Trump vs. the Coronavirus -- What the Polls Say
If you watch cable news, something I have assiduously avoided these past few weeks, you will be told that Barney Fife is in charge of the country, that the President lies, mismanages, exaggerates, and has totally botched America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet an honest observer sees much the opposite, rather than the fake news peddled by agents of doom in the media.
Some say character is created in the crucible of adversity, yet the reality is that such adversity reveals character. Leaders are facing unprecedented challenges today, with lives and entire economies riding on every decision. Such battles don’t create leaders, but instead reveal the great leaders and expose the posers.
The nasty Chinese coronavirus has brought the world to its collective knees. The virus is referred to as “novel” meaning new. Public health experience with past viruses may not apply here. Doctors and nurses caring for the sickest of patients are learning on the job. Public health officials view lines and charts with no historic context. Elected officials are making decisions based on the best information available at that moment, which is different today than it was yesterday, and will change again tomorrow.
Models are based on data and assumptions. Look at spaghetti line hurricane plots, each line based on a unique model. One of those myriad lines may be correct, the rest wildly wrong. Yet big decisions are made based on those lines.
How is President Trump handling the task at hand? This was not what he expected when he rode down the escalator at Trump Tower in June 2015 announcing his candidacy. All presidents fear nuclear war, but a real-life science-fiction movie pandemic would not be on their radar screens. Yet Trump is prepared for the job at hand. He has been tested by investigations, illegal spying, impeachment, a hostile media, and a do-nothing opposition party focused solely on destroying his presidency.
What do Americans think? Real Americans, not the coastal elites who believe they are the smartest people in the room but would wilt under a fraction of the pressure Trump endures daily.
Opinion polls, like hurricane or virus models, are based on assumptions and data. Are some polls better than others? Rasmussen was the most accurate pollster of 2016 in terms of the popular vote. Less accurate polls predicted a Hillary Clinton landslide. A New York Times poll confidently proclaimed that Hillary Clinton had an 85 percent chance of winning late on the evening of election night when the election was already decided.
Rasmussen, in their model, polls likely voters, rather than registered voters, only about half of whom vote, or simply adults, an even smaller percentage voting. Most polls skew the survey group, oversampling Democrats, sometimes significantly, thereby showing false support for a Democrat viewpoint.
The Rasmussen Daily Presidential Tracking Poll during the month of March shows President Trump in the high 40 percent approval range, the same as President Obama at the exact same point in his presidency. One president is presiding over a once-in-a-century viral pandemic shutting down most of the U.S. economy for weeks or months while the other president was cruising to reelection, backed by an adoring media and facing zero resistance from the opposing political party. Yet they poll similarly.
If Trump was doing such a bad job today, his numbers would be in the 20s or low 30s, not close to 50 percent, where he has been for much of his first term.
Real Clear Politics, as a poll aggregator, combines a number of public opinion polls into an average. Their most recent results show 49.8 percent approval for Trump’s handling of Coronavirus compared to 47.7 percent disapproval. These polls reflect the typical oversampling of Democrats meaning the real numbers are likely even higher for Trump than reported.
One example of such a poll is from AP. Their headline claims, “Less than half of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the Coronavirus.” Buried far beyond the headline is the methodology, which few will bother to read.
AP surveyed 1,057 adults, not voters, registered or otherwise, not necessarily American citizens, just whoever happened to answer the telephone. Democrats comprised 46 percent of the sample whereas Republicans comprised only 38 percent, an eight-point swing. Imagine the result if Republicans were oversampled by eight points.
How informed are these voters? When asked, “How much have you heard or read about the outbreak of a new Coronavirus in December?” only 64 percent answered, “a lot”, while 18 percent responded, “only a little or nothing at all.”
With virtually nothing else other than the virus in the news for the past month, and most of the country on lockdown, how could a representative survey sample have one of five respondents knowing little or nothing of this?
When 1000 random low-information adults were asked how Trump was handling things, by a 56-43 margin, they approved of his handling of the economy, yet by a similar 55-44 margin disapproved of his handling of the Coronavirus outbreak. Why this dichotomy, other than the many who are unaware of the virus receiving what little information they know from the orange-man-bad media.
Note the 8-point oversampling of Democrats and that margin becomes much less meaningful.
Polls are a snapshot in time, the results reflecting who is being surveyed. Polls are conducted or sponsored by news organizations eager for Trump’s failure and loss in November. In other words, many polls are designed to shape public opinion rather than reflect it.
Will Americans abandon a battlefield president in the middle of a war? Only if the war is mismanaged and lost, which by all accounts is not the case against the coronavirus. In fact, by an honest assessment, we are winning.
Perhaps the constant media drumbeat of how Trump first underreacted, then overreacted, or was that the other way around, is contributory. Few in the media have said anything positive about the task force, mobilization of the private sector in a manner reminiscent of World War II, or the transparency and availability of the President providing an hour or two per day of unfettered questions and access. Yet to the media it’s all negative. Anything and everything Trump says or does is wrong.
Shifting to the presidential election, Real Clear Politics, in their Election 2020 poll, shows Biden winning the general election by six points if the election was held today. Perhaps keeping Sleepy Joe under wraps in his basement is paying dividends. In his brief appearances every few days, he cannot utter more than one coherent sentence. Compare that to President Trump, holding court daily for several hours, in command of every aspect of this virus war, fielding endless questions, including the inane and snarky, from the media without skipping a beat. Biden couldn’t get through a minute of that.
For a different type of survey, following the money, Predictit, the stock market of polls, has Trump at 47 cents, over Biden at 43 cents. Money talks, opinions walk.
Polls have limited value in predicting an outcome seven months in the future, but instead show that even in America’s current days of darkness to light, President Trump still has the support of many Americans, even while swimming upstream against a deluge of negativity, some from the virus itself, but mostly from his political opponents in the media and Democrat party. Even elected Republicans are mostly silent. If any aspire to follow Trump in 2024, now is the time to step up rather than remaining little or low energy.
Take polls with a grain of salt. Look at the model, who is being surveyed and what they are being asked. And understand who is conducting the survey and what their motivations are. Whether an opinion poll or a virus pandemic, projections are as good as the models and data, tempered by the motivations of those pushing the results.
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, and QuodVerum.