Trump’s path to victory will likely depend on Biden’s definition through negative publicity. What is far from clear is whether it will work.
All in all, 69% of voters have a strongly favorable or unfavorable view of the president.
Now, compare Trump’s numbers to Biden’s numbers this year in the same polls. A relatively low 46% (compared to Trump) say they have a strongly favorable or unfavorable opinion on Biden. Distributed, which includes 18% very favorable and 28% very unfavorable.
In other words, voters are 23 points less likely to have a stronger Biden position than Trump. There is much more room to maneuver to bring down Biden than there is to lift Trump.
Put another way, Trump’s campaign strategy makes a lot of sense.
However, something sensible and something that is actually working are two very different things.
The fact that so many voters have an enhanced vision of Trump could tell us something about the trajectory of this breed in the future. Biden’s lead in the polls has been fairly stable. There is no guarantee that the polls will remain so, but history suggests that it could very well.
Since 1980, elections in which the results differ significantly from the polls at this point tend to be when the views of the incumbent president are not strongly supported. The two elections in office (1980 and 1992) in which the difference between the polls at the moment and the results were greater than 5 points were those in which only a third (33%) of voters had a strongly favorable or unfavorable opinion of the incumbent .
Now, look at the elections where the strength of opinions about the president looks more like this: 2004 and 2012. They were the only ones before the elections in which over 50% had a strong opinion of the incumbent at this point. Those elections saw the smallest rounds (respectively 3 and 2 points) between the polls at the moment and the results.
Trump, of course, is trying to keep the polls from staying fixed by focusing on the less defined Biden. Again, it’s not a bad idea. But while opinions on Biden are less supported than Trump, they are rather strongly related to the previous challengers. No other challenger (including John Kerry in 2004 and Mitt Romney in 2012) since 1980 has had as many voters who have given them a highly favorable or highly unfavorable rating.
That is, it will be easier to move opinions on Biden than on Trump, but that does not necessarily mean that it will be simple or even effective.
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