednesday morning. It comes from Aug. 23.
That poll was taken Aug. 19-21, as the Democratic National Convention was coming to a close. Before then, results from the tracker were released and duly tweeted about on a reliably weekly basis.
Rasmussen also noted, in a tweet after the Republican convention closed, the lack of other polls compared to the polling during the 2016 cycle:
Rasmussen has previously been critical of other polling outfits, especially those that use registered voters or simply adults as opposed to likely voters. Other pollsters, it’s worth noting, have been similarly critical of Rasmussen, saying its results skew toward the GOP.
In this case, however, it’s difficult to see how Rasmussen’s criticism isn’t called for. As one user noted, all of these organizations were able to conduct polling perfectly fine in the run-up to the conventions — and there were a lot more polls, to boot.
“The new ABC News/Ipsos poll is especially harsh for Trump. Although it did not poll the horse race, it did poll the candidates’ favorability ratings,” CNN’s Harry Enten wrote.
“Trump’s favorable rating stood at 32% in an Ipsos’ poll last week. Today, after the Republican National Convention, it stands at 31%.
“Biden’s favorable rating, meanwhile, was at 45% last week. It’s now at 46%.”
Now, both of those moves are well within the margin of error, as Enten noted. The analysis said the bounce Trump had gotten from the convention in the polls that had been taken was “not anywhere close to where Trump needed his bounce to be” and that “[e]lected incumbents tend not to gain after the conventions.”
Here was the paragraph about polling that seemed to rankle Rasmussen (and not just Rasmussen): “There are no post-convention polls that measure the horse race of Biden vs. Trump that meet CNN standards. The evidence we do have, however, is largely consistent with what Ipsos is hinting at.”
Rasmussen also couldn’t help taking another shot at the likely voters vs. registered voters (CNN uses the latter, which tends to be less accurate than likely voters) and the fact Rasmussen got the final national popular results closer than any other pollster in the last presidential election:
Well, c’est CNN. This raises the question as to the why of it all.
“To be fair, there could be any number of reasons. The annus horribilis of 2020 has made for some strange priorities all around, so perhaps the media collectively didn’t know what to anticipate with virtual conventions and assumed, not wrongly, that fewer people would be watching them.
They still drew fair audiences, though. Given that this is the most-watched presidential race in generations — even if it’s being watched from a distance — it still seems strange, particularly when there’s radio silence from organizations with regular update cycles like CBS/YouGov.
Could the polling outfits be sitting on results they don’t like, waiting to release them as we move further from the Republican and Democrat conventions? Were there assumptions about how these polls would trend? Is it some combination of these and other factors?
Americans don’t make their decisions based on polls, but no matter how skewed they are, they’re important for an informed populace to understand where their country is, particularly in an election year.
Five major news organizations — ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox haven’t released any polls since the conventions. Of the polls that have been released, two — Emerson and Rasmussen — show Trump within the margin of error. A CNN writer openly complains about the lack of polling data, but insist it skews Biden’s direction.
Those in legacy media frequently complain about low Republican trust in their institutions. The Republican National Convention, it’s worth noting, gave us plenty of reasons why that is. After the convention, they’ve given us five other reasons: five major broadcast institutions, no polls.