Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Biden is taking on a new political adversary: The polls

By 37ci3 Jun21,2024

President Joe Biden tends to deliver his most outspoken attacks on political opponents at campaign fundraisers, away from the glare of television cameras. And one of his most frequent targets lately — second only to former President Donald Trump — is another enduring fixture of the 2024 race: public polling data.

“I don’t think any poll matters this early because it’s hard to get a good poll these days,” Biden told campaign donors in Chicago last month.

At another in Atlanta, the president warned: “It’s harder to rationalize any inquiry these days.”

His criticisms of public polling data are frequent — coming in at least ten fundraisers since May 1 — examining mechanics that he says can produce flawed results because they are technical.

“You have to make 36, 40 calls to get someone to answer — I don’t know what it is. Almost no one has hard lines anymore,” Biden told an audience of 3,000 at a star-studded fundraiser in Los Angeles last weekend.

“Are you blaming the caller ID for this?” Late night host Jimmy Kimmel teased the president in response.

Biden’s criticism of the poll coincides with reports showing an ongoing race between him and Trump and the former president, who leads in some key battlegrounds. Such polls, as well as those expressing concern among voters about his age or his handling of the economy, have fueled Democrats’ nerves about the president’s re-election prospects. As the November elections approached, Biden tried to ease his anxiety by addressing them head-on.

The president’s advisers do not dispute that the race is close and believe it will remain so until election day. Biden’s team regularly conducts its own polling, which is more intensive and expensive than most public polls and offers a deeper look at how voters feel, which informs the president’s view of the race as part of his regular, detailed campaign briefings.

Biden’s aides also say he makes many of his hasty public comments about the polls in front of campaign finance supporters, who are among those most concerned about the numbers.

His comments take many forms, but each seems trained on the same goal: to excuse or explain away a less-than-ideal position ahead of the November election.

The president dives into the weeds of voting methodology, as he did at fundraisers in Chicago, Atlanta and near Seattle. He offers his analysis of the state of play for donors – “We are the strongest among likely voters in polling data. That’s a good sign,” Biden told donors last month. “Although the national polls have mostly increased our voters by four, it’s likely that we have more voters.”

He blames the media’s presentation of information. “Even though the press hasn’t written about it, the momentum is clearly in our favor,” Biden said at a fundraiser in New York in April. “Polls are pointing towards us and away from Trump”. At another recent fundraiser, Biden pointed to the Democrats’ strong showing in the 2022 midterm elections, saying pundits “have been wrong about everything in the polls so far.”

“If you look at the actual votes in the primaries, as opposed to the polls, we’re running stronger than Mr. Trump,” Biden told supporters at another fundraiser last month.

When reporters asked Biden about the poll numbers, his responses ranged from dismissive to exasperated. “Read the polls, Jack,” he told a reporter seeking his reaction to polls showing many Democrats do not want him re-elected.

There are times when he doesn’t read requests. “It’s a process and it’s going to be up and down,” Biden said at a news conference in his first year in office. “That’s why I don’t look at polls.”

In other cases, the president touched on details that suggest otherwise.

“In the last 23 polls, we’re ahead of them in ten, he’s tied in eight, and we’re tied in five,” Biden said, referring to Trump.

Biden campaign aides had to spend so much time responding to public polling data that they adopted the adage, “The polls don’t vote, the voters do.”

When asked about the president’s approach to polls, Biden campaign director of communications Michael Tyler said, “This campaign does not allow extensive media coverage of the horse race and polls with zero predictive value to distract us. It should be focused as a campaign to reach voters who will decide the election.”

The president’s aides nonetheless hope that his performance in next week’s first general election presidential debate in 2024 will give Biden a boost in the polls, or at least dent Trump’s standing. And this week, Biden’s allies shut down request it showed promising signs for the president.

“I’m only sharing this because I spend 70% of my time giving pep talks to frustrated supporters,” Biden campaign finance chief Rufus Gifford said. placed At X, he joined a new Fox News poll showing Biden ahead of Trump by three points.

One Biden campaign pollster said in polling briefings that the president is less interested in head-to-head approval numbers against Trump than he is about specific issues, with big differences in how voters in different constituencies view the race and in particular the election. numbers vary from week to week.

“He’s very serious about the voting aggregate, but he’s not someone who’s going to be concerned about ‘We’re plus one or minus one,'” the pollster said.

Biden’s consumption of polling data contrasts with his 2020 campaign, which has disliked regular polling updates on the road, especially in Democratic primaries, according to a former campaign official. Biden’s team didn’t even have a chance to regularly poll voters until his campaign cashed in after his South Carolina primary victory, the official said.

A senior Biden campaign official said that while the president is now regularly briefed on the polls, the metrics he pays more attention to include how his campaign is attracting voters, such as how many offices are open and the number of volunteers.

“It’s important to us as an indication that people are revving up, getting on board, paying attention to this campaign,” he said.

Another pollster who briefed the president on his campaign’s internal polls said the most effective approach was to correlate the data with what voters said in focus groups or with campaign organizers. The pollster said Biden’s response to “hard news” about his relationship with voters was, “We’ve got to fix it.”

“He would always take information and say, ‘Help me understand this,'” the interviewer said.

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