If it's in the News, it's in our Polls. Public opinion polling since 2003.


Is the Media Gaming The Polls for a Post-DNC ‘Surprise’?

A Commentary by Brian C. Joondeph

Conventional wisdom suggests that presidential election polls will tighten as the election approaches. In the summer ahead of an election, most voters are not paying close attention to the campaign, and opinion polls many months ahead of the election are designed more to influence rather than reflect public opinion.

But pollsters have reputations to maintain, and predictions that are wildly off the mark are not a good approach for attracting future business from political campaigns. It seems the polling errors of the last presidential election cycle are being repeated with claims that the Joe Biden campaign has a double-digit lead over President Trump.

Interestingly Hillary Clinton also had a double-digit lead over candidate Trump four summers ago. Yet most polls did not tighten as the 2016 election drew closer, with some polls still giving Clinton a 99 percent chance of victory three days before Election Day.

In mid-July of this year, CNN’s Poll of Polls showed Biden with a 12 percent lead over Trump. Exactly four years ago, in July 2016, Clinton had that same 12 percent lead over Trump, according to a Washington Post – ABC News poll.

On the eve of the Democrat Convention, CNN dropped an unexpected bombshell poll showing Biden’s lead over Trump plummeting to only four percentage points, closing the gap in crucial swing states where the Democrat’s lead has shrunk to only one point.

How could this be? Biden just selected Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, earning effusive praise from the media, not for her qualifications but for being a woman of color, an historic choice. [For fun, contrast the reaction to Republican John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008.]

Perhaps this new poll reflects shifting public opinion against wanton destruction and rioting in Democrat-run cities, encouraged by leading Democrats with no end in sight. Voters may realize that although Biden is atop the Democrat ticket, it’s Bernie Sanders’ unadulterated socialist agenda that he is running on. And Harris is no moderate, as some in the media claim, but instead is the most liberal sitting U.S. senator.

The polls also might reflect that Biden’s choice of Harris is not coming up roses but instead a tangle of weeds. Whoever Biden selected as VP will likely be the president shortly after taking office, given Biden’s steady cognitive decline, and Harris may not be viewed favorably as presidential material.

Democrat primary voters certainly held that view last year as her primary campaign imploded with her dropping out on December 3, long before any primary votes were cast and a full month before scented candle and energy stone guru Marianne Williamson threw in the towel. If Democrat voters didn’t find her presidential last fall, why would she be presidential now?

Blacks are not on the Harris train either and Biden’s promise to choose a woman of color may now be a tough sell. Harris is Jamaican-Indian, not African, and she is a descendent of slave owners. Blacks may have taken notice. Rasmussen Reports notes a third of black voters say Harris’s selection “makes them less likely to throw their support behind the Democratic ticket.”

Another explanation might be the poll sample. From CNN’s July Poll of Polls was the Washington Post – ABC News poll which oversampled Biden supporters over Trump supporters by 12 points, 52 to 40 percent, coincidentally, or not, the same number as Biden’s 12-point lead. The current CNN poll only oversampled Democrats by four percentage points, 31 to 27, the same four-point difference noted in the poll.

There appears to be a correlation where Biden’s poll advantage is the same percentage as Democrat oversampling. If a pollster wants to give Biden a 16-point lead over Trump, just oversample Democrats by 16 percentage points.

Perhaps there are other reasons why CNN would announce tightening poll numbers just ahead of Joe and Kamala’s coming out engagement party. One reason might be to temper expectations. After all, Biden seemingly can’t make it through a short, friendly interview without saying something either racist or incomprehensible, or both. Basement Joe might really step in it during his acceptance speech, even with former Republican presidential wannabe John Kasich running interference.

The other reason for CNN’s tightening poll is more sinister but in keeping with the mainstream media’s use of polls to shape, rather than reflect, opinion. Suppose they have a new poll in process, weighted heavily with Democrats, to show a post-convention bounce back to a double-digit lead for Harris and Biden.

The media will gush over America’s embrace of the “moderate” Democrat ticket, rejecting the so-called hate and division of Trump and Mike Pence.

Is CNN following the “underpromise, overdeliver” approach for the Democrat convention ahead of the Republican convention a week later? Or is this a rare moment of journalistic honesty with a legitimate poll?

We’ll know the answer soon enough, but remember most polls these days are being used to push you rather than inform you.

Brian C. Joondeph, MD, is a Denver-based physician and freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in American Thinker, Daily Caller, Rasmussen Reports and other publications. Follow him on Facebook,  LinkedIn, Twitter, Parler and QuodVerum.

See Other Political Commentaries.

See Other Commentaries by Brian C. Joondeph.

Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports. Comments about this content should be directed to the author or syndicate.

Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.

We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.

Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $4.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.

To learn more about our methodology, click here.